Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dispossessing the Cure

Occupy Wall Stret was thrown out of Zuccotti Park and many other occupy encampments were also dispossessed this week. While the stated intention is "restoring cleanliness and order," the deep objective is to break up dissent. The source of the protest, in my view, is the stunning disarray our country finds itself in, with a deep and seemingly endless recession, a huge intractable foreclosure crisis, a massive economic restructuring that will end end decent, longterm employment with good wages and benefits, and a equally endless engagement in wars in other people's countries These problems have shattered the "Amerian Dream" of a Way of Life. The loss of the Way causes root shock, the traumatic stress reaction to the loss of all or part of one's economic ecosystem. The cure for root shock is to make new roots. By encamping in cities all across the US, people began the process of making a new roots and a New Way of Life, both of which are urgently needed. This doesn't mean that we were all going to live in parks -- although if the economic situation gets bad enough, that might happen -- rather I mean that these sites became spaces of conversation, investigating the problems and considering solutions. The encampments started a public conversation about the concentration of wealth which has taken palce over the past 3 decades, but somehomw eluded broad conversation. In the aftermath of the nationwide dispossessions, the conversation will be harder to find and to have, the dissent will be impeded, and the inequality will be able to continue to grow.

Dispossession is a fundamental strategy of the accumulation of wealth, according to geographer David Harvey. In my studies, dispossession impoverishes and paralyzes the dispossessed, while the dispossessers are free to accumlate and function. Occuppy Wall Street is poignant example. Because of donations from around the world, OWS has developed a library of 5,000, which were reportedly thrown in dumpster. Medical supplies, bicycle generators, people's personal goods: all were confiscated and held by New York City. "People's backpacks were taken to a storage facility but they weren't allowed to get them back unless they had proof of purchase or a photograph," my daughter Molly Rose Kaufman told me. As any lost-and-found operates on the simple "can you describe what you lost and what's in it?" this higher level of proof is simply about taking the wealth of the movement, making it poorer.

What happens when the cure is interrupted? While the powers-that-be fear the unrest of the 99%, the interruption of the cure carries dire consequences. The 99% would likely find a healthy solution. The suppression of that conversation can lead to much more terrible paths. For one thing, America is a nation that routine unleashes hatred of people because of their race, creed, color or religion. This is a terrifying spectre of race riots, McCarthyism, anti-Semitism or all of the above.

We are a people in search of a Way of Life, suffering from the loss of our Dream. For however unreal our Dream might have been, it guided us in our daily lives. We urgently need to occupy everything and everywhere, talking and listening until we're blue in the face, and have discovered what happened, what it's like now and what we can do next.

1 comment:

bernard kohn said...

living in a small village in southern France, one of many such village for which all the past activities have been lost, be they agricultural (except grapes), bakers, little shops of all kinds, carpenters, welders....
A situation of emptiness which is filled by television, spectators activities,
and of course one of the causes of it all the "supermarchés", these shopping marts, which like a vacuum cleaner, suck up and kill all the small shops, artisans, and person to person contact.
Our NGO "la manufactrure des paysages" works to try to give an opportunity of local people to think about these things... like fighting (lost battle) a huge shopping depot 600 yards by 150 by 15 which is planned in Clermont l'Hérault (8000 population)!, but elected officials 36 out of the 40 find us "old fashion", not seeing that they are totally destroying
all that makes a place live : as Patrick Geddes outlined : folk/work/place!!!!.
bernard kohn, e mail: