People of the Movement:
As someone who is deeply involved in this movement, who was arrested two times because of it, slept on the park repeatedly, and gave all hours of every single day to this grand effort, as well as witnessed many fellow brothers and sisters being harrassed, falling sick, pepper sprayed, and other abuses, i can't be silent anymore regarding the discussion of a "One Line Demand".
I deeply respect Adbusters for sparking this with a great idea to occupy wall street. Nonetheless, i believe no one is the proprietor of this movement and in absolute should speak as the spokesperson for the masses. The recent publication at occupywallst.org
of a list of demands, even though a plurality of demands, was a violation of solidarity. Simply because it was done for
the people instead of with
the people. I know that the intention wasn't to speak on behalf of all, but the newspapers quickly grasped it as the voice of the movement, which pardon my insistence, it is NOT.
Myself and many others who are living it on the ground and across the virtual sphere feel that a "One Line Demand" is jeopardizing the amazing work we have done so far and is stopping us from imagining better alternatives - or rather, this one line plague is blinding people to the possibility of a better world that is happening right before their eyes at Liberty Square.
Let me explain. A social movement is different than a protest, in the same way that a demand is different than a purpose. A demand/protest is by its very nature willing to work within the framework of the given, while a social movement is more: it is an agitation, a flux forward in response to dire oppression whose roots in society run much deeper. Protests are tangible and specific, usually built around a specific legislation on the table; when the vote is cast, for better or worse it dissipates in thin air, with business as usual returning. This is a reformist approach. The question that must be asked is if the crisis of our times will ever be solved with a specific and tangible "one line demand". Even if the one line "demand" is as bold as "Overthrow Capitalism" or "End Corporate Personhood". Not only that, demands pressupose that someone else has power and you have none, which is not the case in Liberty Square. And yes, the wording matters here, because we seem to be in pursuit of a language of rupture and not of conformism.
A movement is characterized by stubborn people that won't stop until society transforms. Usually it rallies around principles of solidarity and people embody their vision of a better society. Movements keep pressure over time, and in order to be successful at recycling the dominant pathological memes and changing social practices, they must grow and have a broad base of support. Liberty Square is slowly reaching that beautiful moment, with labor unions finally joining in and demonstrating solidarity; we are doing the same supporting their struggles. At this moment, insisting on a misguided "one line demand" discussion is dangerous: every successful movement must have a broad base of support, not a narrow one, and one line demands or even a short list of demands is narrowing. It is close-ended instead of open-ended. It restricts instead of liberating.
At liberty Square, we have queer groups, labor unions, environmentalists, human rights activists, artists, homeless people, animals (yes, we love them), undocumented immigrants, foodies, mentally ill patients, and a bunch of other groups that are lending their voice and support to our common struggle, which is a human struggle against oppression in all its forms. Somehow, through the participatory democratic process that is being exercised at the General Assembly, these voices feel that they can be heard and their strength thus amplified, and that is why they are showing up. By all means, not because of a list of demands or worse, a "one line demand". I invite people to experience the thrill of the square and see it for themselves.
A movement requires patience and diligence, not the absurdity of rushing demands just to please the anxiety of mainstream media. Because we have their pathological attention span for now are we settling for this? Please don't trust that thought. Let's aim for something better for ourselves. I guarantee that they will come back to cover our work as we continue to grow stronger. If not, well, then i invite people to remember the poet's words: "the revolution will not be televised" (Thanks Gil Scott-Heron). Let's listen to the poet.
Speaking of revolution, these happen when a movement breaks off the cozy order of the status quo due to strength of numbers. A revolution, such as the first American revolution, was the realization that true emancipation can never happen through the present dominant institutions, because they are the very ones that generate or replicate the hierarchies of injustice. Same applies for us: in the end, if we really want to change the world for our grandchildren, revolution is what we have to push for, not reformist games. Specially in days where capital flows beyond borders...
OccupyEverywhere. The General Assemblies that are popping up all over America and the world are a clear sign of a beautiful new possibility: local participatory democracy that can self-legislate and operate; cooperate; and ultimately thrive. When and if coordinated, we can push for the stars. At Liberty Square, we already won. We liberated a space, a territoriality, and are building alternatives together. All of this done without fancy documents or tailored "one line demands". Our actions speak louder than our words, and the whole world is watching precisely because it feels that what we are doing is different than politics or business as usual.
The general assembly is channeling a plurality of voices and uniting struggles in solidarity. We need much more a set of values and principles of solidarity (which we already have a draft of this living document at nycga.net
) where these oppressed voices can rally around in the audacious task of dreaming a better society. And as they join us and we join them, we fight together for the goals that appear on the square and reivent political agency as a way of life. The General Assemblies are the convergence channel of anti-oppression voices, can't we realize that?
Humanization, Emancipation, Solidarity.
Alexandre M.S. Carvalho, M.D., MPH