30 October 2011

Ten Minute Occupation

Filed under: Culture, Reflections — ktismatics @ 5:48 pm

3 NOV UPDATE — Two and a half hours today, but that last hour might have pushed me over the edge back into non-participation. In honor of the Greek situation I brought a hand-made REFERENDUM sign, which stimulated some good conversations with occupiers and passers-by alike. When I arrived there were maybe 8 of us, but at 5:15 it was down to me and one other person. I thought it would be solidarity-ish of me to stick around until 6, when the “GA” (general assembly — is it really necessary to adopt these off-putting abbreviations?) would convene for a planning session. The other occupier was an organizer who had taken on the task of writing an all-purpose “vision statement” (not to be confused with a “mission statement” which, I was told,  comes after vision and before objectives). This person’s vision revolved around non-corrupt government; I said I thought it was a fine statement but that the idea of Occupy had to do more with Wall Street than with Washington. “We’re occupying Washington too,” I was informed. I was told that the Occupiers were working with the city to get a 24/7 occupation permit, allowing them to camp overnight. “But we don’t call it camping (which is illegal on Boulder city property); we call it occupying.” Don’t you think it would be good to support the homeless, who are not allowed to sleep out on city property? “We’ll set a precedent for them; they can call themselves Occupiers.” But only right here, at the Occupation location, right, and not in the rest of town? “The police are not the enemy; we don’t want to get arrested; we have to avoid the conflicts with ‘those people’ (i.e., the homeless) that’s happening in Occupy Denver. Plus we’re not going to sleep out until spring when it’s warmer.” If it’s still going by then. “Some of us are idealists, not skeptics.” And blah blah blah. When 6 o’clock rolled around and others started arriving for the GA I split.

*   *   *

1 NOV UPDATE — I went back to Occupy Boulder this afternoon. I spent maybe an hour and a half, and it was actually pretty much fun. I even held a sign that somebody handed me: “Break Up the Big Banks,” or something to that effect. Maybe ten people were occupying this time. I engaged in a few good conversations addressing economic concerns with a variety of other occupiers, including a high school student, a university grad student, a woman who brought pastries, and a homeless guy. Most Occupiers seemed to be disaffected liberals, not particularly radical. My favorite passing horn-honker was a woman driving a car with a “Palin for President” sticker on the rear windshield.

*   *   *

Ten minutes — that’s what I accomplished this afternoon. Late last week the Occupy Boulder people decided to ramp up from once-a-week demonstration to a daily presence, beginning today. Counting Anne and me there were five occupiers. One guy asked if we wanted to hold a sign; another asked if he could interview us for a website featuring people’s opinions of the Occupy intervention. We declined both offers. We talked about yesterday’s encounter in Denver between occupiers and the police — apparently a bicycled policeman ran over an occupier’s foot, who reacted by pushing the bike, at which point the cops amped it up with pepper spray, paintball rifles, and 20 arrests. A passer-by stopped briefly to recount the tale of a confrontation in Rome where the occupiers arrested the police. Quite a few autos tooted their horns in support of the occupation.

I said that I would return later in the week, and I will, but I have to confess that the experience seemed more desultory than inspiring. The movement is occupying the same city park where I’ve previously participated in protests against occupations — of Iraq, of Afghanistan, of Gaza. As far as I could discern the impact of those protests had been nil, except for their negative effect on my own enthusiasm for that sort of political action. To me the Occupy Boulder seemed like the same old thing, except with even fewer participants than the usual meager turnout. Frankly, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Maybe Occupy Boulder will grow as people begin to notice the daily presence, but I suspect that this university town of 100 thousand people isn’t big enough to be Occupied for more than an hour or two per week.



  1. Interesting.

    Well, one difference now is that it is in fact a nationwide movement that can draw energy and ideas from each other. A movement may seem “meager” in one city, but when one considers the place of a meager movement in context of the whole Occupy nation-wide protests, there may be more of a sense of significance.

    One thought I’ve had recently is that Occupy is important as a protest, certainly; but it seems to me that an important element is to organize for direct action against the system itself. For example, I’ve been chatting with the Sioux Falls Occupy movement about economic support of independent small businesses and boycotts of Big Business. Certainly many of us have already been doing this, but maybe as a part of the protest energy, a coalition could be formed, starting with independent small business owners (who otherwise might not be interested in Occupy) and growing into a substantive economic shift.

    This sort of thing is already happening with so many people pulling their money out of for-profit banks and looking at alternatives, like credit unions. This kind of direct economic action seems like it can provide another dimension that could compliment and sustain the occupiers.


    Comment by erdman31 — 30 October 2011 @ 8:09 pm

  2. Protests, boycotts, disinvesting — a whole host of tactics can be proposed, agreed upon, adopted, and deployed. OWS is described as a spontaneous, self-organizing participatory democracy from which tactics would emerge. Thus far Occupy has, understandably, been reluctant to focus its diffuse energy on developing any specific demands or objectives, let alone tactics for achieving them. I’m saying that, when the spontaneous self-organizing energy is lacking, then Occupy Boulder just looks like a particularly lame tactic. And a tactic for achieving what end? At least if a protest is organized for, say, nationalizing the banks or increasing the capital gains tax, I know what kind of sign I should be holding, what sorts of conversations might make sense with passers-by, what research I might do to inform myself about the specific issues.


    Comment by ktismatics — 31 October 2011 @ 9:07 am

  3. Gotcha.


    Comment by erdman31 — 31 October 2011 @ 2:20 pm

  4. The Greek Prime Minister is going to put the EU proposal for debt restructuring and austerity to a popular vote. The stock markets are in panic mode, fearing that the referendum will fail and the Greek government will default. Argentina did just that ten years ago, and after about a year of readjustment its economy has been going gangbusters. Last year Argentina’s economic growth rate was second only to China’s. From this article:

    BUENOS AIRES (Dow Jones)–Argentina’s Deputy Economy Minister Roberto Feletti on Friday criticized the fiscal austerity measures being implemented in Europe and the U.S., saying those policies will only hurt the global economy. “We see that policies that aren’t aimed at recovering demand have failed. The only way to get out of the crisis is for there to be an expansion in public spending aimed at recovering demand,” Feletti said in an interview with Radio Mitre. “You have [fiscal] adjustment proposals in the U.S. and Europe that will no doubt cause a retraction in international demand,” he added.

    After its economy collapsed and the government defaulted on about $100 billion in debt during a homegrown meltdown in 2001, Argentina has enjoyed years of breakneck economic growth thanks to strong international demand for its exports. President Cristina Kirchner attributes Argentina’s recent prosperity to her unorthodox policies of import substitution and income redistribution through taxation and spending. The government says the economy is on track to expand more than 8% this year, after growing 9.2% in 2010.

    If Greece defaults, Spain and Italy might be next — these countries have the strongest Occupy presence in the world. Might there be a ripple effect extending to the US? Instead of the US government borrowing from the privately-owned Fed banks, have the national government retake control of its money supply. The government would lend money to banks instead of the other way around.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 November 2011 @ 9:27 am

  5. Ah. Interesting. Thanks for sharing that link and commentary. I’ve not thought about the Greek situation all that much, except to kind of casually follow the news, assuming that the austerity measures were probably the best way to go. I did read an informative article about the youth protests in Europe. I think things would get a whole lot more interesting to me if the Greek debt restructuring plan gets voted down and the government defaults.

    The new European right, I believe, would also be hoping that the Greek government defaults – is that correct? They don’t want to see the southern “siesta” states get bailed out? So, the right and left are strangely in agreement on this, no? It is the centrists who are pushing the restructuring plan.


    Comment by erdman31 — 1 November 2011 @ 9:56 am

  6. It’s not a bailout but a restructuring, and the right definitely wants the banks to get their money. Same with the US: I don’t see the traditional right calling for the US to default on its debt, or the left either for that matter.

    Some private investment banks outside of the EU elite institutions extended loans to the Greek government at very high interest rates, based on the higher risk of default. It is mostly those loans that are being restructured and partially written off. The left too seems to support the EU’s government austerity and debt repayment plan, as evidenced by support so far by socialist-led governments in Greece and Spain. Eventually, if the government still can’t repay its loans, it would have to do a bargain-basement selloff of government-owned assets to the private sector. Arguably that’s the long-term play, since laid-off government workers are not being snatched up into private-sector jobs, in Europe or in the US, and lower federal taxes means less revenue to repay the loans. Now that the Greek PM, a socialist, has called for a referendum, many of his fellow party members are suddenly bailing, apparently hoping to collapse the government and thereby short-circuiting the referendum. If that happens, I’d expect the Greek public, which would likely reject the EU plan, to get even crankier.

    “Siesta states”? The implication is that people from the Mediterranean region don’t work as hard as the northern Aryans. One of your buddies on the now-moribund Redemptive Collective made this case about France when the French unions were proposing to reduce the workweek and keep retirement age at 65. International data showed that the French workforce was the most productive in the world, and the the workers putting in the longest hours were… the Russians and the Greeks. The shortest workweeks? Germany and Norway.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 November 2011 @ 10:47 am

  7. For clarification, I wasn’t referring to them as “siesta states,” but simply quoting the term as I understand some of the northern European states to be using it.


    Comment by erdman31 — 1 November 2011 @ 10:50 am

  8. What’s your opinion? What would you like to see happen in Greece?


    Comment by erdman31 — 1 November 2011 @ 10:55 am

  9. Thanks for the clarification, Erdman. I thought you might be interested in the data findings, which I found a little surprising. It is true that people do take longer lunches in those countries — “slow food” with maybe a nice glass of wine — but they also tend to work later into the day, eat dinner at 8 or 9 pm, etc.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 November 2011 @ 10:55 am

  10. I definitely appreciate the European schedule. I think I’d like it much more. I am, of course, a big fan of slow food, of good food, which is so highly underrated here in the Fast Food Nation. Ugh.


    Comment by erdman31 — 1 November 2011 @ 10:57 am

  11. What would I like to see happen in Greece? Way to back me into a corner, Erdman!

    I’m not persuaded that austerity is helpful. Cutting back on government spending eliminates public-sector jobs, and it does not stimulate more private-sector hiring. Less income means less income tax means less ability to repay the loans, which means more government borrowing and tighter austerity, and so on in what seems like a vicious circle down the toilet. Greece has already gone through a few austerity cycles like this already, which is why public sentiment is against the EU plan. At some point maybe they have to press the reset button, declare bankruptcy, get out of the hole and start over. That move would mean Greece’s ejection from the EU, launching their own currency, being blackballed by most international banks. If I were in Greece I’d look long and hard at Argentina to see whether that model could be emulated. The companies hiring workers in Greece wouldn’t be inconvenienced by the default. If the government jobs actually add value, not just to workers’ paychecks but to the larger society, then a large public sector hiring could jumpstart the economy.

    I think putting the EU proposal to a public referendum is a good idea. Don’t succumb to the banks’ and politicians’ rhetoric of panic that led the American public to believe that bailing out the banks was essential for avoiding financial meltdown on a massive scale. In retrospect that was clearly bullshit. Take some time, look at the options, let democracy have a shot at it.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 November 2011 @ 11:36 am

  12. Good thoughts. You do well when backed into a corner!


    Comment by erdman31 — 1 November 2011 @ 12:47 pm

  13. I think I’ll stop in at Occupy Boulder this afternoon, see if anybody there has an opinion on the Greece issue. This seems like one of the potential advantages of the Occupy movement: that it’s not just local to Boulder, but local to all sorts of places around the world.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 November 2011 @ 12:55 pm

  14. I feel called upon to comment – I am the Balkan guy here. First off, I’m sort of glad the Greeks are going through this after they decided twenty-odd years ago to bow to the European Union, that is to say the economic dictate of the newly-emerging Germany, and despite brotherly rhetoric, basically threw their Serbian blood brothers to the bloodhounds. This catharsis is going to teach them a few things, such as that, as we say in Serbia, he who doesn’t pay on the road, pays at the border.

    Second off, I was vacationing there a few years back and I remember clearly that the villagers in the islands were taken aghast by the new capitalist work & life tempo that they had to swallow – basically in order to allow many multinational hotel chains to replace the smaller Greek hotels. Life, they said, had become twice as fast for twice less money. The general sentiment against this was negative already then, and I can just imagine it grew and it grew and it grew. So, I think the common Greek doesn’t feel at all that Greece must stay in the European Union. And I don’t see why it should either: why bail out Germany, Britain and Holland? Why turn Greek islands into luxury resorts for unfucked German housewives?

    Third, I think neither staying with the EU nor leaving the EU is an option: the EU must not be seen as any coordinate. The Balkan states should center their destiny around themselves, in a Balkan federation, that will completely fuck off Western Europe and treat it as a colony. With the resources and manpower available in the Balkans, educated to a high degree by the former Russian ”oppressors”, such a federation would exceed the Calvinist fuckers by light years. This because after the plundering they perpetrated in the period from the 16th century onwards, the Calvinist fuckers have lost ALL credibility – and there’s no way that is going to improve in the future.

    So I have tremendous sympathy for the ”Argentinian model”.

    As for the folk within the Western Empire, it is quite shocking that it took this long for any kind of protest to take place, and now that it’s taking place, it’s quite shocking how ineffective it is, i.e. how complacently the middle classes still posit themselves vis-a-vis their relative welfare in comparison to Spain, or the Balkans. As if this can last forever. I have serious doubts that these people still have what it takes, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief in the interest of general positivity and my still-unshaken belief in the Heavens above.


    Comment by center of parody — 2 November 2011 @ 12:32 am

  15. By the way, if you look at the upcoming Lacanian congress taking place in Buenos Aires, where Lacaniana apparently still thrives, it seems that the global theme is the readjustment of Lacanism in lieu of the departure of patriarchalism, with the central subject being how do we treat the Oedipus complex further, and do we treat it at all. The introductory note interestingly states that the solution could be embracing a kind of a plurality of father figures, to include not just the ole patriarch, but in the true spirit of Lacan, anything that performs this role symbolically. The authoresse reminds readers that this after all is how Lacan envisaged the Phallic order – not as the mastery of the male sex or Phallus over the female, but as a structuring principle that can be carried by practically any agent. The situation is simultaneously portrayed as threatening (because the loss of security and structuration and morality causes a vacuum) and liberating, i.e. a possibility for creatio ex nihilo.


    Comment by center of parody — 2 November 2011 @ 12:37 am

  16. “Life, they said, had become twice as fast for twice less money.”

    Hell, at least they can recognize it as such. In the States, we’ve been working twice as fast for twice less money for centuries, so not only do we fail to realize it, we champion it as “the American Way” or “the American Dream” and romanticize it…..maybe ignorance is bliss for many of us….


    Comment by erdman31 — 2 November 2011 @ 10:07 am

  17. The Greek PM’s decision to call a referendum is being derided in the US press as a cynical maneuver to stay in power. What’s wrong with that? The populace is affected far more than the politicians. Next time I Occupy Boulder I think I’ll carry a REFERENDUM sign. Occupy is billed as an experiment in participatory democracy, especially with respect to economic matters currently controlled by Wall Street. The Greek referendum makes it real.

    I understand that public opinion can be manipulated by money and access to the media, so it’s not clear how the Greek public will vote. The fatigue and anger stimulated by austerity measures is offset by the attraction of staying in the EU. Almost surely the deal the EU offers will be less draconian than the one on the table now, so it’s probably a good bargaining move by the Greek PM. Maybe the most likely scenario is that the Greek parliament will force the collapse of the ruling coalition, thereby scuttling the referendum before it’s actually put to the vote. Maybe public sentiment will prove stronger than the political status quo can withstand.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 November 2011 @ 10:37 am

  18. You know, Erdman, earlier you suggested that the “European new right” might support Greece’s default on its debt. I said that politicians on both left and right want the bankers to get their money, to stabilize the economy, and so on. But I wondered: what would the new-right libertarian stalwart Ron Paul have to say about a government defaulting on its bank loans? So I googled “ron paul bankruptcy” and at the top of the list was this article. It quotes part of an interview with Paul from June of this year:

    Paul, in a conversation about the debt crisis in Greece, called on that country to declare bankruptcy, reasoning that the Greek debt was insurmountable and thus that the country could not avoid bankruptcy. “Are we going to experience — are you predicting, in essence, if bankruptcy is the cure for Greece, is it also the cure for the United States?” asked host Jan Mickelson. “Absolutely,” Paul responded.

    So you were right about the new right. As I noted on your blog, Paul would break up the monopoly power currently wielded by the Fed private banks to issue US currency, replacing it with deregulated competition among private banks to issue their own brands of money. In contrast, the “new left” — or is it the old left? — would have the Federal government retake control of issuing US money, as it’s written in the Constitution. Private banks would then borrow from the government rather than vice versa. Both sides though would agree that, for both Greece and the US, default on federal loans might be the best decision.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 November 2011 @ 10:58 am

  19. From a link on Lenin’s Tomb, the Greek Communist Party regards the referendum as a ploy intended to defuse popular sentiment against the EU’s proposal:

    Down with the government. Elections now. No to the naked blackmail and ideological intimidation against the people. The blackmail will not succeed. The announcement of the Prime Minister concerning the referendum means that a vast mechanism to coerce the people is being set up, through which the government and the EU will use every means, threats, provocations in order to subdue the working class and the popular strata, to snatch a yes for the new agreement.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 November 2011 @ 11:19 am

  20. ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Ignoring increasing calls to step down, Greece’s prime minister announced Thursday he would seek emergency talks with the opposition conservatives after they agreed to back the latest European bailout for Greece. Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking at an emergency Cabinet meeting, warned that an early election was too dangerous because it would force Greece into leaving the 17-nation euro currency.

    …the implication being that, if the referendum OR new elections were held now, the majority would vote against the EU refinancing and austerity package.


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 November 2011 @ 10:05 am

  21. Racial inferiority causes Italian economic woes? From an AP piece entitled “Dolce Vita Hangover”:

    The Dolce Vita lasted for a long time in Italy, but now it’s back to reality… Easygoing Italians, expecting little from the state, rarely think twice about paying under the table for home improvements, dental work or even a frothy cappuccino. But the bill for decades of excess is coming due, and the price to escape Europe’s sovereign debt crisis is steeper than many feared.

    Too bad Karl Jung isn’t around to tell us how to balance out the collective Italian unconscious with a bit more Northern austerity.


    Comment by ktismatics — 6 November 2011 @ 7:57 am

  22. I see that the NYPD has vacated OWS for sanitation purposes, and that now tents and sleeping bags will be banned from the site. Frankly I don’t see much point in staying overnight, unless one happens to be homeless already and has no viable options. If the point is to be on display to passers-by, there’s not much of an audience after evening rush hour. And if the point is prefigurative praxis – living in a participatory democracy — not much of that happens while you’re asleep. My sense from Occupy Boulder is that any sort of participatory democracy happens at the General Assembly, which meets 2-3 times a week. Continuous on-site occupation serves more as visible protest and as an opportunity for engaging in spontaneous conversations. I think the GAs would be better served coming up with tactics in addition to Occupy, which in this town anyway has reached the point of diminishing returns, with only a handful of Occupiers on site at any given time during “business hours” of noon till six.


    Comment by ktismatics — 15 November 2011 @ 8:09 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: