October 2, 2011 § 2 Comments
I went to the first organizational meeting for Occupy Austin on Thursday, and will hopefully be able to make it to one or two more before the 6th when we all head for the City Hall building downtown. I’m posting a few observations from my experience so far.
– You’ve already heard this, but there were lots of people: the official count was 500; I don’t know how there could have been more than 300, but either way, impressive. Numbers at successive meetings (so I hear) have been much less but hovering around 100 seems pretty good to me.
– The crowd seemed to be a similar mix of people to the early stages of Occupy Wall Street. Mostly white, pretty evenly gender balanced, ‘middle class’ (whatever that means these days), youngish, with strong minorities of anarchist punks, community organizers, college students, social workers, media types, and hippies. But there were enough middle-aged people and people who looked employed to keep the group from feeling marginal. Though of course at this point we still are,
– Politically the group seemed (I stress this is just an impression from watching people self-identify) less left-oriented than Occupy Wall Street, which makes sense for a few reasons: we have less of an obvious target, the initial organizers were very insistent on non-partisanship, and we’re in Austin, which has a reputation for a vague ‘leftishness’ that conceals quite a few run-of-the-mill, Adam Smith fetishist libertarians. And there is no left in America. The inevitable Ron Paul rep gave his stump speech (no one advocated socialism or even anti-capitalism), and we even got trolled by a woman who identified herself with “Don’t Occupy Austin,” who said some nonsense about Anonymous and “supporting the USA instead.” To the group’s credit, both of these people were treated with a patronizing smile and nod, and didn’t manage to derail anything.
– I think this lack of political cohesion matters as little as the lack of clear demands. There was a lot of debate about whether or not to have demands that went on for way too long and, I think, missed the point. That is, I would prefer greater cohesion and a set of clear demands, but we are a people in love with bullshit, and until we have a real presence on the street, until we have felt the pressures of organizing and of holding space, ‘political debate’ is pretty meaningless.
– The decisive importance of action currently underwrites but will soon trump the depoliticizing rhetoric of nonpartisanship, political neutrality, etc. that some are using to ward off internal division. For example, a lot of people talked about peace and love, empathy for the police, and ‘we’re all in this together.’ All of this is very ‘Austin’ and I have no problem with drum circles either. But the whole point of this movement is that America really doesn’t stand together, that it’s the job of police to oppress us, that the wealthiest elite are openly cutting more and more people out of the social contract. Being together on the street in solidarity with the Occupy movement is forcing these facts out into the open, no matter what anyone says.
– The differences between the Occupiers will have to shake out at some point, but those differences are without significance until after we have done something together. This includes all the stupid worrying about appearing ‘respectable.’ The Occupiers must appear as the majority. The majority is simply ‘the 99%,’ or everyone who is not a plutocrat, who has been deprived of political agency, social support, and economic wealth. Whether or not we succeed in being the majority depends on who joins, not what they look like. This is about our power, no more and no less.
– If Occupy Together fails to attract people of color, the working class, and the poor, then we will have failed to be the majority. Not much seems to be getting done on this front in Austin, despite the presence of really good, POC-heavy anti-death penalty and prison complex groups.
– Occupy Austin’s organization still isn’t even at the level of Occupy Boston. Must find out why the website is still totally uninformative. A Facebook page is not a valid substitute (and no one posts timetables).
– This whole thing still seems silly and naive to me, especially non-Wall Street efforts like ours. But we’re going to do it anyway, if only just to see what happens.
Hopefully more later.