FDL Book Salon Welcomes Nathan Schneider, Thank You, Anarchy: Notes From the Occupy Apocalypse
In contemplating what those who participated in the Occupy movement can do with their selves now, Nathan Schneider writes:
One can return to the world outside in defiance of the knowledge still creeping within oneself that the world is not in fact the same and should not be. But one can keep the thought suppressed well enough most of the time and manage to carry out a decent enough life.
Another option is:
One can try to keep the spirit of the movement alive within and in one’s way of being, aiming one’s defiance at the world outside, which carries on in ignorance.
Schneider, author of Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse, is a reporter who began covering Occupy Wall Street in New York City in the summer of 2011 when a small group was conceptualizing ideas for the action that would take place on September 17, 2011. He spent a considerable amount of time in Zuccotti Park, which occupiers renamed Liberty Square, even sleeping there. He witnessed police intimidation and harassment. He saw hundreds get arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. He periodically assisted occupiers when they needed help with little things, like holding a sign for a moment or even drafting communiques to go up on the Occupy Wall Street website.
Numerous individuals at Firedoglake, including myself, encouraged the Occupy Movement as it was growing by writing about what encampments inspired by Occupy Wall Street were doing. I began live blogging Occupy Wall Street daily on September 17. Many FDL members chipped in donations to help fund my coverage as I toured Occupy encampments or made donations so that hats, gloves, boots, socks, and other gear could be sent as part of FDL’s Occupy Supply campaign to help encampments sustain themselves through the winter. So, in some way, we have probably all thought about what it means now that the encampments—decimated by America’s security forces (police)—are unlikely to return again anytime soon.
What do we do now? What has Schneider done? What choice did someone close to the initial group of occupiers make?
In his book, he says he finds himself “clinging” to what the movement “got right against a social order gone gruesomely awry: occupying parks against occupying countries, mutual aid against ruthless competition, horizontalism against mounting inequality, direct democracy against the rule of profit, no demands before a system that wouldn’t listen to them anyway.”
Schneider notes that occupiers at one point seemed to realize “helping shape the daily decisions of the occupation” could be “more empowering than trying to tell President Obama what to do.”
He explores the point in the movement’s growth where it outgrew the space. Like the Indignados in Spain who occupied and held general assemblies, maybe Occupy Wall Street should have left on its own terms before Mayor Bloomberg used his army, the NYPD, to decimate Occupy Wall Street’s encampment in the dark of night.
Schneider addresses the issue of anarchists in the Occupy movement. What he presents is an effort to de-stigmatize a group that is not what most people think.
In fact, anarchists were part of the core of the movement. Unlike liberal establishment organizations, anarchists were there from the beginning and did not sit idly by until it was being covered on a daily basis by news media. They also did not withdraw from the movement once all encampments were systematically wiped out.
Perhaps, the most thought-provoking aspect of Schneider’s book stems from how he casts what happened with the Occupy movement as an “apocalyptic moment.” An apocalypse, he describes, is a “lifting of a veil” and after “we cannot go back unchanged.”
An apocalypse is “when we enlist our reason to faith, the already to the not-yet.”
The “apocalyptic moment” Schneider recounts vividly in his book has come and gone. The “moment” was here and thousands seized it only to see it pass because “moments” like it are fleeting.
That does not mean the movement is dead. There are people, who in the spirit of Occupy, continue to organize in their communities and under banners that include “Occupy.”
It will hamper struggles for freedom, equality and justice if people insist on trying to recreate the magic of what happened in that “apocalyptic moment.” However, Schneider’s book reinforces my conviction that committed individuals, who conceive actions intended to advance the process started by Occupy Wall Street, may bring about another apocalypse that inspires and rejuvenates us all once again.
Now, join me for what I expect will be an engaging and provocative discussion.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]