For people in OWS one of the most annoying media memes is “Occupy is over.” When there’s so much going on, it seems almost perverse to those of us on the inside. Now that I’ve spent a whole week without going in person to an OWS event for the first time in quite a while, I get a better sense of why it seems reasonable to say so. While Occupy certainly continues, from the outside OWS can seem sealed, even hermetic.
Here in Long Island there’s plenty of need for Occupy and a decent level of activity. Suffolk County has been hard hit by the mortgage crisis. House prices went stupidly high around 2008 and have now gone into deep decline. As many as 10% of local homes are in foreclosure, leading Suffolk to be one of the counties considering using eminent domain to resell properties to occupants at what they are now worth. From the Long Island Railroad, you can see people living in the bushes by the side of the tracks. White resentment and racism has been directed at the Latin@ workers who do most of the manual labor, leading to regular Tea Party demonstrations.
However, there’s also an Occupy presence. A week ago, 150 people protested a fundraiser held by the billionaire Koch brothers for Romney in the moneyed Hamptons.
Occupy activists have taken over a storefront in Ronkonkoma, where weekly meetings are held. They have a “Unity Days” action coming up on July 28th for example. There are other Occupy encampments still going around the country in Delaware, Tampa and Santa Rosa (thanks Astra!).
If these actions seem to add up to less of a network these days, perhaps that’s to do with the way in which the communications and messaging of the dispersed Occupy groups has operated. In dispersing into a thousand Google groups, listservs, email threads, Facebook pages and so on, these actions can seem closed to “outsiders,” meaning people who are not yet involved. People have been saying this for a while, I’m aware.
It’s only now that I myself start to be away more from NYC that I’m seeing how it works. It’s not deliberate. It’s the result of a smaller group of people keeping up a ridiculous amount of volunteer work. Messages become telegraphic, or refer to issues, discussions or events that it’s assumed the reader is aware of but may not be. Catching up is hard and it deters former activists from resuming in the movement.
There’s such a sense of urgency, and rightly so, that maybe actions and campaigns are being somewhat rushed into being. The fear is that if we slow down we disappear. The risk is that if we don’t, what we do does not have the purchase it should.