Friday, November 25, 2011

Nailing It In One

Rebecca Solnit has written the most perceptive analysis of the Occupy movement I have come across yet. She does so by using the surprising but illuminating metaphor of battered-wife syndrome without denigrating the movement or trivializing the syndrome.

Think of civil society and the state as joined in a marriage of necessity. You already know who the wife is, the one who is supposed to love, cherish and obey: that's civil society. Think of the state as the domineering husband who expects to have a monopoly on power, on violence, on planning and policymaking.

Of course, he long ago abandoned his actual wedding vows. He left home a long time ago to have a sordid affair with the Fortune 500, but he still has the firm conviction that we should remain faithful — or else. The post-9/11 era was when we began to feel the consequences of all this, and the 2008 economic meltdown brought it all home to roost.

Think of Occupy Wall Street, of all the occupations around the country, as the signal that the wife, Ms. Civil Society, has finally acknowledged that those vows no longer bind her either. ...

Still, Ms. Civil Society is not asking for any favors: She is setting out on her own, to make policy on a small scale through the model of the general assembly and on a larger scale by withdrawing deference from the institutions of power. (In one symbolic act of divorce, nearly three-quarters of a million Americans reportedly have moved their money from big banks to credit unions since Occupy Wall Street began.) The philandering husband doesn't think the once-cowed wife has the right to do any of this, and he's been striking back. Literally.
[Emphasis added]

That striking back has taken several forms, from rousting encampments and destroying the campers' property, to arresting those in the near vicinity (including journalists) to the use of riot gear, including batons and pepper spray. And still the movement continues, picking up steam and support from previously unallied by-standers.

The movement, while deeply political, is not interested in politics, at least not politics-as-usual. It has eschewed both parties and politicians of all stripes, which only enrages the "philandering husband" further, leading to further escalations, as witnessed by the horrific behavior by the UC-Davis campus police. The result is even more sympathy for the movement, swelling the ranks even further. And it's beginning to cost the "philandering husband."

In the meantime, the domestic-violence-prone domineering state is squandering a fortune on the extravagance of police brutality and wrongful arrests. New York City — recall those pepper-sprayed captive young women, that legal observer with a police scooter parked on top of him, and all the rest — you're going to have a giant bill due in court. Oakland, you paid out more than $2 million for the behavior of the police at a nonviolent protest after the invasion of Iraq — did you learn nothing from it?

Apparently not, at least not yet.

But we are coming close to a tipping point, one like those seen in Egypt and Syria. I hope we don't have to go all the way to open civil war, the shooting kind, but that depends on the husband.

Like I said, the most perceptive analysis I've seen yet.



Post a Comment

<< Home