Occupy Oakland, Day 10: On Rejecting the City’s Request to Return to Invisibility

Posted on October 20, 2011


Aaron Bady’s great post on Occupy Oakland today, brings together some of the things I’ve been feeling. The fact that there is a large homeless and/or unemployed population in Oakland,  is made visible by Occupy Oakland. It also shows that the same people want to help themselves and each other and construct a better society when given access to resources and a stake in a system. In this case, the system is self-made and actualized, rather than the alienating one perpetuated by city halls, state and federal governments across the nation.

City Hall would like nothing better than for the homeless to go back to sleeping alone and scattered throughout downtown and the city. Authorities want people focused on changing the structure of our decaying capitalism to go back to being weekend activists marching in a circle. But City Hall has no way of making good on that request; its lost the faith of the people at Occupy Oakland, if indeed, it ever had it. The majority of the Occupiers won’t go back quietly to a system that asks, removes, displaces and takes, but gives back little.

One last word on the violence narrative that the media have settled on as the one of their major concerns, rather than the economic and human rights crisis blazing around their offices. My faith in political change has been reinvigorated and rejuvenated by watching the way the basic necessities in life are collectively managed and foreseen at OO. Rather than turn a blind eye to violence and wait for someone else to do something about it, the crisis of the last few days–and its very important to highlight that it was set off by just one individual–has generated a flurry of active participation and problem-solving. Its caused people to question the very aspects that we take for granted daily and ask serious and confounding questions. What happens to people with emotional and mental problems when the police are called? Can the police be trusted to know who is causing the problem and who are bystanders and victims? What can we do to stop violence instead of waiting for authorities to intervene too late? And, finally, and I think most important: what does the way we deal with our most violent and least cooperative say about the society we are trying to build?

Occupy Oakland hasn’t caused any new problems, rather its taken the old ones and put them on a public stage. This is highlighted by the silliest of media and city hall concerns. Its not the fact that there were rats nesting at the steps of City Hall before Occupy Oakland. The media  have never reported on that. No, they’re afraid that Occupy Oakland might make the rat problem worse.

Local media has done what it’s always done–ignored the society and focused on its latest, worst and most ephemeral sensational circumstances.