Reflecting on Lessons Learned and New Directions
by David Swanson
When the Pentagon ends an occupation, crawling home from Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan with its Tomahawk missile dragging between its legs, it declares victory every time. And, depending on how you define victory, it certainly leaves lasting effects. The cancer and birth defects and poisoned water supplies bear witness: there was an occupation here.
When the Occupy Movement lost its presence on television and therefore in real spaces that are never quite as real as television, it too left a lasting impact. But it was a positive lasting impact, difficult as yet to measure fully, but observable in many areas.
I’ve just read Nathan Schneider’s new book, Thank You, Anarchy: Notes From the Occupy Apocalypse, with a foreword by Rebecca Solnit. I consider this book one of the lasting benefits of Occupy. We need a movement as badly as ever, but we now have great experimental lessons to draw on, and collective experience to benefit from.
Veterans of the Occupy encampments have added their strengths to the antiwar and environmental movements, and the growing movements against predatory home loans, foreclosures, student loan sharks, etc.
But primarily, Occupy has changed minds, some dramatically and some slightly — the sum total impossible to discern. But there is no doubt that opposition against the war on Iraq, denounced as futile by many who took part in it, laid much of the groundwork for successful opposition to missile strikes on Syria. Occupy can be expected to bear similar fruit.
I recommend reading Schneider’s story and considering yet further some of the strategic questions debated without end by General Assemblies — those debates recounted in Schneider’s book.
We’re going to need to know how and why we are committed to nonviolence. We’re going to need to consider how and whether we can build something national or international without the corporate media. We’re going to need to develop further our ability to combine our disparate movements against the giant triplets of racism, militarism, and extreme materialism. We’re going to have to be capable of engaging in big-picture political action while becoming service centers to the homeless or avoiding doing so. We’re going to have to further refine our ability to have fun without becoming foolish. We’re going to have to appreciate unpredictable chaos and learn to generate and steer it without ever knowing what it is. We’re going to have to decide whether we grow by hating the police or by meeting their antagonism with our own jiu-jitsu. We’re going to have to become more international, more non-national, and more local, all at once. We’re going to have to create a movement that grows and grows and grows prior to winning and regardless of winning, while directing its energy toward the most likely winning path.
As I was writing this at Millers bar in Charlottesville, Va., the waiter saw my book, started talking to me about Occupy, and told me that Global Friend Bombs are the way to build connections and “organize the masses.” I had never heard of global friend bombs, but I had had many previous experiences of the word “Occupy” opening up conversations about changing the world in place of “do you want fries with that?”
Newspapers are the first draft of an imperial eulogy. The first draft of history is our books. Read them. Debate them. Mic-check them. Expect the unexpected. Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Main Street. Occupy Everything and Never Give It Back.
The beginning is near!
David Swanson is the author of War Is a Lie and Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union. He blogs at davidswanson.org and warisacrime.org, works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization rootsaction.org, and hosts Talk Nation Radio. Among his many publishing venues, Swanson is a Contributing Author for New Clear Vision.