Reposted from Facebook, Tara is a transgender activist and veteran active in Occupy Seattle. It was published about a week and a half ago.
Last night was a dramatic an emotional GA. I stumbled in kind of late, was greeted by my comrades and took my place outside of the circle as I consider that my place. I heard some talk of some flyer someone wanted endorsed and calmly disassociated. There were some procedural matters regarding weather or not the vote was valid because of the number of people abstaining. I heard an emotional narrative from a woman who was having survival issues, and one of my dearest comrades went into empathetic overload. I felt I had to speak, I did and now I want to present a bit more of an organized statement on some underlying sociological factors which I feel are killing the potential of occupy.
I made some leaps of logic because I didn’t expect people to really get what I was talking about. And the reason why I did that, and held that viewpoint was because I consider many of the people in occupy to be insane. This insanity takes many forms; inability to communicate, inability to empathize, but most of all an inability for all of us to get outside ourselves and stop doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. I am not pointing any fingers in this essay; I am stating that we as a collective must each individually learn to introspect, become self aware, develop consciousness, and most of all develop identity, beyond what our parents and society told us. What that looks like is unpacking both our privilege and our oppression because those backgrounds are the building blocks of the identities that society has placed on us.
I jumped to white privilege because I feel that is a big factor in the collective neurosis of occupy. Let me get a little personal and tell you why this is such an important issue for me. When I was a man, and especially a very white, Anglo privileged man; I carried a gun, chewed my tobacco, even rode a horse sometimes and utterly hated myself. I carried a societal expectation to be a rugged individualist, an expert, a leader and an oppressor. I was violent, I was mean, I was macho, I dominated space, and was dismissive of women and people of color. I hated myself because no one wants to be like that, and it wasn’t me at all. It was an identity that society had placed on me and not one I had created through my own autonomy. It was an identity hammered into my being through violence, drugs, television, education, rape and western psychiatry.
When I became female identified it was an intense shock. My teachers stopped calling on me in class, I no longer was accoladed for my intelligence, people touched me non consensually in a casual manner and men in suits would push me out of the way on the sidewalk.
Through my transition I have realized over and over again, that every facet of our society is designed to oppress minorities, women, and anyone else who does not fit in and empower those who are white, rich or otherwise conformist. It permeates every part of our society, every tiny subtle detail, and those who benefit from it are the least likely to see it. And that is why a need for a total overthrow of all existing social conditions is a much needed public mental health issue.
I brought up the issue of mental health last night because most mental health issues are not innate to the individual but rather are by products of us living in a repressive society that punishes those that do not fit in. Again this is something that those who do fit in, or are privileged are almost incapable of realizing because their reality is built around there being ‘normal’.
I am not trying to paint a perfect picture of the situation in occupy, I am striving to point out a dynamic that illustrates how our revolution is impeded by a collective-individual inability to leave our baggage at the door. In pointing out the binary of oppression vs. privilege in people’s backgrounds, I am not tying to convey a polarity in our individual tendencies, but rather a spectrum between those polarities. We have privileged people of color that dominate GA and we have oppressed white people, and all kinds of other sorts of incredible beautiful people in between or individuals not even in that spectrum. But we do have privileged old white men, who talk a lot in GA and don’t listen in return, who tell our homeless comrades that all out revolt is a bridge too far, who dismiss the black bloc while telling us how awesome Gandhi was. We also have oppressed people who are socially conditioned not to speak up, and who struggle with their own survival and are thus impeded from political participation within occupy.
Occupy needs shock therapy. It’s going to take a few different forms. We all need to fundamentally challenge ourselves, and ask ourselves if what we are saying and doing is a matter of who we have been told we are, vs. who we want to be. It is only through that collective-individual process that we all can tear down the subtle hierarchy within occupy and truly start building a horizontal society.
We need to get out into the streets and start occupying spaces again, do it quite forcibly and with incredible gusto. It is because the convention center is not a people’s space, and we cannot take care of each other when guards usher us out the doors every night. It is also far easier for us to act collectively and as comrades in challenging ourselves in our viewpoints.
We need to be honest with ourselves and each other in our communication, our needs, and our ideas. Passive aggression and drama has pushed many people away from occupy and creates a climate of fear which proliferates the subtle hierarchy within occupy and that ultimately impedes the revolution. The way we avoid that passive aggression and its ensuing power games is through committing to an ethic of direct communication, honoring each others needs, and respecting each others autonomy.
Finally we need diversity of tactics, direct action, massive self-radicalization and recognize that revolution is indeed scary. We need these things because we live in the most revolution proof police state in human history. Everything within Amerika is designed from the top down to keep everyone in order, be passive and helpless as possible. Only intelligent use of a true diversity of tactics is capable of causing the beginning cracks in the system that will allow our revolution to succeed. Squabling over who does what and how only causes us to waste energy policing ourselves. If we want to be victories, we must allow our comrades liberty to pursue whatever aims they feel are best in their own minds. We need to be aggressive and assault the system in as many different ways as possible simultauneusly. We must implore our more cautious comrades to wake up and self radicalize for the exact same reasons, and because our participation in this plutocratic dystopia amounts continually to the blood of millions on our hands. Part of that self-radicalization is recognizing that these are indeed scary times, and none of us are alone in that fear. We can console ourselves in the fact that the risks we take are indeed worthwhile compared to the nightmarish future we all face if we stand silently by and do nothing. We can take comfort in the fact that not every risk we take has to result in a sacrifice, that we can protect ourselves and each other with our solidarity and our comradeship.
Athens, the birthplace of western civilization is burning. It is time for us to stop abstaining and start truly participating. Now is the perfect moment for worldwide decolonization. It is the year of the dragon; the planets are gaining perfect alignment. Let our battle cry not be an empty one, ‘everything for everyone, the revolution has begun’.
Athens, Oakland, Homs, Solidarity.