Regarding the question of violence or nonviolence in Occupy. A short statement.

I haven’t had time in the last week to read any of the screeds and counter-screeds revolving around the question of violence or nonviolence with regard to the Occupy movement. Being involved in Occupy Oakland, where this has been a front-and-center issue since at least late October, it is something I’ve spent a lot to time on. There is only so much you can say on Twitter, but I simply haven’t had the time to devote to catching up this week and writing a detailed response. Even if I do, it will not be so much about debunking most of the “violentist” claims and hollow arguments, but more on looking at the big picture, which I sum up something like this:

Society evolves and has been evolving, however fitfully, toward equality and democracy and liberty. This is because people who want equality, democracy and liberty have worked really, really hard for hundreds of years and have been more successful at organizing and changing people’s attitudes than those who want to maintain prejudice, inequality and control. It didn’t magically “happen” that, for example, women got the vote and segregation ended.

Those who want a more egalitarian society don’t spend their time and energy pointing to hundreds of years of patriarchy, quoting dead guys and saying that gender equality is impossible. They don’t point to hundreds—or thousands—of years of racism, quote dead people whose work they’ve never really studied and then claim that racism is necessary, inevitable and that an egalitarian society could never work.

What would it say about someone if they talked like that? Who would want to be around someone with such a cold, hard heart and constrained imagination who claims to want a better world but says it cannot work?

In the same vein, what should we now think about the people who spend their time and energy pointing to history and quoting dead people and making justifications for the need for social change through violence?

People who want a more free, nonviolent society put their energy and imagination into working toward that in new and effective ways. They don’t put it into explaining all the reasons it can’t work.

A better world is possible, but not if you have your feet and mind so deeply stuck in the mire of the old empire that you can’t imagine anything better.

Sundance documentary 5 BROKEN CAMERAS

In 5 BROKEN CAMERAS, destroyed video cameras mark time across two parallel narratives: the struggle of the village of Bil’in against Israeli land theft and the birthdays of the filmmaker’s son.

Emad, the filmmaker, gets his first camera when his son is born, the same day Israeli bulldozers begin flattening the villagers’ lands for new Jewish settlements and the euphemistically-named separation wall. Emad begins documenting both.

He continues to record his son’s birthdays along with the villagers’ sustained nonviolent resistance to the illegal land theft and, in the process, has five cameras either smashed or shot out of his hands by Israeli soldiers. Emad learns quickly what war journalists know, that the cameras will not protect him—except for once when a bullet lodges in a camera instead of hitting him, destroying it, but saving his life.


Stumbling forward at Occupy Portland and elsewhere.

A few weeks ago, this article appeared on the Portland Occupier website: Occupy Portland Outsmarts Police, Creating Blueprint for Other Occupations.

Coming to a virtually identical conclusion to what I say in my previous post, the author states:

In summary: when the cops come to clear the park, don’t resist. As they are preparing for their military maneuver and use of force that the Occupiers cannot reasonably be expected to resist, the occupiers should be packing up their tents and baggage and loading them into wagons, bicycles, backpacks, etc.

You could just skip the article and take that bit of wisdom and sound practical advice to heart and you’d be way ahead of the game.
Now read on for the good part

Knowing when to fight. Some thoughts on recent police attacks on Occupy Oakland.

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious. —Sun Tzu

Summary: The police attacks on Occupy Oakland’s vigil and tree sit last Friday, December 30th were disasters for the movement, sapping scarce energy and resources, generating bad press and putting a dozen occupiers behind bars. This happened because we gave our opponents exactly the fight that they had come prepared for. In this sense, we are fighting dumb, engaging in confrontation that we can only lose, on political and legal terrain where we are weak. A more effective response to the OPD’s attack-and-disrupt strategy would be to deprive them of their goals by refusing to engage. When they attack, we fade back and disperse, depriving them of a target. When they grab for substance, we flow away like water.
Now click here for the longer version. Do it.