Just before winter hit, Adbusters suggested that occupiers at Zuccotti to go home, declaring âvictory.â
âWe have fertilized the future with our revolutionary spirit âŠ and a thousand flowers will surely bloom in the coming Spring. But as winter approaches an ominous mood could set in âŠ What shall we do to keep the magic alive?â
They offered two strategies: martyrdom, which they now follow on their website as âhardcore occupiersâ who intend to stick it out through winter, and âpartyâ.
Adbusters is on the cutting edge of internet activism. They have popularized the use of hashtags (#OCCUPY) and memes in an effort to lend a popular character to leftist politics, a shortcoming we have suffered from since the sixties. There is a hint of Woodstock throughout this; potlachs, festivals, a hint of pagan season fetishism (kidding)...one thinks that if LSD was as proliferated at these occupations as smart phonesâŠ
But maybe thatâs precisely it, that internet and tech are the new âmind expandingâ drugs of the 21st century? Social networking has a politically anemic quality that is extremely reminiscent of the drug culture of the sixties and seventies. How much of this is really activism and how much of it is playing with new toys?
Slovoj Zizek addressed the group at Zuccotti in October.
âThere is a danger. Donât fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember, carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives. Will there be any changes then? I donât want you to remember these days, you know, like âOh. We were young and it was beautiful.â
In a sense itâs the same question that we left the sixties with. What do we want? The sixties proved to be massively impotent, not just in the US, but in Europe as well.
âThere is a real possibility that the main victim of the ongoing crisis will not be capitalism but the Left itself, insofar as its inability to offer a viable global alternative was again made visible to everyoneâŠâ[First as tragedy then as farce, Zizek, Slavoj; Verso, London 2008. Print.]
On DemocracyNow! Thomas Frank attributed the Rightâs success since the 2008 meltdown to their radicalization and encourages Obama to âradicalizeâ his position by adopting Occupy rhetoric, citing F.D.R.âs appeals to populist by attacking crony capitalism in the 1930âs. Zizek warned us of this 4 years ago.
This is a question we should continue to ask. âWhat do we want?â In a sense, the whining pundits were asking the right question for the wrong reason. We didnât know what we wanted but that was our issue. As we enter 2012, with promises of a North American Spring, we need to ask ourselves what we did at OWS. Honestly.
Zizek continued at Zuccotti: âRemember that our basic message is âWe are allowed to think about alternatives.â If the taboo is broken, we do not live in the best possible world. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want?
Do we answer this question by excitedly showing the Facebook page we made, the picture we took of police beatings, or the Twitter following we garnered? Like the sixties, do we recount our wonderful, transcendental experience of brotherly love and recommend new ways of achieving this âhighâ? Or do we answer this question by quoting some Chomsky, discussing how we could have responded to police brutality more effectively, and introducing our network of fellow revolutionaries to each other?
The carnival of consumer capitalism will not fall to the carnival of resistance. This is what we need to remember when we consider 2011. The financial crisis put Americans out of their homes and destroyed their livelihoods but this will never be comparable to the amount of devastating damage speculators do and have done to the invisible populations of this world who are slaughtered by resource paucity in todayâs global economy. Are stylish rebel costumes and gadgets, memories of bongo circles, and Tumblr sites what our response is?
If so, I will have to disagree with Zizek. Carnivals donât come cheap.