Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Arab Spring / OWS Update

For the fourth day now, Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square are demanding an end to military rule, and a transition to civilian government. In the protests over the last few days, at least 33 people have been killed, many with live gunfire, and at least 1,500 people have been injured. Here's some footage.

But they held on. You want to know why the protesters are still able to remain in Tahrir Square after the military and police tried to evict them? Because they refused to be stepped on, and fought back. What a concept. Here's an excerpt from a letter that a group of Egyptian activists sent to the Occupy movement:

It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we used when we shouted “peaceful” with fetishizing nonviolence; if the state had given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured, and martyred to “make a point”, we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead. Be prepared to defend these things you have occupied, that you are building, because, after everything else has been taken from us, these reclaimed spaces are so very precious.

They're absolutely right, and it's a shame we're not listening. Here's a bunch of protesters at UC Davis sitting on their asses allowing themselves to be maced.

As Orwell said, "Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense." The result of this nonviolence? Everyone was arrested and the protest ended. Good job guys. I'm all for using nonviolence to win over the public, but my patience is really running thin. Police have no more right to hurt you than any other man in the street. If someone attacks you, then you defend yourself. This isn't hard.

Ward Churchill, in "Pacifism as Pathology," writes:

Pacifism, the ideology of nonviolent political action, has become axiomatic and all but universal among the more progressive elements of contemporary mainstream North America. With a jargon ranging from a peculiar mishmash of borrowed or fabricated pseudospiritualism to "Gramscian" notions of prefigurative socialization, pacifism appears as the common denominator linking otherwise disparate "white dissident" groupings. Always, it promises that the harsh realities of state power can be transcended via good feelings and purity of purpose rather than by self-defense and resort to combat.

Pacifists, with seemingly endless repetition, pronounce that the negativity of the modern corporate-fascist state will atrophy through defection and neglect once there is a sufficiently positive social vision to take its place ("What if there was a war and nobody came?"). Known in the Middle Ages as alchemy, such insistence on the repetition of insubstantial themes and failed experiments to obtain a desired result has long been consigned to the realm of fantasy, discarded by all but the most wishful or cynical (who use it to manipulate people).

If these protesters want change, then pacifism is extremely ineffective in accomplishing it. You know what Egypt accomplished by fighting back? Their interim government offered to resign yesterday. That's change. The military finalizes this, so it's unlikely to happen, but it's still an extremely significant step. Three days of real protests: Egyptian government resigns. Two months of peaceful protests in America: nothing. Absolutely nothing.

This photograph, which has become famous at this point, shows Jennifer Fox, 19, being carried off at Occupy Seattle after being maced in the face by police.

When Jennifer tried explaining to the police that she was pregnant and she wanted to leave, the police responded by kicking her in the stomach, hitting her with a bike, and spraying mace in her eyes with two separate spray cans simultaneously. Her baby miscarried. Here's video of Jennifer immediately after her chemical attack. Don't look away.

I don't know what the hell it's going to take for people to start taking this seriously. If "fetishizing nonviolence," as the Egyptians put it, is what this movement is about, then we've already lost. Dancing around in drum circles and allowing women to be assaulted seems to be the fun thing to do, but it will never give us our freedom. Ever.


  1. I'm going to counter your argument somewhat. I think for the occupy movement to be effective there will have to be two movements, one peaceful and non-violent, and one, smaller, violent one. Much like the twin movements of MLK and Malcolm X, one is needed to frighten those in power, and one is needed to shame the bystander citizen into agreement with the cause (at least) or concurrent action (at best). This non-violent movement isn't working*, but neither did the actions of protest that became riots in the past years (I'm thinking specifically of WTO protests, but there are others).

    *I guess I should say isn't working yet. We're in the middle of it, so it's hard to get a good perspective.

  2. I wouldn't disagree. I often find myself swaying between those philosophies anyway, and what pissed me off the most that sparked this rant turned out might not even be true.