Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Well, the port shut down was successful in Oakland last night. It was a lot of walking, a little talking and a little listening, and then we went home. It's really strange how long it took (four and a half hours) compared to how long it felt it took (about an hour). Time flies when you're doing things that I'm not sure are good. And there it is: I'm still not sure blocking the ports was a good idea based on the comments and news stories I've been reading. On the other hand, it really feels great to be out there with everybody, amidst the chaos and the conversations and the signs and spontaneity. Who did the blockade hurt? The workers? That seems to be what most newspapers are reporting, as well as what the sentiments of the comments pages generally leads to.

As an alternative here is an excerpt from a Democracy Now news story, which seems to represent the perspective of the blockaders:
AMY GOODMAN: And the media quoting many of the truckers saying, "Why are you doing this? You’re hurting us more than you’re hurting the corporation. We are the 99 percent," they are saying, Anthony?
ANTHONY LEVIEGE: That question was asked a lot throughout Monday’s protest. And I decided that I’m not going to even respond to that question, because that’s just a device to keep people from dealing with the real issues at hand, because today’s action, if that hurts the trucker or anybody, that’s a sign of the times, that we do need change, that people are so dependent on missing one day’s pay, that they can’t make it if they miss one day’s pay. Those are some of the reasons why we definitely need to have change.
Anthony Leviege is a member of the ILWU and Amy Goodman is a journalist. The rest of the interview can be found here, but herein lies the problem: that on the one hand the larger system, the one that makes it impossible to miss a days work, needs to be changed, whereas, when other people who are not directly invested in the specifics of this change are advocating for it (for example, I do not work with the port and did not lose a days work), it can feel "paternalistic," that those who don't work at the port are deciding what's best for port workers.

Most of the commentators and comment-ers and editorials cited this lack of official support (that is, support not by individual members, but by the union leadership) and the harm a port blockade would do to the longshoremen and truck drivers' daily wages. Oakland's mayor said that the 1% would be laughing at the action as it was so obviously misguided, and suggests that the blockade will ultimately weaken the general public's support for the Occupy movement. As I write this, I don't mean to reiterate these points because they make me feel like a dupe for coming out last night. They make so much sense yet, I'm on my way somewhere else, more along the lines of Anthony's point, that to frame the conversation in oppositional terms of who did who to what is to overlook the big picture. "Paternalistic" is really just a word to end the conversation (boo! scary!) and paints an ugly picture of the Occupy movement as a misguided and elitist group of irresponsible 20 somethings.

Which is a problem if you're like me, the kind of person who believes pretty much whatever they read. I think, yeah, those are good points. But what's important to note, is that these commentators and opinions that float around (where do they come from?) don't actually have any more claim on the truth than you or I. And if I had to choose who to throw my lot in with, I would rather be with those who aren't living on a diet of didactic cliche, and rather, be with those forging into unknown territory. Aesthetically (which does matter), one of the most revealing and meaningful aspects of Occupy is that it is not a continuation of the political and cultural rhetoric that got us here in the first place. Refusing to participate in these tired discussions, and instead, stumbling towards one's own vocabulary, means and methods, making mistakes and breaking eggs, is how beautiful things get made. For this reason alone, the experience of Occupy itself, de-intellectualized and lived, I come to being once again.