Three months ago, a small band of patriots triggered the turning of a historical page. They did it by stepping out of their expected roles within the socioeconomic hierarchy, and stepping into Zuccotti Park, which they then occupied continuously for two months, until they were evicted by a heavily militarized police force on Nov. 15.
Occupy Wall Street sparked a massive movement, by giving voice to a shared and growing anger over the state of our nation, and our world. The encampments were the embodiment of an idea – that the public has vast moral rights outside and above the market forces that presently dominate our collective fate, and that we are duty-bound to challenge and reverse the dehumanizing order that subjugates us to the ruthless logic of capital.
Occupation is the first stage in a battle to dethrone markets and regulate them to the collective benefit of the people. But Occupation is not the last stage – tents are not a permanent solution to the malady that is destroying our society. If we are to regain our dignity, our rights and our future, we must recapture power from those that privatized it.
For two months, Occupy Olympia grew and persevered on the shores of Capitol Lake. It did so with an unusual level of acceptance and some facilitation from the state. Many other encampments around the nation were harassed, and then forcibly evicted – often with shocking displays of unprovoked state violence. But until Dec. 16, Occupy Olympia enjoyed a comparatively placid relationship with the state, and State Patrol. Why the difference?
The state implied that we were tolerated because it respects us. But we are not fools. The state’s respect was demonstrably contingent on our physical location – on our keeping our distance. We could see the Capitol from our tents, but our elected representatives, and the private interests that they have come to serve, could barely see us. To them we looked like little people.
Olympia, the city, is not a center of power. The state of Washington – governed from Olympia – with its deep budgetary problems and shockingly regressive tax structure, is another matter. The state marshaled substantial resources to keep our protest as locally focused we would allow.
The state could use its power to hold its wealthy citizens and corporations to their patriotic rhetoric and tax them in the interest of our collective wellbeing. Washington could lead the nation by illustrating that the people can and should take back public wealth that has been concentrated in private hands. But the captured state won’t, and it did not want its Capitol confronted with tents that have come to symbolize hope and rebellion against an unjust order.
But circumstances have changed. The novelty of Occupation has dissipated. The public has become inured to seeing quasi-military clearings of protestors from encampments. Like Occupy Boston, the Heritage Park Occupation is at an end. Occupy D.C. can’t be far behind.
In these three capitols, large encampments outlived the age of tent-based protest because those in power feared shifting the focus away from local encampment to and towards engagement with the apparatus of state – that we might transition from occupying open space with tents, to seeking office with patriots. But in attempting to locally distract us, they inadvertently signaled their vulnerability.
We must now show the world the breadth and resolve of our massive majority by initiating phase two of this movement. Tents are ephemeral, but our objective is not. We are engaged in an epic battle between a tiny minority that has captured power, and a vast majority to whom it rightly belongs. And this is what “Recapture!” looks like.
Bret Weinstein is a professor of evolutionary biology at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. He is the primary architect of Declaration of Inter-Dependence: A Modern Social Contract, posted on The American Re-Evolution site at endofoligarchy.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.