S17: Creating a New Reality A Year Into Occupy

by | September 25, 2012
filed under Politics

s17 stickerby Chanel Dubofsky

Last Sunday night, at the urging of various Occupy folks in the Twitter universe, I wrote the number of the National Lawyer’s Guild on my foot in blue permanent marker, for easy access in case I got arrested during actions on the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street (otherwise known as S17 – schedule of S17 events). It’s over a week later, and it’s still on there. I’m not trying to be a hero; it just won’t come off.

I didn’t end up needing the number, I didn’t get arrested. I’m lucky, I’m not one of the folks who got randomly pulled off the supposedly “safe” sidewalk and arrested in the street. There are 185 people who were arrested, which the media is very interested in, so you can easily find some version of those stories via Google. It’s not a small thing, the brutality of the NYPD, but to only talk about that is to eclipse the crazy, important, complicated beauty of s17 and the life of the Occupy movement so far.

I went into Washington Square Park on Saturday, September 15th to kill some time (non-violently) before the Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual Book Launch, and decided to follow a march to Zucotti Park (Liberty Plaza, the site of the original occupation that began on September 17th, 2011) that was about to leave.

I wrote on my blog about the intoxication of marching, of yelling,of feeling powerful in the midst of a movement. In retrospect, I’ve become completely obsessed with understanding what is beyond that feeling, what else it means to be in the streets. Suzahn Ebrahiminan has an essay in the latest edition of Tidal, Occupy’s journal of theory, called “The Revolution Will Not Have a Bottom Line”, in which she writes: “When we understand success as an event, it becomes a constructed permanence, a ‘win.’ This action reinforces what I call the hierarchy of stability – where the thing that seems or can be made to seem permanent, containable, and quantifiable is understood to be legitimate (or more legitimate) authority.”

To people who asked me (and continue to ask me) what the point of S17 was, if the idea was to shut down the Stock Exchange, disrupt the financial district, cause chaos in New York City, celebrate the one year birthday of a social movement that is growing like a weed, the answer is yes, and more.

So many times since the November eviction of Zucotti, I’ve heard Occupy referred to in the past tense, and not even for a minute has it been true that the movement is gone, or even sleeping. The mission of S17 was (and in year two of Occupy continues to be) to disrupt not only physical space, but also brains, the way we think about activism and change making.

The various modes of activism around S17- marching, the People’s Wall, picketing, concerts, the Free University, speak outs, street art, parades, are meant to not only bring public recognition to the movement, but to expand the notion of  Occupy Wall Street beyond the occupation of Zucotti Park. Occupy has been evolving, pushing and disrupting, literally and in the intellectual and emotional sense all over the country and the world; it’s simply being done in manners that we don’t recognize, that we’ve been socialized to feel adversity towards.

“A normalized business person will tell us to get jobs because they can’t conceive of what else one might do that is valid,” writes Ebrahimian. Reading this, I feel again as I often have felt when someone gives words to my grapplings. A movement can make us strong, it can make us feel less crazy, it can push us to think beyond what capitalism, sexism, racism, etc. has programmed us to feel, and thus, to limit our imaginations, or not access them at all.

For me, the most startling moments of Occupy have been when I realize all over again  that the world that’s possible is no longer a hypothetical, it’s actually happening. We are creating a new reality.


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