“Occupy” As A Phased Enchantment

“Occupy” As A Phased Enchantment


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My first cloak-and-dagger business meeting was in the foyer of a Michelin starred restaurant attached to a casino in Auckland.

It was late and we could be sure we wouldn’t be kicked out if it got later because the casino is open twenty four hours. The only other people around were a few Japanese tourists returning to the gaming tables. I had just turned twenty three.

The person I was meeting was, at the time, a digital consultant working for the newspaper company that employed me. He subsequently went on to run the business and I helped him build it into the country’s largest digital department. (He was a good mentor.)

The boss of a rival department suggested we should meet. (Media companies have politics like you wouldn’t believe. Think Wolfram & Hart without the handy transdimensional shamanic surgeons to replace lost limbs.)

In the early noughties, there was a standard mantra when talking about digital inside a traditional media company. “Digital isn’t going to destroy newspapers. It’s an on-balance lift in readership. There’s a seat at the table for everything. Each medium is part of the media mix. Blah blah blah.”

These are statements of faith. If you work at a newspaper you probably love the news business. You want it to be true, not just for your paychecks but because of something much bigger… you are speaking Truth to Power. Even if you are in the commercial team, your work is Important. And if you are pro-digital inside an industry that had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future saying word like this was the equivalent of a secret handshake. It marked you out.

So I dutifully repeat the mantra at the earliest possible moment. Digital isn’t going to kill newspapers.

The consultant shrugged.

“If it happens, it happens. The bucket is already leaking. All we can do is try to put another bucket underneath to catch some of the leak. These trends are bigger than one little company’s wishes. The world is going to do what it is going to do.”

This was my first real-life lesson in apocalypse business. The person my employers were paying vast sums to future-proof their business was brazenly saying it probably wasn’t going to work.

He was right. Newspapers had pulled the same trump card that the First World pulled in 2008: The Tower.

Back to Occupy.

Here is what you do if you don’t like a person or organisation:

But you can’t have a ten point plan when you pull The Tower, just like you can’t outrun an avalanche. What could a strategy possibly look like in these circumstances? (In the early noughties, the digital strategy for newspapers involved completely customising and printing individual versions of a newspaper tailored to your interests. Did that happen anywhere?)

What would an Occupy strategy look like?

Both the Left and the Right are handling the movement like that one uncle who has never held a baby before and suddenly has a brand new niece thrust into his hands and a camera in his face. (I love those photos. Somebody start a tumblr.)

We are discovering a new political spectrum the same way those early optics scientists discovered whole chunks of light (UV, etc) we didn’t know were there. The Left and the Right are being replaced by the Haves and the Have-Nots. In the US, both are riddled with corporate interest to the point of complete toxicity, in Europe those in power are all related by blood or marriage or because they engaged in a little furtive mutual masturbation after the lights went out at their exclusive boarding schools.

Who will stand for the 99%? Who the fuck stands for us now?! Where could our modern day Bouddica possibly come from?

Poland thinks it will end in war again, the UK Prime Minister’s own party is going to go against his direct orders and call for a vote on whether we should leave Europe. If any of them are left standing after the Tower comes down, they still won’t be up to the task.

No, better think of it like a phased enchantment. Because at this moment, from a standing start, the probability of a preferred outcome is too low. All the key players and barriers in both politics and finance are still in place.

  • We know what the problem is. (Read that article!)
  • Before we propose solutions (here’s one) we need to demonstrate the scale of our anger, our disgust. We need to push harder on that Tower. We need to show that by 99% we actually mean 99%.

It’s too early to enchant for precise outcomes. Because probabilistically our preferred outcomes will likely still be extracted from the existing toxic regimes through their gritted, lizard teeth.

For that to happen, our “betters” in Brussels, London, Washington, New York, Berlin, and the rest need to be terrified. Terrified like their distant ancestors staring down at them from the portraits on the walls of their country piles… portraits that were commissioned while their heads were still attached to their bodies.

If they know we aren’t going away then we start to move the probabilistic range more in our favour. And they don’t know that yet. They still think that someone is going to take the baby out of their hands and they can finally leave the hospital and go back to the bar. Let’s stay in this phase until they realise that simply isn’t going to happen. There is no upside to dancing to their silly little lobbyist-funded tune.

Of course, if you’re in a wand-waving mood, here are a few suggestions that -as of this evening- may prove helpful.

Possible targets for enchantment

1. Billionaires

Send your little invisible beasties to whisper in their ears. For the punitive “tax” (reclaiming our stolen property) we all want to become real in the current probability spread it’s going to require volunteers. Billionaires are going to need to step forward, voluntarily tax the shit out of themselves and call out the rest of them to do the same. This is easier to achieve than you might initially think. (Watch the third video.)

Besides, our hero, whomever he or she happens to be, will require funding. Unless it is actually somehow Bruce Wayne.

2. Politicians

Fear might be failure and the forerunner of failure but it is also a pretty fucking serious motivator. Let’s get some tentacles rapping at their windows, let’s have them waking up screaming in the middle of the night to the thwack sound of the guillotine in their nightmares.

3. Whistleblowers

Forget about God for a moment, the world is watching. As previously mentioned, a quarter of the FTSE 100 uses tax havens. There are people sitting in back rooms in these companies siphoning off billions to the Caymans all day who then struggle to buy dinner at the supermarket on the way home… the way home past the library that just closed.

Think of the worst, most egregious example of collusive corporate and political fuckery. Someone somewhere has the evidence of that. Let’s fortify them with the courage to share it.

4. The Police

You know what happened at Tahrir Square? The police and the military refused to enforce the curfew. They refused direct orders to arrest or attack their fellow citizens because they too are the 99%.

I think we all know we’re going to need this restraint again before the Tower falls completely.

5. Yourselves

If you read this blog then it’s likely you’re plugged into the universe. And people who are plugged into the universe also tend to be plugged into their neighbours.

You will be asked your opinion. You will be asked what to think. Tell them this is a good thing. Tell them the whole world is with them. Show them the graphs. Whoever they think should be in the White House or 10 Downing Street is beside the point. The 1% broke our world and we want it back.

Final comments

It goes without saying that if you can show up to your local Occupy then you should. If you can donate you should do that as well.

As memes go, this one is perfectly crafted. Much better than ‘uncut’. To a large extent it can live on its own. It’s building its own spontaneously-generated iconography (the masks, the graphs, the words), pretty soon it will be able to walk and talk independently. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t front up if you can. Even grown-ups need sustenance.

As a parting note -more of a fantasy really- it occurs to me that with all the talk of Samhain approaching, just five days later is another popular holiday that makes use of masks. Surely this is too good a symbolic opportunity to waste? Everyone has the kit already. We’ve all seen how the movie ends. UK folk, let me know if you hear of anything because that would be epic.

Remember, Remember.

8 Comments

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  1. 6
    Kalagni

    Always well put. I’ve been happy and impressed with some of the Buddhist work I’ve seen about this. Some lamas are at occupies meditating on peace to try to avoid violence, some are doing wealth pujas. My favourite though, and it hits #1 on your list, is those that are doing work of compassion on the 1%. Granted it’s not dark beasties invading their dreams, but the idea if they can be opened up to their own Compassion they’ll do more to help.

    I personally have been pondering what I’ll do, but Occupy just hit here on the weekend, so it’s fresh in the centre of the universe.
    Kalagni´s last blog post ..Shhh: The Secret Chiefs Are Talking

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