“This country is ready to be reborn. Something fresh and new is fomenting in the fertile crumbling of the old.” – The Dandelion Insurrection
Two years after the rise and demise of Occupy, we are still spinning around wondering what happened . . . and what comes next. The discussion runs in tail-chasing circles so often that when my radio show co-host suggested that we interview Nathan Schneider, an editor for Waging Nonviolence.org and the author of Thank You Anarchy, Notes From the Occupy Apocalypse, on the subject, I rolled my eyes in exasperation. Why beat the old Occupy horse?
But after five minutes of conversation with Nathan, my mind began racing down new avenues of thought. Maybe Occupy isn’t just any old horse. What if Occupy was a phenomenon of mythic proportions? What if the Occupiers were the un-prophesized horsemen of the Apocalypse . . . and the “Apocalypse” is not what we think?
“An apocalypse”, translated literally from its Greek origins, is a disclosure of knowledge, a lifting of the veil, or a revelation. In his book, Nathan dives into the epistemology of the word and offers some revelations on what was happening beneath the surface of the Occupy movement. Nathan managed to jump on board the Occupy Wall Street ship before it launched into Zuccotti Park. This vantage point gave him a few observations that many of us, in our satellite occupations throughout the country, may not have seen.
According to Nathan, there were a lot of artists at the helm of the early stages of the Occupy Wall Street planning process, and what emerged was designed as a massive performance, a public demonstration of democracy in action. In the aftermath of the police crackdown on the encampments, the corporatized mainstream media declared the movement a failure. Yet, Nathan, in his simple and quiet manner, debunks that whole idea. Occupy achieved exactly what it was designed to accomplish: it brought participatory democracy to public awareness, provided a soapbox for the roiling discontent felt by Americans, broke the silence around wealth disparity, spread multi-nodal occupations virally throughout the nation, and reclaimed public spaces for the use of the people.
Back in 2011, when the exploding movement swept through my small, coastal California town, I felt that I had stumbled onto a huge ritual without a shred of cultural context or training for participation. It was outrageous, wildly exciting, and deeply mystifying. What were we hoping to accomplish? How were our scraggly rows of tents going to collapse corporate empire? This consensus thingy was cool, but how could we possibly hope to wage a struggle against the most effective corporate machine on the planet with this unwieldy technique?
With his notion of the Apocalypse, Nathan reframes such questions into an entirely different understanding. Occupy was not a coordinated struggle to collapse corporate domination . . . Occupy was a massive performance staged to tear down the veils of delusion that obscured the average American from recognizing the depth of the socio-economic-political problems that we face.
A great ritual took place in Fall 2011, conducted by the unlikely secular shamans of anarchists and activists. They effectively enlisted the public’s imagination and channeled pent-up frustration into the metaphysical task of tearing apart our notions of reality. They picked up the tools of alternative media, participatory democracy, slogans, and chants to help them. They held symbolic parades and demonstrations to bring people to catharsis. They shared food and organized encampments for this great ritual to take place in.
Those of us who Occupied may laugh at this notion, remembering six hour General Assemblies stuck on the nitty-gritty subjects such as drum circles and Porta Potties. Yet, on a more mythic level, it appears that this untried collection of secular citizens, accomplished a task equal to the greatest saints and sages of all traditions: the stripping away of collective delusion.
Occupy triggered an apocalyptic breakthrough around wealth and class – and not just in the United States. Around the world, from one country to the next, a wave of Occupy movements erupted. One could call these popular uprisings . . . but you could also call this the largest, secular, international ritual in the course of human history. The purpose of the ritual was the deconstruction and reconstruction of our understanding of reality.
Using popular dissent, Occupy allowed the people to reshape our collective understanding of the causes of poverty, our flailing economy, unemployment, and mortgage failures. Prior to Occupy, the general delusion (which is still propagated by the politicians and corporate media) placed the blame of these things solely on the individual, insinuating that poverty was a sign of laziness, ineptitude, and personal failing . . . not an outcome of systemic corruption and greed. Today, with nearly fifty percent of the U.S. population living at, or below, international standards of poverty, Occupy’s reframing helps us avoid the disempowering myth of personal failure and instead act with knowledge of the effects of the manipulations of corporate-politics and the greedy 1%.
Our work, however, is far from over. As the Christian Right coopts the phrase “Apocalypse” for their own purposes and uses the Biblical End Times as an excuse for self-righteous passivity in the face of concerted corporate-political destruction of the planet and people, it is time for citizens of conscience to “Occupy the Apocalypse”. We must bring to light the deeper meanings of the word. We have had one great ritual of tearing apart the veil of delusion (and many more are sure to come), but we cannot stop now, daunted by the horrors we have revealed. With determination, we must tear through every layer of delusion and corruption: the maggoty infestation of greed, the pestilence of corporate political influence, the famine of poverty, the frightening militarization of our police, the erosion of civil liberties, the rotten corruption of the prison-industrial complex, the decay of justice, the poisoning of the food supply, the global infestation of our military through the borderless war on terror, the enslavement of students to debt, and the wanton destruction of our environment, to name only a few.
“History is won by the most convincing story.” – The Dandelion Insurrection
. . . and the future is created this way, as well. Word by word, act by act, we must tell the revelations of what lies beyond the veil. Tearing down the old is one aspect of revolutionary change; building up the new is another. The two sides of this coin are in our hands. We must be bold enough to use them both. Beyond the sickening layers of our crumbling civilization is a whole new world just waiting to be born. Again and again, we must break through every layer of delusion. We must not flinch at the pestilence. We must not recoil at the horrors. We must keep going forward and reaching for the revelations on the other side.
Occupy was only the first of the many great secular rituals yet to come. In these times, every person must pick up the mantle of the heroic figures of all ages. We must dare to be visionary and dare to be prophets. We must be bold enough to speak truth and courageous enough to believe in the world that lies just beyond the horizon of now. If we do not, those who Occupy the Apocalypse with stories of utter destruction will find their prophecies coming true. Our right and responsibility is to Occupy the Apocalypse with a more compelling story of a sane, sustainable, and beneficial relationship between all human beings and the planet.
Tune into Occupy Radio as co-hosts David Geitgey Sierralupe and Rivera Sun interview Nathan Schneider on the Occupy movement, the Apocalypse, and the ongoing lifting of the veil. Listen Live on Wed, Dec 4th (7pm PST/10pm EST) here and join the live chat on the Occupy The Media Facebook page during the show. Can’t make that time? The podcast comes out on Sat Dec 7th on occupythemedia.podomatic.com.
Nathan Schneider is an Editor for Waging Nonviolence.org and the author of Thank You Anarchy: notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. His blog, The Row Boat, is full of interesting articles both by and about Nathan and his work.
Author/Actress Rivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to her most recent novel, The Dandelion Insurrection, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength. http://www.risingsundancetheater.com/wpblog/