Global capitalists must be getting down on their knees every night and thanking the gods of the greedy for the creation of the Occupy movement. It is difficult to find a more counterproductive campaign in the history of lost causes.
Like many a protest movement it mirrors the very thing it protests against. Just as United Against Fascism employs tactics which genuine fascists would wholeheartedly endorse so the anti-globalisation movement has itself become a global brand which assists the very thing it supposedly fights. Like the vast corporations which move into areas and drive out local businesses so Occupy swallows up genuine movements of protest and emasculates them, neutralising their effectiveness.
Just as McDonalds, Starbucks and Coca-Cola take over and overwhelm local businesses so the Occupy movement has homogenised protest. The comfortable middle class kids in the USA who find excitement in playing revolutionary have created a global image which swallows up the genuinely local. Every radical movement, no matter where it originates, feels the need to become part of the Occupy brand. The latest example is Turkey.
There are very real reasons for the events in Turkey at the moment. There are deep seated divisions within the country; rural and urban, middle class and working class, Islamist and secular. So deep are the discords that a small scale protest about the re-zoning of a park which provoked a heavy-handed reaction by the police provided a spark which lit a fire that rapidly spread throughout the country.
Instead of addressing the actual problems facing Turkish society all sides began to find labels for what was happening. Turkish president Abdullah Gul quickly saw a way of blunting the movement by saying that the protests “are more Occupy than Arab Spring”. He continued, “The Occupy Wall Street movement continued for months in the United States. What happens in Turkey is similar”.
Newspapers in Turkey began speaking of “Occupy Taksim” or “Occupy Istanbul”. This has been echoed by the Western press. Ben Pomeroy in The Week wrote, “Over the last day, a fully operational kitchen and first-aid clinic have been set up, both of which were carved out of an abandoned concession stand in the back of the park. I was instantly reminded of some of the same support systems I found in New York City’s Zuccotti Park in the fall of 2011 during Occupy Wall Street“.
Just ten days into the action and the protesters are increasingly modelling themselves on Occupy. The most serious consequence is the truncation of expectation. They have come to the typical Occupy conclusion that keeping possession of Taksim Square will be the measure of their success.
Camping out is not a form of rebellion it is merely a respectable middle class way of thumbing your nose at authority.
Occupy blunts any serious attempt to effect change. If there were to be real systemic change we would expect the beneficiaries of the system to oppose Occupy. Instead we find that globalising businesses dependent to a large extent on youth custom like Ben & Jerry’s made a point of supporting Occupy Wall Street. Richard Branson was of the opinion that Occupy was a “good start”. Politicians looking for the youth vote like Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi quickly expressed support for Occupy Wall Street.
Occupy supporters claim that the events in Egypt and those in Seattle and Washington and London differ only in scale, not in substance. This is so ludicrous as to be insulting. The difference between the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement is that wherever it happened the Arab Spring gathered support from every section of their populations and had a specific aim, the overthrow of vile regimes and their replacement with a more democratic form of government. They succeeded in the first part. The Occupy movement’s only function is to give middle class children a warm feeling that they are doing something worthwhile and challenging corporate globalisation. They have succeed in the first part.
The Occupy movement has been accepted by much of the Western establishment such as the newspapers and television, the Church, unions and certain political groups. The Turkish protesters are in danger of adopting the Occupy brand in order to gain similar support from the West in the hope this will provide leverage with their own authoritarian rulers.
There is much in the West which needs change, that change is never going to be effected by the tantrums of self-important children. Societal change requires a clear vision of the future and the willingness to do the long, hard, and often boring work of implementing that change.
If the admirable protesters in Turkey truly wish to effect necessary change in their country they must de-Occupy their protest. Revolution is never a fun event.