As winter looms closer, mayors across Canada are voicing their frustrations at the (in)activity of the Occupy protests, and are calling for the shutting down of the camps. Yesterday scuffles between police and protestors erupted after Halifax's mayor ordered the latter's eviction from Victoria Park.
But this hardly means the protesters are getting the upper-hand, as supporters of the Occupy movement claim. The movement has now passed through the hype machine. While at first, it began slowly, it's grown in size, and now many read of the protests in the same way they read of the falling stock market, or the weather that's get colder everyday.
On one extreme, there are people who disregard the protests as nothing, a mere fad that will soon pass. On the other, there are those, like playwright Eve Ensler, who are convinced this is something that will change centuries upon centuries of civilization and human nature. Both are dangerous, but the latter more so, mainly due to a word which she champions: "ambiguity."
Her series in the Huffington Post (take a deep breath, now) "Ambiguous UpSparkles from the Heart of the Park Mic Check/Occupy Wall Street" is a compendium of articles which are in fact themselves compendiums of paragraphs others have written as testimonials to their experiences at Occupy Wall Street. These columns begin with the requisite introductory paragraphs in which Ensler puts in her two cents, devoid of any sense. She speaks of things such as loving one another and mother earth, how we must be a community once more (were we ever?), and other things which may only be bearable to read with the help of hallucinogenic drugs and monotone bongo drums.
In her latest piece , Ensler speaks of the rape of women, the rape of the earth, the rape of the economy, all in the same sentence. Yes, putting the rape of women alongside with the "rape" that occurs on Wall Street. This is an egregious use of the word, a slap in the face to those who have experienced it. It's an insult to the victims of South Africa, the Congo, and Kenya where women are stoned, beaten, then raped again. It's an insult to the women of Pakistan and Iran in which it takes four male witnesses (often participants) in a court to say rape ever occurred. It's an insult to men: She claims that the general perception of my sex is that "we still expect it [rape]," and that we argue, "it's just the way men are. It's part of the human condition." Ensler may very well believe that, but rational human beings, not only men, know better. In fact, any sensible person should be indignant at such an ignorant, violent, disgusting accusation that is irrevocably a perfect example of the reverse-misogyny I suspect Ensler proudly wears around her neck like a medal.
But returning to Occupy Wall Street: Ensler is, obviously, one of its biggest admirers. Not because it offers any realistic plans for economic reform, or an actual specific mandate of how to right social inequality. Instead she admires it for people such as a man who came to Occupy Wall Street "from Chicago who had waited until he could come with something to offer and he finally had figured out what to give -- 1,500 harmonicas so that people could learn how to make music by breathing out and breathing in."
Eve Ensler, with her ambiguous arguments, and beliefs is a perfect example of why the Occupy Movement is in danger of falling apart. I've spoken before of the lack of hierarchal organization; that no one person was spokesperson to the media, that no one person set-up a manifesto. This has only maintained the hodge-podge of beliefs, arguments, and people that Occupy was criticized for at its inception. One would hope things would have changed almost a month into the protests, but they haven't, and the argument "that's the whole point, it's a movement that's open to every issue and every point" is not only proving to be tedious, but detrimental as well.
With nothing but ambiguous statements to report, random cheers and jeers against the current financial system, treatment of the environment, social inequality, capitalism, etc. what tangible thing is there for the media left to speak of?
Well, Occupy is often criticized for not having accomplished anything according to their "demands," but they have accomplished a great deal to demonstrate why these protests shouldn't be taken seriously.
In her naïve, clinical, gut-wrenching way, Eve Ensler speaks of the beauties of Occupy Wall Street in terms of donated harmonicas, but in reality the movement has been rearing what can only be called its ugly head in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Vancouver. There have been reported cases of rape in the camps. A group of protesters have abandoned the General Assembly and formed the People's Forum because they refuse to follow a code of conduct which makes drug and alcohol abuse prohibited at the protests sites. A female protester in Vancouver died allegedly from a drug overdose; and occupiers have attacked the police, sending two to the hospital, merely for trying to put out a fire. (I ignore the argument that the fire was a sacred Aboriginal one. It's hard to believe that such a level of respect for our First Nations would have been observed had the fire not taken place in the Occupy Vancouver camp. Sad, but true.) An officer's ammunition cartridge, meanwhile, was stolen. Hundreds of syringes litter the grounds in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. And of all places, this oughtn't happen in Vancouver, a city known for burning cars and inciting riots because of losing a hockey game.
But these are the tangible things the Occupy Movement has achieved. These crimes, these demonstrations of violence, forgoing the initial spirit of peace--these are what are being reported. So far, the protesters have demonstrated nothing to incite change, besides a feeling of having been cheated. Is it really any surprise then why the Vancouver, Halifax and Victoria camps are on the verge of being shut down? This is the fundamental flaw of having a so-called "open" movement: The floodgates are open to everyone. From a worthwhile, well-meaning college graduate to a prowling pervert who will grope an eighteen year old after helping her set up her tent.
Time is running out for the Occupy Movement. Organization -- including yes, a code of conduct, no matter how "hypocritical"--must be established in order to lend these protests any legitimacy. The majority of protesters I would guess don't want them to happen; but until they realize that certain conventions must be established, no matter how damaging they might be to personal pride, this will be an opportunity squandered. After all, how can the 99% speak of solidarity after one of their protesters throws a bucket of urine into a city worker's face simply because he's doing his job?