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The Future of Occupy: Love, Respect -- and Name-Calling

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The Occupy movement has been busy, raising funds and forging ahead. Remarkably resilient, organised, and growing, the movement has demonstrated discipline and sophistication on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yet if you take the many media portrayals of the Occupy camps at face value, you might believe that they are (were) filthy dens of iniquity: disorganized, dangerous, unruly, smelly.

My experiences at Occupy Toronto left me with a different impression. People brought food to share, volunteers washed dishes and performed other needed functions, and people typically waited politely for their turn to speak (not always of course). Structures (such as the library) were products of both industry and good workmanship. Yet most media portrayals in Toronto paid little attention to any of that.

You'd hear talk about unruly and loud arguments, for example, or a physical scuffle. Well, plunked right in the heart of downtown where the homeless, the drug addicted, and so many others roam, such stuff could not be avoided. The Occupiers were there even after dark. Some "unpleasantries" did occur, but it's not as though the bad stuff was created by Occupy. It was there already and -- obviously -- the movement would not have emerged had everything been fine on the streets and elsewhere.

While not an overnighter, I became a regular, occasionally spending even five hours there in one day. Though politically committed, here is the main reason I kept going: Whenever I left Occupy, I was a nicer guy than when I had arrived.

That, in a nutshell, is one reason the movement will die no time soon.

Despite all the nonsense you hear, see, or read in the media, the Occupy camp provided a friendly, respectful, and loving environment. Committed to serious change, to freedom and social justice, we were on the same page and, in all but a few cases, treated each other (and passersby) with respect and empathy.

I found Occupy Toronto to be the sanest, friendliest, and most loving place in town. And I know my own city. The camp was amazing, and it never failed to soothe my soul. Many have told me they went there for the same reason.

That kind of energy can't be destroyed as easily as some might hope. They do try, though, don't they?

From Toronto's Globe and Mail:

The Occupiers are the immediate menace never mind what they denounce ... The Occupy movement is a lesson in why revolutions tend to become vicious inversions of their stated beliefs. Even as the Occupiers in Toronto, Vancouver, and other cities in Canada denounce the powers of the rich, they stationed themselves with bullying force in neighbourhoods and public squares.

Hmmm ... some say that bullshit makes the world go round. Of course, that's just a theory. Let's stick to the non-debatable.

Another reason the movement is here for the duration: We've learned. For the first time in a long time, progressives of all stripes have a clear target, unambiguous, and easy to identify.

The target has been pegged as the one per cent. A friend of mine referred to that as "essentializing" one's opponent. While we can quibble over wording, here is a political reality: For the longest time, the political right has had a near monopoly on a range of slime tactics and name-calling. They had identifiable targets: Axis of Evil, drugs, communism, socialism, welfare bums, hippies, atheists, people with AIDS, Saddam, intellectuals, addicts, illegal aliens, liberals ...

For the Occupy movement, the identification of a simple target is an ideological coup. Naysayers can harp on the differences in outlook, and on how Occupy has no official agenda. That, however, is its greatest strength. When feminists, libertarians, Marxists, Native spiritualists and so many others can cooperate, when such disparate groups can agree to work in tandem, here's what you get: We all agree that one thing is the problem, so let us put our differences aside and focus our energy on combatting it.

That isn't scatter-brained thinking. It is the stuff of which political victory is made.

As an addiction activist, I myself have identified the opponents of drug legalization and harm reduction as "abstinence pushers." See, the Republicans in the U.S. and the neocon fanatics elsewhere have taught us well. My efforts emerged independently from Occupy, but in each case someone was smitten by the same reality: We need to do what the reactionaries do so well -- call people names.

So I offer two good reasons why Occupy will not soon die:

1. It generates love and respect, with the power to provide a positive influence on the rest of humanity. The good will is too strong to be crushed, and is bound to put out roots and to grow.

2. Even though we're the good guys, we're also fed up and have learned all we need from the bad guys to kick their asses all over the map.

Note, too, that I just "slimed" the enemy by calling them "bad guys." I want to thank all the reactionary, callous, and ignorant right-wing fanatics out there: You led by example, and have taught us precisely what we need to know.

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