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Against the Dogmatic Fetishization of Non-Violence

From: occupyphillymedia.org

 by edaverynatale 

Note: Nothing contained within here is meant to spur anyone to commit acts of violence.  While I am a defender of violence and threats thereof as a tactic, I do not necessarily believe that our movement is in a place to begin committing these acts (though I think we should stand in solidarity with those who choose to do so, such as some in Oakland and elsewhere).  It seems to me that, at this stage, it might be most important to build linkages with others outside of our movement, and if violence alienates those individuals, then perhaps it is a tactic best not used in the name of Occupy at this point in time (though I think we should leave that open to debate rather than assuming from the outset that violence is an illegitimate tactic).  Instead, this article is meant to challenge the notion that violence is never acceptable and that only non-violent means serve legitimate purposes in a movement.  I also do not intend this article to fetishize violence—I believe that both tactics have merit, and that both have a time and place.

Note 2: The first few paragraphs of this article involve some “theory” before moving on to pragmatics.  I hope you’ll work through it! 

Tonight, Occupy Philly will be holding a candlelight vigil for non-violence.  The Facebook page for this even reads, “We invite our allies and friends to join us in expressing our earnest desire for continued nonviolence and an ongoing, peaceful dialogue with the City of Philadelphia.”  It is unclear to me what use this language serves in light of recent events.  While a candlelight vigil against the physical assaults on our comrades in New York, Oakland and elsewhere makes sense, the simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of violence that has been committed at Occupy protests nationally has been committed not by Occupiers, but by authorities such as the police, in apparent collusion with the federal government.  So why is the candlelight vigil directed primarily at us?  What use does it serve?

It seems to me that throughout the Occupies nationally, there has been a dogmatic Fetishization of non-violence; there has practically emerged a religious cult of the non-violent who are hijacking any other messages and denouncing the “sinners” of “a diversity of tactics” (seen above: are those who might consider using violence not your friends and allies?  Are they not the 1%?  Are we not the proletariat?).  When I use the term “fetishization,” I mean it in its’ philosophical rather than sexual articulation (though it would be a mistake to construct these as wholly separate conceptual categories).  When something, such as an object or other man-made construct, is fetishized it is endowed with supernatural powers and is believed to have an inherent value unto itself and independent of any other existential reality of the object.  In the work of Karl Marx, the idea of fetishes in relation to commodity fetishism is used to describe something that people obsess over or concentrate on that prevents them from seeing the truth of the object or system in place.  To move Marx’s analysis away from economics, we could say that the symbolic value of something is transformed into an inherent and objective value that the object has unto itself, which the fetishizer may treat as an axiom of the object.

In short, it is my opinion that we have seen such a value attributed to the concept of non-violence.   Non-violence as a tactic has been treated by many in the Occupies as the starting point of dialogue rather than something to be debated.  Non-violence is treated with a value inherent to itself that does not require dialogue, debate, or dialectical reasoning—in short, it is treated as if its value is axiomatic. When violent acts occur, even if those acts are of violence against something as arbitrary and unethical as private property—which is only itself every created and protected by the violence of the state, the capitalists, and alienated labor—those who have broken windows or some other such thing are immediately denounced (I would say that they are thrown under the bus, but I suspect that many on the side of pacifism would reject the violent metaphor).  Often these individuals are assumed to be anarchists—and perhaps they are—but so what?  There are both violent and non-violent anarchists.  Must you homogenize and represent the group for us?  And is our Occupation solidarity so weak that it breaks as easily as the glass on a storefront window the minute the religion of non-violence is confronted with an act that might be interpreted as violent?  Are the pacifists so certain that their method is not only best, but that it actually works, that the very possibility of some other form of action need be removed from the table, necessarily?

The simple fact of the matter is that radical social change has never taken place without either violence or at least the threat thereof.  Even the saints of the church of non-violence would often have not been successful if violence had not at least been on the table: Martin Luther King Jr. was successful in part because groups such as the Black Panthers, armed and ready, scared the white establishment so much that King’s non-violent methods seemed more acceptable.  Gandhi’s movement in India was in part successful because of the horrors of World War II, which bankrupted England.  In addition, there were violent activists in India at this time too, who are not often heard from in history texts.

However, if the dogmatic fetishization of non-violence is going to be enforced by the Occupying Powers That Be, then I encourage the following: either at tonight’s candlelight vigil, or at a future General Assembly, denounce the following, even if retrospectively: The Boston Tea Party, The American Revolution, The French Revolution, Native Americans fighting against colonization, slave uprisings against their masters and the racist American government, non-pacifist uprisings of poor people against the bourgeois ruling elite in America and the rest of the world, race riots in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, sabotage on behalf of workers in the 1930s or slaves in the American south, the events of May 1968, the Spanish Civil War, the acts of the Zapatistas in Mexico, the acts of the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement (AIM), the Arab Spring, the Greek insurrectionists, the Weathermen, John Brown, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, Malcolm X… the list, of course, goes on… in short, denounce many of our radical forebrothers and foresisters who gave their freedom, blood and lives for a cause greater than themselves, who recognized that at times violence was a necessary tool.  History teaches us repeatedly that the state will use violence, and that the state is only ever—EVER—threatened when violence is at least a possibility on behalf of the people.

Non-violence is one tool among many, and it is a legitimate tool with man wonderful and beautiful uses, and I encourage everyone to participate in non-violent acts, and I respect individuals who for personal or religious reasons will never be able to bring themselves to engage in acts of violence.  But to engage in the dogmatic fetishization of non-violence, to become an adherent to the church of non-violence, will only work to separate us.  Historically, the state has worked hard to separate movements.  We see examples of this at least as early as 1636 when the state of Virginia passed laws granting advantages to the White indentured servants while placing all Black servants in permanent slavery.  The state of Virginia was scared because a united working class was rising up and using acts of sabotage and violence against them.  We see many such examples of historical splitting of movements, of ways of keeping us looking at each other rather than at the “1%” who are entirely willing to use violence against us as well as against our brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else that the neo-liberal power structure is challenged.

We in Philadelphia have so far been left alone, more or less, by the police.  This will inevitably not last.  However, our brothers and sisters around the country and the world have not been so lucky, and they have been fighting back.  Who are any of we to judge what they need to do to continue this movement?

When they kick out your front door, how you gonna come?  With your hands on your head or on the trigger of your gun?  ~The Clash~

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The most normal kind of otherness – Reflections on Rape

by Fulvia Serra

In the USA a woman gets raped every 2 minutes.

I should be used to it by now, but I am not.

When a woman is assaulted or raped in my community, my neighborhood or among the people I know, I have to fight a strong sense of surreality and disbelief, especially if that community is the political one to which I belong and which represents such a central part of my life.

I am plagued by a sense of mourning, even when I’ve never met the woman or the man involved.  I behave almost like this were an absurdity, something that could not possibly happen in the same space where I live, work and invest so much of my energy.

My very first impulse is to cast the event out of my sphere of familiarity, to make it foreign, to refuse to let it belong to the same world where I exist, live and love. It is so reassuring to believe that a rape is an abnormal event, a tragic fallacy in the way men and women otherwise encounter each other, the product of a criminal mind, of a mis-constructed reality or even, sometimes, an utter fabrication. And yet there is something in the mourning and disillusionment I am experiencing that does not let me off the hook that easily. I keep going back to that awful number, like a tam-tam in my head, a woman every 2 minutes, another woman in 2 minutes. The rhythm of that awful clock ticking in my ears tells me that a rape is something that I should profoundly and completely take responsibility for. Something that I, my friends, my community and my comrades should all own.

We should do so because too many times the body of a raped woman becomes a battlefield, a point of contention, a place over which conflicts take place. Often the conflict is played out by men and always ends up erasing that particular woman’s story, her feelings and her quite too personal and too indecent sorrow.

We should actually own and take responsibility not only for one particular rape but for all of them, because a society where a woman is raped every 2 minutes is not one where rape can be categorized as abnormal behavior. Rape is indeed an event that puts all of us on the spot, men and women, with our political practices, our public and private discourses and the all too intricate ways in which we experience sex and power and too often confuse the one with the other.

That is one of the reasons why, when I react to a rape by calling for an even stronger police presence in the space in which I live, I feel that am still trying to delegate and put a distance between myself and that otherness that will always, unseen and undisturbed, inhabit my reality.

The point is that actually a rape is not a form of otherness at all, but a quite too familiar practice, a practice of control and overpowering in which we all grew up and that we breathed in so much that we became insensitive to all its insinuating and allusive messages.

When I seriously take responsibility, then I realize that there is something in my political discourse that needs to be changed, if I want to confront the event of a rape as a deeply real and widely common instance in my culture. Maybe I could then understand why, when I try to create a new political representation, I should never forget to include in it an account of our bodies, of their physicality and needs, of the ways they are taken into account or discounted, controlled or expressed, silenced or narrated, oppressed or exalted, raped or loved. Then maybe, I could sit down with all the people I know in my community, and especially with the people with whom I share a deep and engaging political commitment, and I’ll be able to talk with them about rape as one of the occurrences, one of the quite too normal occurrences in our lives today. One that does not have anything to do with sex or even with sexual perversion. One that has a lot to do with power and oppression. One that we too often forget to mention when we talk about ourselves and the way we interact, think and construct narratives about each others and our world. One finally that we too often overlook in the long list of the ways we all, men and women, assaulters and survivors, those who experienced it directly and those who just breath it in the air everyday, are oppressed, controlled and silenced.

Then maybe, just maybe that otherness would become a little bit more visible to everybody, a little bit more clear and it would be a little bit more difficult for it to sneak in on us, take us by surprise and leave us flabbergasted and unprepared to deal with it, ready to let our space and our narratives be taken over by those same institutions that are trying to erase us and, with us, any possibility to construct real alternatives.

Press Release from OP Women’s Caucus–Occupy Movement: Not a Utopia, but We’re Working on Alternatives

From: occupyphillymedia.org

Submitted by cindymilstein on Mon, 11/14/2011 – 12:32

This document is a product of the Occupy Philly Women’s Caucus meeting held on Sunday, November 13. During this meeting, women and their male allies discussed the parallels between sexism and harassment in the Occupy Movement, Philadelphia, and society at large.

We are concerned with the contradictory statements that the police and the mayor have made to the media about their support for the occupy movement, while simultaneously withholding support for situations of physical and sexual violence. In this next press conference we would like Mayor Nutter to address our attempts for our support in evicting sexual predators on camp that were met with statements from the police such as follows; “that’s not our job. Get your men to handle it.” These statements speak to the victim blaming and minimizing environment that survivors face when interacting with the police force. We as a movement feel it is a top priority that in these sort of assault situations it is imperative to put the survivors desires and needs at the center of response.

The recent demonizing and vilifying of the Occupy movement in the media is a scape-goating of the problems and violence that plague our communities and cities daily.  Rape happens every day, murder happens every day and Suicide happens every day. These tragedies are not symptoms or creations of the Occupy Movement, nor are they exclusive to the Occupy Movement; they are realities of our society and of our everyday lives. It is now more than ever that support is needed for the occupy movement, and the alternative responses to behavior fueled by systemic oppression. Some of these alternative responses include, increased medic trainings in Oakland, the construction of a Womens’ safe space in New York, networking with other occupy encampments and using the collective skill sets available within occupy Philadelphia. Each of these actions are working toward creating access via this movement to resources that many individuals would otherwise not have access to in the greater society as a whole. The demonizing of the movement is an attempt to block and weaken our bonds of fighting for a better world, not controlled by greed, power and violence. We stand in solidarity with the rest of the occupy movement and we acknowledge that systemic community and interpersonal violence are interconnected. We call on the media, the city of Philadelphia and we call on society at large to educate themselves on the signs and causes of suicide and confront stigmatizing mental health need, we challenge them to discuss the dynamics that allow community violence to flourish and we encourage them to increase survivor support and confront jargon that perpetuates victim blaming. We also call on survivors and allies of this violence to continue supporting each other and to enter this dialogue on how to better respond to violence and how to challenge and change the behaviors and ideas that perpetuate violence in our society. We are very pleased that Mayor Nutter has had a sudden interest in addressing and confronting sexual assault in our community, and we would like to be made aware of when the next press conference addressing the daily assault that women and oppressed people endure every day occurs.

Occupy Philly Suggests Nutter, City Are Exploiting Negative Issues

From: http://blogs.philadelphiaweekly.com

photo(52)Occupy Philly working groups held a press conference today at 1 p.m. in response to Mayor Michael Nutter’s weekend comments, in which he came out with a new, harsh tone toward the movement, saying they had changed and become radicalized. He also expressed worry about an alleged rape which occurred Saturday night.

Today’s press conference, it was said by Occupy Philly representatives, was held “to correct inaccuracies made by Mayor Nutter yesterday about our occupation.”

“We haven’t changed, the mayor has,” said Gwen Snyder, who began the conference. “The mayor’s new tone is an attempt to shift focus from the real source of the problems impacting our city.”

In addition, Jody Dodd from the Legal working group said Occupy had been repeatedly emailing the city, asking about their potential move to Thomas Paine Plaza, though the city stopped responding, which is why they voted to stay on Friday. They gave out press packets detailing these emails, as well.

“[We’ve sent] emails and phone calls to collect info on alternative sites regarding a move,” said Dodd. “We received no response…we have not changed. The mayor’s attitude has.”

Later, Amanda Geraci of the women’s caucus expressed concern that members of Occupy Philly had told police of a potential sexual predator lurking at Dilworth Plaza, and were “met with statements form police, such as follows; ‘That’s not our job. Get your men to handle it.’”

But, she said, “We are very pleased that Mayor Nutter has had a sudden interest in addressing and confronting sexual assault in our community, and we would like to be made aware of when the next press conference addressing the daily assault that women and oppressed people endure every day occurs.”

I met with a homeless member of the camp after the press conference, who said he’s been Occupying Dilworth Plaza “before this happened,” and called the mayor’s want to kick out the movement a “breach of contract.”

“How do you just evict people?” he said. “Plus, there are homeless people that have been here for 25 years. Since when is it illegal to be homeless? And if it is, fix the problem. The city has [thousands] of vacant buildings…Give people a chance to fix it up and get a roof over their head.”

A licensed carpenter, he’s angry about the planned construction. “You’re telling me a $55 million dollar skating rink is more important than feeding the homeless? Getting them medication?” he said.

And he said he’s not moving when a potential decamping occurs—but doesn’t think the city will conduct its own decamp the way some other cities have.

“I don’t think this city wants to do [what happened in Oakland] considering their history,” he said. “I think our officials are a little more savvy than that. But if they’re stupid enough to do that…” He drifts out. “This is the United States-of-freaking-America. How is any of this possible?”

Let’s Fix Our City! Solutions and Video from Nov. 6 Event

From: occupyphillymedia.org
Text and video by Suzy Subway and Scott Pierpoint

On Sunday, November 6th, sparks of creativity flew as community activist groups fighting for and rebuilding our communities met at the main stage of Occupy Philly to share their visions for our city.

Speakers from ten groups gave us the basics about their work to stop prison expansion, gender discrimination on SEPTA, and casino capitalism; provide health and safety tools to sex workers; and win housing, support for impoverished mothers, and progressive tax policy. Armed with these insights and our own imaginations, presenters and attendees then formed small groups to brainstorm how to make Philadelphia a better place to live.

Reflecting on the Dilworth Plaza renovation, with federal, state, city, and private spending totaling more than $50 million, community group and Occupy Philly participants considered three questions:

How could $50 million be spent to meet people’s needs?

What should we pressure the city to do that doesn’t involve spending money?

What can we do without city funding or approval to fix our city?

This is what we came up with together:

How could $50 million be spent to meet people’s needs?

  • Jobs (cleaning up neighborhoods, rehabbing housing, moving towards a guaranteed income)
  • Housing (support for people facing eviction, End 30-month wait time for public housing, fixing up abandoned houses, home maintenance for homeowners)
  • Health-care (Free clinics, collectively-managed, dental, vision)
  • Funding youth after-school and anti-violence programs
  • Better funding for schools (smaller classrooms, more programs connected to the community, mental health and social services at schools)
  • Transportation (free public transportation, revamping/extending SEPTA facilities)
  • End AIDS housing waiting list
  • Community-based independent newspapers
  • Support cooperative businesses
  • Support Harm Reduction services (click here for a definition)
  • Safe spaces for women
  • Free city-wide WIFI
  • Support for single mothers (income, programs/services to help)
  • 24-hour libraries
  • Food access (community gardens, food support)
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) classes
  • Legal services
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Debt forgiveness for utilities

What should we pressure the city to do that doesn’t involve spending money?

  • Stop foreclosures
  • Tax corporations and big non-profits to pay their fair share
  • Use empty libraries or schools at night to teach adults
  • Decriminalize sex work and drugs
  • Stop “Stop and Frisk”
  • Stop penalizing folks on basis of criminal records for public assistance
  • Spay and neuter healthy pets
  • Make more bike lanes
  • “Ban the Box” (click here for a definition)
  • Promote real green jobs
  • Stop evicting community gardens
  • Decarcerate (put fewer people in prison)
  • Remove police from Occupy Philly
  • Centralize/streamline intake process for the homeless
  • Set up online clearinghouse of current and planned housing programs for case managers
  • Help communities organize themselves
  • Institute a land value tax
  • End the youth curfew
  • Better systems for reclaiming / re-purposing buildings
  • No more billboards
  • Promote community control of the media
  • End tax abatements (click here for a definition)
  • Promote volunteer mediation / conflict resolution
  • Remove gender stickers from SEPTA passes

What can we do without city funding or approval to fix our city?

  • Utilize empty homes/buildings (take them over, map them)
  • Occupy vacant land (Community Gardens, community spaces, building land trusts)
  • Build community control
  • Occupy the workplace / promote worker cooperatives
  • Community health-care and education
  • Re-appropriate resources: electricity, food, water, gas
  • Time-banks, barter networks, skill-shares, tool libraries
  • Transformative justice (click here for a definition)
  • Neighborhood budget councils (click here for a definition) and General Assemblies
  • Collective housing
  • Community outreach/parties
  • Food-buying clubs

Click on the links below to find out more about these awesome groups!

Decarcerate PA
Books Through Bars

Casino-Free Philly
Global Women’s Strike

Every Mother is a Working Mother
ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power)
Riders Against Gender Exclusion (RAGE)
Vote for Homes Coalition
Project SAFE
Neighborhood Networks

Let’s Fix Our City! Videos

Intros: We can end this senseless austerity. Why not tax the rich? Community groups can help us find solutions!

Speakers from Community Groups, Part 1
(Decarcerate PA and Books Thru Bars)

Speakers from Community Groups, Part 2
(Casino-Free Philly, Global Women’s Strike and Every Mother is a Working Mother)

Speakers from Community Groups, Part 3
(Riders Against Gender Exclusion (RAGE), Vote for Homes Coalition, and Project SAFE)

Our Solutions!

Princes and Princesses – Michel Ocelot

Radical Animation for Children and Un-grown Adults

Princes and Princesses – Michel Ocelot

Come to the Wooden Shoe to enjoy a magnificent animation from french author and animator Michel Ocelot

The tales Ocelot tells have the feel of actual folktales and are infused with that timelessness and profundity such narratives have.

704 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Saturday Nov. 12 @ 3pm

The movie will be screened in the original French language with English subtitles

Kidsmovieseries-flyer

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