Friday, November 4, 2011

Incriminating Evidence in the boot

i will sleep when i'm dead, i guess.

Night before last my daughter's partner and friend went out and committed acts of what they called 'civil disobedience'. i cannot say more except to scatter random words around this post in a cryptic fashion. They arrived at my place late, and the friend was bleeding. i treated the wound with Betadine, old skool and brutal, but effective. Betadine is Mother's Revenge For Being a Silly Boy. It did me good in Vietnam. Then i drove them home with their incriminating evidence in the boot of my car. My daughter was amused that today's anarchists get driven around by moms, who then get up early in the morning and work.

Last night i stayed overnight at Occupy Corner in Christchurch. My husband the Archduke Piccolo asked what sort of accommodation i would have. i told him i would be sharing a tent with a young man with dreadlocks and a philosophy degree. He got sniffy about the dreadlocks. He himself has very long brown hair that tends to ringlets. i think he would be suspicious of any man who had a better head of hair.

Actually i wasn't sleeping. i was on the overnight security detail. My job was to collect water and patrol the perimeter, and hopefully talk a load of old toot at four in the morning.

When i arrived they were cleaning up the hospital grounds. They have a sharps container and gloves to pick up condoms and needles.

Water collection was a slightly frantic and clandestine affair where we carried a hundred bottles across the road and behind a building and then behind another building to find a working tap. Karin from Germany and i filled the bottles in turn, while others gave us new bottles, put tops on and put them in boxes to carry back.

i talked to some of the homeless people and street dwellers who camp with the activists. It is becoming known that you can go stay at The Occupy. i intend to try to work a way of helping with these guys and some of the others who have major social needs, who come for food and shelter and are not necessarily down with the Occupy movement. That was a big reason for staying overnight.

People came to visit and enquire, even in the middle of the night. And at about 5.30 the hospital workers started to walk past us to get to work. They and Occupy Christchurch are getting to know each other.

There had been a cold snap with rain and a chilly wind, and when i wasn't walking the perimeter i kept somewhat warm in a sleeping bag. It was my first night under the stars in many years. The sombre dark began to give way to dawn. Oyster catchers called. i watched the last star, a freckle on the cheek of the sky, behind a lattice of leaves and twigs above me. i dozed a little, and when i awoke there was colour and dimension of desperate intensity, and i felt briefly overwhelmed by it.

Today i am still tired, but not too much for thinking.

Moivng on from my previous musings on what a middle aged woman can offer the Revolution i have been thinking about the longitudinal process occasionally described as a dialectic by some commentators. It goes like this:

The thesis: early twentieth century radicalism on the left was informed by Enlightenment ideas of a common humanity and universal rights. It was positivist,rationalist (usually), progressive and often optimistic. People learned techniques of organisation and protest ranging from community building to hard out terrorism, and some strands of thought were more pragmatic than others. But there was an overarching philosophy and individuals probably found their places within it.

The antithesis: from the late 1970's onwards, this secular universalism seemed naive, eurocentric and even oppressive to many radicals, especially women and people of colour. Schisms happened. i remember some of these within the populist feminist thinking of the time. Feminist thinking struggled rather brokenly out of its socialist, rights-based past and took on the 'Third Wave', where female difference was celebrated and affirmed. The mens' movement developed. Racial and cultural differences were openly discussed and in New Zealand we moved from concerns about biculturalism towards multiculturalism. Identity politics became mainstream, a hallmark of a liberal society. Activism as a whole retrenched.

The synthesis: The politics of difference suited stable societies and gave a voice to people who had no previously been heard. But meanwhile, a set of enormous problems developed under the noses of radicals. These problems crossed all lines and involved the whole world. Globalisation, environmental collapse, the obscene excesses of capitalism, the bleak hell of consumerism, all crept up on leftist thinkers, and they were unprepared. It seems over the last ten years commentators have been saying 'Good heavens, it was Capitalism all along!' Some useful thinkers about this are Naomi Klein (especially No Logo) and Kenan Malik (From fatwa to jihad: the Rushdie Aaffair and its legacy). Beginning with the globalisation protests in the 1990's, new activism sloshed around, rediscovered anarchism and socialism, and coalesced into the gorgeous mess that is Occupy.

Yes! The Force is strong in this one! However, as an older woman (identity politics again!) i have some questions. What happened thirty years ago? Why did people lose faith in mass movements, secular universalism and Enlightenment ideas?

i can speak for some of us, i think. We women got sick of making the damn tea. Nowadays, i have little enough interest in my own opinions and i am happy making the tea. Back then i remember women who wouldn't be seen dead in the kitchen. It was serious. We needed to be heard, to work ouselves out. i notice that Occupy is somehwat male dominated in numbers, and i hope the young women of Occupy have strong voices. If they don't the movement will schism, and the political will become personal all over again. It may be similar with indigenous and minority people in Occupy. There needs to be more than tokenism, a true step away from easy western hegemony. This could be easy. There are so many ways of living and organising ourselves. Any culture could guide us. The lack of hierarchy in Occupy makes it easier for us all to think and speak for ourselves, but we need to be vigilant.

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