The protesters should beware not only of enemies, but also of false friends who pretend to support them but are already working hard to dilute the protest. In the same way we get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice-cream without fat, those in power will try to make the protests into a harmless moralistic gesture.
In boxing, to clinch means to hold the opponent’s body with one or both arms in order to prevent or hinder punches. Bill Clinton’s reaction to the Wall Street protests is a perfect case of political clinching. Clinton thinks that the protests are “on balance … a positive thing”, but he is worried about the nebulousness of the cause: “They need to be for something specific, and not just against something because if you’re just against something, someone else will fill the vacuum you create,” he said. Clinton suggested the protesters get behind President Obama’s jobs plan, which he claimed would create “a couple million jobs in the next year and a half”.
What one should resist at this stage is precisely such a quick translation of the energy of the protest into a set of concrete pragmatic demands. Yes, the protests did create a vacuum – a vacuum in the field of hegemonic ideology, and time is needed to fill this vacuum in a proper way, as it is a pregnant vacuum, an opening for the truly new.
The reason protesters went out is that they had enough of the world where recycling your Coke cans, giving a couple of dollars to charity, or buying a cappuccino where 1% goes towards developing world troubles, is enough to make them feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after the marriage agencies started to outsource even our dating, they saw that for a long time they were also allowing their political engagements to be outsourced – and they want them back.
The art of politics is also to insist on a particular demand that, while thoroughly “realist”, disturbs the very core of the hegemonic ideology: ie one that, while definitely feasible and legitimate, is de facto impossible (universal healthcare in the US was such a case). In the aftermath of the Wall Street protests, we should definitely mobilise people to make such demands – however, it is no less important to simultaneously remain subtracted from the pragmatic field of negotiations and “realist” proposals.
What one should always bear in mind is that any debate here and now necessarily remains a debate on enemy’s turf; time is needed to deploy the new content. All we say now can be taken from us – everything except our silence. This silence, this rejection of dialogue, of all forms of clinching, is our “terror”, ominous and threatening as it should be.
- Slavoj Žižek, Occupy First. Demands Come Later
Using silence as ju jitsu, countering the weaponry of words with non-words, with the simple act of occupation. And working the silence to remain free of those that would have Occupy become a nail in Obama’s election platform.
As Žižek says, Occupy is fighting on the enemy’s turf, including the war of words in the media, which is not a balanced world for public discourse. The only way to win at that game is to not play at all: to remain silent, and use that vacuum as a tool of terror.
amen to that