The O.E.D. explains that the adjective "divisive" means the following:
1. Having the quality or function of dividing; causing or expressing division or distribution; making or perceiving distinctions, analytical.As one can readily see, the general nature of any divisive thing is that it results in some sort of functional division wherein there is a lack of unity or wholeness.
2. Producing or tending to division, disunion, dissension, or discord.
It has often been argued that with the Occupy Movement, and more particularly with Occupy Oakland, a "diversity of tactics" are requisite.
The O.E.D. defines "diversity" as:
a. The condition or quality of being diverse, different, or varied; difference, unlikeness.There is obviously a fine line between "difference"/diversity or and "divided"/divisive for surely that which is different is unlike another thing. One could say that the two are kissing cousins of sorts. And yet, in a connotative sense, most Progressive Americans would distinguish these two terms as, in turn, distinctly positive and distinctly negative.
Because these notions so readily slide together, because a diversity of tactics always risks fundamental disunities and splinterings, the viability of Occupy Oakland has been particularly fragile for one reason only: "Occupy Oakland" has promoted itself as one thing, one entity, under one name. Of course, a thing can certainly be etheric and ephemeral and reflect a kind of melting pot where multiple people, tactics, and ideologies stand side by side. Right? However, the flip side of an "anything goes" ideology are "anything goes" tactics. At present, Occupy Oakland has not adopted any consensus about damage to property and what many Americans view as "violence" toward buildings. In trying to include multiple ideologies not centered around basic tactical provisions, there is a very real splitting -- a diviseness -- which is rapidly growing right now.
Whether Occupiers wish to blame the Media for divisions sown and spin is their right and is partially correct to do.
Occupiers may also blame the Police, which again is quite right to do. There is no doubt that the Police have sown divisions as well in Oakland and for a lot longer than the Occupations have been going on. Many will say all the way back to Oscar Grant, but I would say let's look right back to the Civil Rights Movement itself for that one. Police brutality is endemic throughout the California Bay Area.
Occupiers might also blame a weak-minded and apathetic populace unwilling to fight for what Occupiers have been fighting for, or if not fighting, then enacting as a kind of new and more utopian reality which plays out revolution in an important way, showing how upset Americans are by the inequities which we face, showing that we aren't just going to take it all quietly while herded into a limited number of sheeple-options afforded us by some prefabricated system which boxes us in by measuring, stamping, and weighing us from the moment of our births. Occupiers have shown that they are not afraid of tyranny. They are not afraid of violent retribution. They are not complacent about income equality or police brutality. They find the system of representative Democracy to be inadequate and have supplanted this with a (modified) consensus model. In many cases, such as with Scott Olsen, they have even shown that they are willing to die for the right to express their displeasure with the state of things as they stand in America today.
It's remarkable, and it is honorable.
However, the tactics which some participants of Occupy Oakland have taken are divisive. Regardless of what honorable ideology backs the choice to use a "diversity of tactics" and the rhetorical inclusivity which that phrase resounds with. The fact is that when these tactics turn away the hearts and minds of the same People -- with a capital "P" -- the 99% masses, the general population, who have been largely empathetic toward Occupy according to polls over the past months -- then divisions have been sown. And worse, what is enacted is the desire of the few, which is a tyranny in and of its own right.
For the imposition of tactical choices which resonate only with the few result in vanguardism.
"Violent" participants in Occupy Oakland have now assumed a de facto vanguardist status.
Yet the 99% has clearly expressed discomfort about violence against property.
Ideology be damned.
The public has declared that they do not want representation by those who would damage property, period.
So who are Occupy Oakland, or any other Occupiers, fighting for at this point?
I cannot support vanguardists who stick their fingers in their ears at the requests of the public -- the proletariat, the 99% -- while claiming to act on their behalf: clearly that is authoritarian, disingenuous, and in revolutionary action, has proven again and again to result in basic failure.
Worse, because of an ideological commitment to peacefully accept multiple tactics, perfectly fine and committed activists are either forced to accept what Anonymous called "Occupy's Asshole Problem" or else to shift uncomfortably from one leg to another.
That bit.ly links to this story.
Now, in no way am I trying to further divide the efforts of Occupy Oakland or Occupy Anywhere. If the situation is touchy, that's because the situation IS touchy. My hope is that by speaking out, I can try to realistically show where tactical issues are causing divisions. I can't "jump in my car" and drive down to a GA because right now, I'm at work, so spare me on that count. But know that I regularly communicate with people involved in various Bay Area Occupations and that I have backed these since the beginning.
When the Occupations were smeared as anti-Semitic, I spoke out about this being nonsense. Jews have been vigorous, reliable supporters of Occupy and other social justice movements throughout American history.
So it was a bit depressing to see the divisiveness that Occupy Oakland's asshole problem has been having on the Jewish contingency today:
In a nearly unanimous vote at a general assembly meeting Feb. 1 at Oscar Grant Plaza, Occupy Oakland protesters voted to endorse a proposal in support of the BDS movement (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) against Israel.Why make a symbolic statement which results in tactical alienation and division? For what gain and to whose benefit? For the benefit of the 99%? Which 99% would that be? This is the same kind of thinking which has sparked so much debate over "property violence." Starting an I-P war at Occupy is tactically misguided. Occupy will not influence foreign policy whatsoever. Occupy has the potential to influence domestic economic policy, however. But not by divesting itself of popular support, especially from groups who have been there since the beginning.
The endorsement of the proposal was the first of its kind from any Occupy movement in the United States — and a decision that, though mainly symbolic, may have alienated many of the Jews who have made an effort to maintain a visible Jewish presence at Occupy Oakland since its beginnings, including members of the Occupy Bay Area Jewish Contingent.
The Jewish Contingent initially started as an offshoot of the Interfaith Coalition, a multi-faith Occupy group, Werner said, but soon grew in numbers and took on a life of its own, encompassing Jews of many denominations and political slants. Rabbi David Cooper, spiritual leader at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, was very active, while Chabad of the East Bay donated candlelighting kits for nighttime vigils. Members of Kehilla helped JYCA youth set up a sukkah last October and offered morning and evening prayers for anyone interested in stopping by; the Jewish Contingent marched as an organized group during the first port shutdown Dec. 12.So what are the contentions which the Occupy Bay Area Jewish Contingent are having now, despite having been present and supportive of Occupy since its inception?
But, according to Werner, the Contingent began to distance itself from Occupy Oakland well before the BDS vote, because of what Werner described as a “hijacking” of the movement by protesters who were not willing to eschew the use of violence.
Two things, primarily:
1. the fact that a commitment to a diversity of tactics permits property damage, and Occupy Oakland has not addressed that in a way which is sufficient to these folks.
2. the adoption of a symbolic resolution which is perceived as promoting anti-Semitic memes through the old chestnut of "Jews are controlling the world." You know, the old David Icke shit all over again. Next up, Jews-are-reptilian shape shifters who eat babies... etc.
edited for length:
Occupy Bay Area Jewish Contingent
Today we renamed ourselves. Sorry if the chang(e) is jarring or confusing, but now our name indicates our ambition to reach a broader geography and our alignment with Occupy SF & national Occupy.
February 6 at 12:14am
and not Occupy Oakland?
February 6 at 3:16pm
Occupy Bay Area Jewish Contingent
We're broader than just Oakland in terms of who we are, where we're acting, and who we're trying to reach out to.
February 6 at 11:30pm
Occupy Bay Area Jewish Contingent
We have a working group drafting a statement in response to J28. Basically, we've been arguing strongly against the "diversity of tactics" nonsense for months, at GA's and through the Interfaith Coalition. The debate seems to have ended as most folks (including the Jewish Contingent) who don't want to be associated with violent protests have left. Our statement will focus on the positives of what we are working toward, and will emphatically point out that the far greater violence here is the unjustifiable brutality of OPD in response to Occupy Oakland, and that this violence itself is merely a reflection of both the police violence perpetrated in communities in Oakland and elsewhere on a daily basis, especially poor and minority communities, and the broader systemic violence of our society. - Fred
Wednesday at 5:26pm
Occupy Bay Area Jewish ContingentSo here we are, with people leaving due to divisive, elitist tactics of a .4% rather than ideological opposition on its face.
Thanks for your comments, Wendy. Here's my personal opinion. I'm David Grosof and I don't know whether the post will be under my name or the group (I'm one of the admins of the FB page). I don't respect the diversity of tactics because it creates a narrowness of participation. Violence used by a few -- whether the principled few, the police provocateurs or the hotheads -- drives the many away from the movement. Violence might possibly be morally justifiable but it's not politically useful to build this movement right now. That's my point of view and that's why I'm taking nonviolence training next weekend. I want a movement of the 99%, not the heroic 0.4% armed with very good justifications and bricks. The KPFA discussion Wednesday with Chris Hedges and Kristof Lopaur of OO, moderated by Mitch Jezerich, was really helpful in my thinking this through without being distracted by my anger at how bad the journalism has been, how important it is to suggest ways to critique and reform the OPD, etc., and helping me get back to the practical and moral politics. http://www.kpfa.org/...
Of course, it is not just the Jewish faction that is having some issues right now...
Some leaders within the movement were distancing themselves from tactics employed by fellow occupiers on Saturday.Labor is also backing away...
"A lot of conversation is coming out of that, a lot of self-reflection," said Nichola Torbett, a self-described devout Christian who took part in the first Occupy Oakland organizing meetings in September.
Torbett said she has participated in nearly every major Occupy Oakland event and was arrested when police cleared out a protest encampment on Nov. 15. But she stayed away from the march on Saturday.
"It was organized by a very militant anarchist segment of the movement," she said. "I support the idea of taking a building, especially for housing those who don't have housing. But I don't support it with the kind of triumphal attitude I saw expressed."
Representatives for the Service Employees International Union, which helped organize Occupy rallies in a number of cities, did not return repeated calls seeking comment, nor did the Alameda Labor Council nor the California Teachers Association.I personally am conflicted about where I stand on the issue of destruction of property. Ideologically, I'm not sure that this really troubles me much. But I look to be in the minority on this, and as such, I wouldn't promote property destruction at this time and would distance myself from it too. Tactically.
The California Nurses Association, which has staffed medical stations during previous Occupy Oakland marches, had no official presence at the demonstration Saturday, said spokesman Chuck Idelson. "We don't support violence no matter who is doing it," he said.
I don't believe in maligning people for how they dress. Ever. To me, that's just silly.
I don't view it as cowardice to wear a mask. Yesterday, there was a very interesting diary on masks from an Occupy Wall Street participant asking people to stop wearing them outright. I rec'd it and read all of the comments as food for thought. But I have worn masks at many protests. They protect you from tear gas. This is a practical concern. Also, some say that masks are important protections from their employers being fired. The usual rebuttal to this is that anonymity is a form of cowardice. However, that's a subjective statement of the highest order. It's an ethical judgement that is pointless, and anonymity need be an individual choice based on individual circumstances. Another common rebuttal is that masks can be put on right when tear gas starts flowing. However, that does not well account for how quickly tear gas can be deployed or how painful it is, particularly for those who are asthmatic or simply sensitive to chemical warfare. Finally, some propose that masks are optically scary. All I can say to that is this is like saying that people with piercings look scary, that tattoos are scary, that skinny jeans are scary (which may actually be true, for what it's worth), that mohawks are scary, and that everyone should wear Cosby sweaters, beige pantyhose, and shiny shoes. In 1961, not wearing a bra was considering absolutely terrifying to Middle America, so that really doesn't wash well. But tactically, right now, wearing a mask more than is necessary is courting saboteurs and essentially inviting cops to participate in mayhem which they can in turn easily blame on unidentifiable occupiers. Thus, it's a tactical sticky wicket.
So ultimately the issue of creating a movement for the 99% that is not well supported by the 99% due to an aversion to a diversity of tactics, namely violence toward property, IS a concern.
Because it is alienating to the public.
Because it is vanguardist. Both for the public and for other participants at Occupations.
Because that makes it divisive. As we can see from the recent splitting off and renaming of Jewish supporters of Occupy Oakland. That is, by definition, divisive or divided. That is a position of weakness, not one of strength, for any coalition.
Because it is rigid and non-responsive to the situation-at-hand. It doesn't take into account shifting political terrain at all, and that kind of rigidity can undermine tactical efficacy in a heart-beat.
And ultimately because it shows a commitment to working for oneself and ones' own ideology rather than for the greater public good. Because right now, the public has spoken, and they are saying "Hell no." Are we going to ignore the public in a Peoples' Movement? Whose class war? Our class war.
It could really undermine the entire Occupy Movement. That would be a damned shame. There ain't no party like a West Coast Party. But we've gotta watch it sometimes.
I am disappointed by this and hope it is reconciled. Because I'm angry as Hell and want Occupy Oakland and every damned Occupation in America to be successful, to raise the consciousness of others, to capture the public's heart, to keep the conversation about income inequality flowing, and to fight back against the evils which have very much pervaded our sick Society.
Note: I don't expect many tips or recs for this diary because my view is very nuanced compared to the broad-brushes applied to this topic by most posters who seem to just want to put things into categories of "bad" or "good," rather than to examine the actual situation on its face and analyze how that situation might be improved. Or worse, the reticence of some who categorically do support Occupy Oakland to engage in public self-criticism for fear that it will further be construed, or be, divisive, as feeding MSM memes, or be seen as somehow weak or fallible or who knows what. Actually, it would do everyone a heap of good to set down the torches on both sides and actually talk about this entire issue -- with as much objectivity as humanly possible -- if we care even one iota about income equality and social justice for the United States.
The thing is... even Occupy Oakland members really are beginning to discuss the "asshole problem." Here's one open letter posted on their site which expresses the frustration quite vividly -- although I don't agree with the letter in full, it's worth reading just to see that this phenomenon of divisiveness and splintering is quite real and at play in Oakland right now and in dire need of solutions:
All broad-based social or political movements inevitably have internal ideological or tactical divisions, and Occupy Oakland is no exception. These divisions first became apparent during and after the General Strike, when some protesters broke windows and others tried to stop them, and when fires were set and barricades constructed outside the Travelers’ Aid Building. Though an uneasy truce currently exists between proponents of non-violence on the one hand and ‘diversity of tactics’ on the other, many people dropped out or backed away from Occupy Oakland because of its failure to condemn property damage and pass a non-violence resolution.
The resultant schism isn’t going to go away any time soon. Many people have quietly withdrawn from active participation in the movement, while a few former Occupy supporters have joined the anti-Occupy Oakland astroturfers ‘Standing for Oakland’...The state will use any means necessary to crush dissent, including selective enforcement of the law, psy-ops, and the use of agents provocateur, and they will use those tools to deepen and widen pre-existing differences within left-wing political movements.
...Unfortunately, we can see this same dynamic beginning to work its malevolent magic within the Occupy movement. Dubbed terrorists by Republicans and Democrats alike, treated like criminals or worse by the police, and now subjected to threatening graffiti (‘kill the occupiers’), we’re being psychologically and emotionally primed for extreme radicalization. The selection process has begun, with certain people subjected to stay-away orders, repeated arrest or threat of arrest, and other forms of law enforcement abuse. Of course, I don’t know if the ruling classes are conspiring to create a violent Occupy-related splinter group in hopes of discrediting the entire movement, but I do believe the likelihood of such a splinter group emerging is increasing, and it would certainly prove a useful weapon for the 1%.
Syria's is up in flames today. But where are we?