Day of Rage
(appeared in Occupy Philosophy)
Nov. 18, 2011
Day of Rage
How can one not have felt elation at the recent upsurges all this past year, awe at the young people going into battle from Egypt to Madrid to New York, with no more than tarps and signs and newspapers wrapped under their sweaters for protection, and a sense of grateful relief that our global cynicism and fatalism was, for the moment, vanquished by these beautiful sights of everyday people on the march for justice.
How can one not feel a crush of disappointment as the propertied classes today direct the police to clear out the democratic spaces in New York and Oakland, ostensibly for ‘safety,’ ‘security,’ and protection of the ‘public’ against harm. Brookfield properties, who owns Zucotti Park (that we had renamed Liberty Park) near Wall Street, succeeded in their efforts to clear the park just hours ago, throwing belongings in a dump truck, pepper spraying and arresting recalcitrant protesters, and shooting water cannon to remove all the last vestiges of democracy.
The propaganda machine is cranking up to spin these actions for the wider publics as the regrettable but necessary response to the protests in the interest of public safety and peace. The Mayor announced that Zucotti Park had ‘become a place to harm others.’ We need to consider how ‘safety’, ‘health concerns,’ ‘peace,’ and ‘harm’ are being defined and characterized. We need to consider how the health and safety of the poor become systematically invisibilized in the public domain of communication. We need to consider what constituencies have been hermeneutically marginalized in the construction of the meanings of those terms. We need to analyze how the politics of testimonial credibility is operating in these contestations over the facts. We need to ask which ‘public’ is being protected. We need to question whether there is a unified ‘public’ with a coherent and consistent set of interests, or an irresolvable clash of interests. We need to ask whether we live in a democracy, and what a democracy would, in reality, look like. We need to ask whether democracy is compatible with capitalism.
The biggest threat to a peaceful order has been shown to be the overvaluing of peaceful order itself, valuing order over justice, order over democracy, order over every moral sense of human dignity.
Professor Linda Martín Alcoff
Department of Philosophy