comments_image Comments

Occupying Language: Inside the Global Revolutions

The new direct democracy rising out of Occupy and the other global uprisings of past years has a language all its own, a language used in common around the world.

Continued from previous page


Many words and phrases have come into common global usage through similar processes of rejection and creation. While many of the words and phrases used in the current global movements are new for movements, or at least new in their current usages, they are often, if not always, laden with context and history. And in this case, the history of the “new” language also emerged from movements seeking to describe what they were creating and doing in ways not previously used—also in many cases drawing on words and phrases with histories, but ones that then, as now, have taken on new meanings based on the new context.



openly defined: A break, actual or in the imaginary, with previous ways of being, seeing and relating change, in this case opening the way for more emancipatory relationships with greater solidarity. Ruptures can range from economic crisis and “natural” disasters to strikes, mass civil disobedience, rebellions and uprisings.

Families sat at home, many before their television sets, in an evening that began the way so many others had: what to watch, what to make for dinner, the regular nightly questions. Then a TV newscaster appeared on every channel and announced that from that moment on, all bank accounts were frozen. Silence in the house. The economic crisis had fully arrived. People sat in silence, staring at the TV. They waited, they watched and they waited. And then it was heard, outside one window and then another, outside one balcony and another, neighborhood by neighborhood: . . . tac!, tac tac!, tac tac tac! . . . Families went to theirwindows , went out onto their balconies, and saw what was making the sound. The sound was people banging spoons on pans, spatulas on pots, the sound of the cacerolazo. The sound became a wave, and the wave began to flood the streets. We heard it, and then on the television sets accompanying our solitude, we saw it; newscasters, dumbfounded, captured the first cacerolaceros, people in slippers, shorts, robes and tank tops, with children on their shoulders, entire families, out in the streets, tac!, tac tac!, tac tac tac!, banging their pots and pans.

What they were saying was not expressed in words—it was done, bodies spoke, and spoke by the thousands and hundreds of thousands. Tac!, tac tac!, in slippers tac tac!, old people, tac tac!, children, tac tac tac!, the cacerolazo had begun. The institutions of power did not know what to do, they declared a state of emergency in the morning, falling back on what had always been done. Law and Order. But the people broke with the past, with what had been done, and no longer stayed at home in fear, they came into the streets with even more bodies and sounds. And then the sounds, the tac tac tac!, turned into a song. It was a shout of rejection, and a song of affirmation. ¡Que se vayan todos! (They all must go!) was sung, and sung together with one’s neighbor. It was not just a shout against what was, but it was a song sung together, by the thousands and hundredsof thousands. People sang and banged pots and greeted one another, kissing the cheeks of neighbors, really seeing one another for the first time. It was a rupture with the past. It was a rupture with obedience, and a rupture with not being together, with not knowing one another. It was a rupture that cracked open history, upon which vast new histories were created.

Rupture is a break that can come from many places, always shifting both the ways people organize, including power relationships, as well as the ways people see things. Sometimes the detonator is something that happens and produces unexpected or seemingly surprisingly consequences, as in Argentina or the Caracazo in Venezuela, and sometimes movements facilitate the rupture, as with the Zapatistas in Chiapas or the Occupy movements.

See more stories tagged with: