On Newness and History as Occupy and the World Celebrate May Day
Continued from previous page
Also similar globally is a reterritorialization of the movements after a few months. Since the intention of the movements in not to only change a plaza or square, but society as a whole, the plaza is more of a starting point, and over time people begin to move more and more into spheres that relate more directly to beginning to retake and control their own lives. Thus, around the world there has been a shift into neighborhoods and workplaces, to focus on local needs, yet at the same time come together to coordinate. As, for example, in Athens, where there are now a few dozen neighborhood assemblies that then come together each Sunday to have an assembly of assemblies to coordinate the resistance and refusal to pay newly imposed taxes. Or the powerful eviction preventions that are coordinated throughout Spain, based in neighborhoods and then networked regionally. In the US there is also an increase in neighborhood based organizing as well as neighborhood and city wide eviction preventions. People continue to use the plazas and squares as a place to gather, have assemblies and sometimes occupy, but the form of territorial construction is shifting – and again doing so in a way that is consistent globally.
Recuperating Language and Voice
Many words and phrases have come into common global usage through common processes of rejection and creation. While many of the words and phrases that are used in the current global movements are new for movements, or at least in their current usages, they are often, if not always, with a history and context. 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 – again – also often drawing on words and phrases with histories – but ones that then, as now, have taken on new meanings based on the new context. The retaking and rediscovering of words and language is a part of the same process of the people finding their own voices with the new usages of direct democracy. As people recuperate their voices, having not had them under representational forms of democracy, they find themselves as well. The movements recognize this new agency and protagonism and name it – as naming things is a powerful process in the retaking of history and life. The claim for voice and language is a claim for real democracy.
The Secret Rendevous with History and the Present
Walter Benjamin wrote of memory and history as a “secret rendezvous between past generations and our own” (Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, 1955). The secret is not something that is known and not told, but something a great deal more subtle and ambiguous. When we speak of things being “new” in the movements, it is a reflection of our experiences. And when we write various histories and groundings to these experiences, which we argue are often very similar and sometimes so remarkably so it seems as if one is just taken directly from the other, we are in no way expressing that this takes away from newness, or that the people in the movements don’t know what they are talking about. The opposite really, we are trying to find a place where the new meets the old – and is not a museum – but a live and useful interactive conversation. We do not challenge newness, but offer places of encuentro, of meeting, of the new social relationships and our many hundreds if not thousands of years of experimenting with the various forms of relating.