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Why Occupy Has Faded

It's impossible to satisfy all rights, every time, everywhere.

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The Middle East organizer mentioned that in Tahrir Square, Egyptians would surround provocateurs and disrupters (both of the voluntary and involuntary kind) chase them out of the square. If they came back, then a beating was in order. He said, "While it's a different political culture, the Egyptians and Syrians have had to deal with people shooting them from windows. Occupy Wall Street couldn't even deal with a few crazies."

That moment in Franklin Square encapsulated why Occupy Wall Street crumbled. It was not – and still is not – able to negotiate between conflicting rights. Occupy's child-like view of politics – how consensus and participatory democracy will free the angels within every one of us – was a big reason for its success because it offered a palpable alternative to our cynical, acquisitive society. Yet it apparently hasn't dawned on the hive mind that it is impossible to satisfy all rights, every time, everywhere.

It follows that democracy is not just about compromise; it's also about conflict. Politics is about picking winners and losers according to higher principles like justice and equality. Occupy is still present in campaigns, from labor and immigrant solidarity to home foreclosure defense, student debt and the environment. But, for the idealistic core of Occupy, its original flowering was like a Fourth of July firework display: something dramatic and beautiful, but ultimately ephemeral.

Arun Gupta is a founding editor of The Indypendent newspaper. He is writing a book on the decline of American Empire for Haymarket Books.

 
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