Tea With Chris: Postoccuptations

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Carl: My teapot this week is still mostly full of people reading the leaves of Occupy Wall Street and related postoccupations. Begin with this footage from the Occupy Montreal gatherings last weekend, shot by Douglas Hollingworth. Its centrepiece is a fight over the language of signs, dictated by law in Quebec for commercial signage but not usually applied to the handheld kind:

(via Sean Michaels, thanks)

This is something you’re unlikely to see in the Wall Street version of the protest, but it also feels like a bit of a surprising throwback in a Montreal that is (like the conflict in the video itself, except without all the tension) these days generally solid in its French-first bilingual mix. It struck me as a side-effect of the bandwagon nature of these events in Canada: Although explicitly anti-capitalist demos are commonly francophone-led in Montreal, the echo effect in Occupy raises the chances its leadership and participants are disproportionately anglophone, and anglo students in particular. And this raises a general problem: When I see the Occupy events in other cities imitating the human mic and the finger-wiggle voting method created onsite by OWS, there’s a sense of organic collective gestures (invented out of necessity, as I discussed here two weeks ago) becoming memes, shibboleths of movement membership with much less intrinsic value.

I’ve had a similar feeling about the Occupy Toronto encampment, wondering whether a fairly small hard-core group taking over a park here (where there’s less clear symbolic resonance to the site, and weather conditions that will become unsustainable faster) is necessarily the best way to seize the moment. I don’t mean this as an aggressive critique but it’s an issue worth considering in the growth of any movement – whether solidarity is best expressed by applying the same model to diverse situations or by adapting the concepts more creatively to local conditions.

Similar (but different) questions about tactics and cultural style for different constituencies are raised brilliantly in the mighty Greg Tate’s Village Voice piece this week on the question of “Why So Few Blackfolk Appear Down to Occupy Wall Street”.

On the other hand, here’s the ever-eloquent, lovable fast-talking African-American vlogger Jay Smooth explaining how he got over his own initial skepticism and learned to love Occupy’s approach to calling foul on the financial-political complex’s game of three-card monte:

And finally, for a veteran-activist/writer’s deep take – through the dark spiritual-X-ray glasses of John Carpenter’s They Live – check out Mike Davis’s new piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

The best thing I read this week, though, had nothing to do with OWS (unless one were to belabour a metaphor, which is exactly what this piece warns against): It was Will Self’s typically naked (but atypically humble) illness memoir today in The Guardian. Self zeroes in on the irony – and yet, the irony-lessness – of coming down with a rare blood disease that requires treatment with heavy-duty syringes, later on in a life that has included a long romance with needles and the drugs they could deliver. If you’re squeamish, it can be a tough read in places, but the humour, vulnerability and wisdom it offers is worth sticking it out through the pricks (rather than just kicking against them).

Chris: Carl beat me to sharing those OWS pieces by Greg Tate and Mike Davis, so I’ll just post this song, which, in its anxious improvisations and explosive tension, feels like an appropriate soundtrack:

Speaking of which, Tumblr alerted me to two very apposite celebrity readers this week: Kelis kicking back with Octavia Butler, Nicholas Ray squinting his good eye at some storied alternative comics.

Surveillance devices increasingly resemble enemies from Sonic the Hedgehog. But then, the antagonist in that series was an authoritarian, worker-enslaving industrialist…

“Sexy Inexplicable Melancholy.”

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1 Comment

Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson

One response to “Tea With Chris: Postoccuptations

  1. tom

    From what I understand, the finger wiggling thing has been around for awhile. People I know have mentioned doing it at their college co-op houses a while back. I think it has just broken out from something only a small group of radicals used into something larger and more symbolic. Not that that changes anything you’ve said – just seemed worth pointing out.