Whether it is a troll on twitter, a disgruntled passing banker or the media commentators, there are a couple of questions that come up again and again in relation to the occupy movement and #OccupyLSX in particular (as this is the one I have the most experience with).
What are their demands?
What is their solution?
Simply put, these are entirely the wrong questions and not the way to critically engage with #Occupy debate.
Let us first look at the call for demands. You would be mistaken for thinking that the occupation had taken the patch of land it inhabits hostage and that the media and critics are so enraged by this that they would like a list of demands issued so they can begin negotiations to get the precious land back. Yes, it is an occupation, but for the most part it is of land freely used by the public each day – that a section of the public have politicisced the space to encourage debate doesn’t seem to me to warrant such an over the top need for demands.
It is even more weird that demands are expected when seen in the context of the second question often posed. ‘Where is your solution?’ the critics often cry. If you recognise we haven’t got a single homogenous solution, why the expectation for a single mutually agreed list of demands. I have never known a diverse group of people to come together and agree on anything instantaneously, not least how best to address an issue such as ‘capitalism’ or even more simply what should be done about the finance sector.
Why then expect a united solution from the occupation? Your view on something is not irrelevant because you haven’t yet figured out how to stop it. I whole heartedly know capitalism to be an evil and brutal system and just because I may not agree with other anti-capitlists on how to get rid of it, or what to replace it with, does not, for me at least, mean that the fundemental problem with capitalism doens’t exist.
But perhaps the critics are looking for an argument they can engage critically with and that is why the insist on asking the wrong questions again and again. That is absolutely fine. In fact, for me, it is the only reason the camp holds any importance. There is probably no one in the world who I entirely agree with and if it were possible I would hope to encounter every single person and discuss what it is we disagree on so I could be exposed to their ideas. The occupation is a way of coming closer to encountering the huge number of ideas that exist. The media is simply not nuanced enough to facilitate the debate required to discuss these ideas and that is why you will only find your answers if you come to the camp and enage with it. Do so critically by all means – that is the only way in fact – but do so with a view to both teaching and learning.
I would love to have the debate, but ill thought out demands and solutions will get us nowhere.