Violence and OWS

The Occupy Wall Street movement has caused such a strong reaction from people, and it is to this that I would like to speak.

The system as it is currently constituted engenders all kinds of violence. This is not to say that violence is a by-product or symptom of the system alone, but that the system itself produces violence the same way a General Motors factory produces cars.

Outside of centres of global power, violence is explicit and visceral—consider Gaddafi, Hussein, and Bin Laden’s bloody fates—as well as all the millions of innocents who just happen to have been born in a less privileged country.

In richer nations, this violence is sublimated in property relations and labour, but most curiously it is reified in our everyday existence. It is present in our everyday social relations; we are constantly violent towards one another and animals.

We can observe how, when overt violence erupts, it is often coming from inequities and relating to the struggle for recognition and attainment, or in the suppression of this attainment by those who are lacking it.

The reason OWS is so powerful is because it poses a threat to the existing order. This, in part, is the reason we have seen such vehement derogations of the movement.

OWS represents a moment in recent human history—inspired by Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab Spring uprisings that continue to this day—where those outstanding socioeconomic inequities (such as poverty, homelessness, or war) can no longer be suppressed and sublimated into violence tolerated by the system.

OWS is a liberated space where human relations are being refashioned and reconfigured. OWS is what direct democracy looks like—diverse, cacophonous, ongoing, negotiated and loving, even amidst conflict.

In order to discern where someone is coming from in their reaction to OWS, one must ask: what stake do they have in it?

Often, it seems detractors feel threatened personally because they know that on some level OWS represents the potential end to systemic greed and inequality, and that is a great threat to all who only know how to exist in a world built on greed, in a world built on division, oppression, and inequality.

The system as it is currently constituted ­­­is a threat to Earth and all humanity. When push comes to shove, what will you do?

—Wes B. Colclough
MA Art History

By commenting on this page you agree to the terms of our Comments Policy.