[thingist] plain old-fashioned violent

rrdominguez2 rrdominguez at ucsd.edu
Mon Mar 19 10:18:47 UTC 2012

  How to Think During an Eviction


Posted on March 18, 2012 

Once again, we reflect after an eviction. In the face of violence and 
violent speech, how do we respond?

The actions by the NYPD yesterday were plain old-fashioned violent 
(see below). They evicted people from a 24 hour park without stating any 
offense that had been committed. They erected a barricade around the 
park that is still up at the time of writing, in contravention of an 
earlier court decision. They refused medical care to a woman having a 
seizure. Public transport buses, brought up in advance, were used to 
take protestors to jail. The message here is very simple: no action that 
is or appears to be an occupation will be tolerated in New York, legal 
rationale to follow.The political culture of New York is macho and 
violent. It takes its cue from its paymasters on Wall Street. Remember 
the "masters of the universe" on Wall Street in Tom Wolfe's /The Bonfire 
of the Vanities/? They became the "big, swinging dicks" in Michael 
Lewis's /Liar's Poker/ and last week the hapless Goldman Sachs apostate 
Greg Smith described how traders like to "rip the eyes out" of their 
clients. No wonder there are few women at the top of these firms.

A week or so ago, I happened to be in an open meeting with a senior New 
York City elected official about a zoning issue where I live. In a 
clearly studied way, the man became incensed at what he deliberately 
took to be a provocation and talked about "tearing [us] a new arsehole." 
In a more public example, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, when queried by 
the City Council 
over the stop-and-frisk policy that led to over 600,000 frisks of people 
of color last year responded with what even the /New York Times/ called 
a "pugnacious assault." Elected officials may not question the police in 
New York.

Such talk is supposed to indicate an awareness of reality, whether at 
the elite level of city planning or the street level of minority 
neighborhoods. To "get things done," verbal and, if "necessary," 
physical violence must be used--the metaphors are of knocking heads, 
breaking balls and so on.

After a few hours sleep, I headed to Left Forum 
<http://www.leftforum.org/> at Pace University this morning, hoping to 
get some perspectives on the moment. I found three. My panel on 
"Environmentalism and Occupy" was, once again, all male. The next time 
this happens I will just have to make a public protest. It seems that 
the injunction to respect diversity, so prevalent in 1990s political and 
academic culture, has been forgotten, except by the Occupy movement. 
What I initially experienced as Occupy's continuity with academia looks 
more like a bridge to past (not always successful, to be sure) efforts. 
However, at Left Forum  the all day prevalence of violent language, 
shouting, pointed fingers and so on served as reminder of how much 
remains to be done.

In a more positive vein, both on my panel and the following discussion 
about the general strike, it was stressed that the place of the global 
south was central. While the general strike question was mostly 
discussed in the context of the May Day action in the U. S., Gayatri 
Spivak stressed the need to think it in relation to the global south. 
Spivak's train of thought was multi-faceted and hard to summarize. Her 
main points were that finance capital is digital so that it cannot be 
blockaded; further global trade is a relatively small component of gross 
global product; and that it no longer makes sense to speak simply of 
"the working class," in a manner she derived from Marx's /Critique of 
the Gotha Program/ <http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/>.

All that would be to say, then, that the general strike is an impossible 
demand, not a quantifiable project, whose "success" can be measured by 
the number of strikers. It needs to "surprise" us (to quote Spivak again).

Certainly, there will be no surprise to find a vast array of police on 
May Day and every time we step out of the places allocated to us. The 
repeated representation of that injunction is the arrest of a 
demonstrator who steps, whether deliberately or by accident, into the 

Claiming our own place will be interpreted as "violence" by the state 
because it is the language that they speak and understand. Prefiguring a 
horizontal world not configured by the command means adopting ways of 
acting and speaking that at once insist on our right to say what our 
place should be, rather than be allocated one, and to do so in ways that 
we understand as non-violent. That does not preclude non-violent direct 
action. It is to say that if another world is possible, we need to start 
living in it.

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