Five things we’ve learnt from… Occupy

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"Knowing meme, knowing you"

1. If you don’t know what you do want, know what you don’t want

‘What do we want?!’, ‘Um…I dunno , what do we want?’, is the chant I wish would emanate from Occupy camps across the world. But alas, this is only the case in my strange and sad little dreams.  However, it was the ambiguity and initial vagueness in Occupy’s demands and solutions that did little to endear the group to a public who are, more often than not, content to maintain the status-quo. Not the band. Most people wish they’d go.

The 'Quo': Rocking out whilst deeply contemplating the U.S. Budget Deficit and its worldwide implications.

Occupy has been ‘Rockin’ all over the world’ (see what I did there, set myself up like a pro) and this global aspect makes it difficult to tie down a clear, cohesive end-goal, in the way that can be done with say, the Arab Spring. Much of the ‘manifesto’ set out by Occupy Wall Street is hardly applicable to those chillin’ like (minor) villains on the steps of St. Paul’s. However, what is clear is that there is some negatively worded, Ten-commandment style dogma shared by the group worldwide: ‘Thou shalt not be a greedy banker, Thou shalt not promote a program of hypocritical austerity’ and so on (these may have been somewhat paraphrased and exaggerated for not very good comic effect). So Occupy, while we may not know ‘whatever you want, whatever you like’ (haha) we know what you don’t want. Or like. Sort of.

2. Pepper spray probably isn’t edible

That’s despite what Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly may say. The oh-so right-wing presenter was oh-so wrong on this one, causing outrage with her comments about the nonchalant pepper-spraying of UC Davis students by the now infamous Internet celebrity Lt. John Pike (the jolly looking chap in the main photo, the one who’s not in Abba), saying that the deterrent was ‘a food stuff, essentially’ . She now faces potential humiliation after an online petition was created encouraging Ms. Kelly to eat the capsaicin-based spray live on air. Currently the number of signatures stands at just over 40,000. If that number reaches 50,000*, then she may well, almost literally, have to eat her words.

'Occupy Sesame Street'

*(apparently this is too large a percentage of the population to ignore, although less than the total population of Flower Mound, in Texas. Flower Mound. It’s actually a place. I was shocked too. I also found it hilarious. Probably a bit too hilarious really.)

3. V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks make anyone look cool

Your Dad would instantly become as bad-ass as Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction. Your Mum would take over from Kate Moss as the (masked) face of Topshop. Even Cliff Richard would…ah no it appears we have found its limit. Not even a mask from the cult film and comic book depicting an anti-establishment freedom fighter can erase the video for Mistletoe and Wine from our memories (The children. The dancing. The absolute horror.)

"Don't be fooled by the smile, I'm not happy"

However, these masks are also powerfully symbolic. First adopted by hacking group ‘Annonymous’ to remain…need I really say it, fine, anonymous, they have now become an iconic part of the Occupy ‘brand’. For the Occupy wearers, they symbolise their solidarity, their anti-establishment values and their refusal to be targeted or isolated by authority. And they also just look cool as fudge. Ice-cold fudge.

4. Social media isn’t just for lolcats and ‘likes’

The Arab Spring probably taught us this first, but to see Social networking sites being used in the West for something other than tweeting about that time you bought Cheerios instead of Wheetos and were wholeheartedly disappointed when you realised that Cheerios aren’t the chocolatey ones, is quite a turn-up. Social media has been used to galvanise a supposedly politically apathetic youth into creating a coherent, structured protest group (eventually). It would appear that we youngsters actually love a bit of political activism, so long as we can do it whilst simultaneously ‘rofling’ at that cat who wants a cheeseburger, playing Farmville and watching someone else getting kicked in the crotch. Repeatedly. For days (that’s the watching of, not the actual kicking. That would just be cruel.)

5. #firstworldproblems aren’t always ironic

#firstworldproblems

‘Recorded Misfits on E4 instead of E4HD…#firstworldproblems’ is an example of the type of ironic statement found on multiple twitter groups dedicated to the subject. They are a satirical commentary on the triviality of Western existence when compared with the hardships suffered by those in the Third World. But if Occupy has taught us anything (and it better have, otherwise this article is entirely moot) then primarily it is that many social and fiscal issues in the First World, especially since the economic downturn, are also serious. Yes, comparatively speaking these are often not life or death situations, like much of what life is like for many Third World citizens, but this does not necessarily make them any less important. It’s all relative. The unruly bankers, corporations and politicians, and austerity measures that hit the poorest hardest are, for Occupy, very serious issues. Their protests aren’t over life or death, but they aren’t just for the ‘lulz’ either.

 

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