Revolutionary narcissism

Until now I have said nothing, either in writing or in conversation with friends, about the “Occupy” protests underway in a number of the capitalist world’s major cities. The St Paul’s protest in London is ostensibly targeted at the city’s financial institutions, but in large part occupies land belonging to the Church of England, and as a result causes this socially engaged faith community a considerable degree of discomfort. And I am quite indifferent to it – both the occupation itself, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of those who would see it gone.

The occupations are described by their supporters as revolutionary acts, while others on the left complain about the lack of political focus, or even the inarticulacy of highly educated protesters who in all seriousness regard their actions as radical, original and worthwhile. I tend to side with the leftist critics, although with my salad days long behind me, and now as a whingeing old fart, I’m not convinced that it is worth devoting attention to the inane spectacle.

The youthful and oh-so-earnest occupiers remind me of a youth spent trying to save the world from psychopathic cold warriors and nuclear weapons fetishists. I fast burned myself out with such silliness, and I fear that today’s urban occupiers will do the same.

I have so far avoided comment, but today I see that my friend Terry Glavin has chimed in with some insightful words on the ‘occupations’ of various north American cities, including those in his native Canada…

“The aborted lunacy of Occupism is now descending into merely a Jonestown of the Imbecilities, with eviction notices and standoffs and arrests breaking up Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Toronto, Occupy Halifax, Occupy Vancouver, Occupy Victoria, and on and on.”

“Maybe the working people who have been made to pay for finance capitalism’s recklessness are getting sick and tired of being told things about inequality and powerlessness that they knew all about before the subject started coming up in Occupist chants and slogans shouted around drum-circles.”

Terry describes “occupism” as a form of “revolutionary suicide”, and he has a point. To me it is a “spectacle”: a display of political narcissism and naïveté from those desperate to be seen to be doing something, yet have neither the wisdom nor the nous to come up with anything useful and constructive, let alone revolutionary. The most interesting thing about the occupations is public discussion of the protesters’ toilet arrangements.