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October 19, 2011

The hits just keep on coming

I was always a little dubious about the tooth fairy. It just seemed so implausible.

I was about 5 years old when, in the middle of Mall St. Mathews, all of it really hit the fan. Parents were shilling out a couple of bucks for their kids to sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap for some heady conversation, presumably on the nuanced culinary differences between pink and yellow marshmallow Peeps, or the spiritual redemption of Christ crucified.

When I asked if I could line up in the queue, my Dad — sensing that the bullshit had finally reached critical mass, and unwilling to continue watching as vacant signifiers attached themselves like barnacles to my spongy little brain — decided the time had come and told me the Easter Bunny was make believe.

Jesus wept, and so did I.

One minute the reality of the Easter Bunny was a matter of common sense. Everybody agreed it was real and so, in my mind, it was real. The next minute the pillars of that myth were revealed to be constructed of pastel blue papier-mâché and aluminum foil.

The jig was up, the Cadbury Egg was broken, and I’d received my first lesson in the paradoxical and tenuous nature of ideologies, whose existence critically hinges on the agreement of their subjects to uphold and perpetuate an illusion as credible and reasonable.

When our agreements about the shared ideologies we maintain together cease to be appropriate or manageable, the structure of what, only moments before, was assumed to be a matter of common sense becomes questionable and is ultimately revealed to be untenable, unnatural and illegitimate.

If you’ve found yourself wondering these past couple of weeks about the ragtag, loosely affiliated protests that have been popping up around the country, and now around the globe, you’re not alone. Questions abound. While the Occupy Wall Street movement and its sister demonstrations are certainly gaining momentum, there are some uncertainties and misconceptions about what exactly they are opposed to, who they are trying to communicate with, what their goals are, and who’s in their club.

I think that’s just perfect.

The most important function of the Occupiers right now is to be present and to be noticed by you. Their most pressing message is whatever thought flashes across your awareness when you see them on TV or in the park downtown. This is because your recognition of their presence is an implicit recognition of the ideologies the movement hopes to shed some light on.

The most important thing the Occupation could achieve at this stage is to draw attention away from the highly mitigated and paralyzing rhetoric of current popular discourse and place it instead on the ideological superstructures that reinforce and rely on that rhetoric.

At its root, the Occupy movement encourages a simple examination of assumptions that have been naturalized in our culture, namely that the matrimony of global capitalism and the ideology formerly known as democracy resulting in something most aptly described as soft corporate fascism is somehow natural, reasonable or otherwise “just the way the world works.” It’s none of these, and, simply by their presence, the Occupy movement calls into question the attribution of “common sense” to this ideological arrangement, suggesting it is neither common nor sensible, and is instead illegitimate and oppressive.

The Occupy movement is currently leaderless and sprawling in its approach and message. This is just as it should be as the focus of its attention is likewise amorphous and manifold. So what do some young anarchists, Teamsters, American Vets, and the other seemingly incongruous groups that have come together in the Occupy movement have in common?

They’ve all decided that some of the ideological illusions we’ve been working to maintain are no longer suitable. While their interests may be distinct at times, the thing they share in common right now is an agreement that our collective interests are being underserved and misrepresented by the collusion between the captains of industry and our elected officials. They are saying in effect, “I no longer recognize this arrangement as legitimate.”

The Occupy movement has established a queue. With increasing impatience they’re lining up, one by one, waiting to sit on the lap of the dominant paradigm, looking into its beady little eyes, and saying, “I don’t believe in you anymore.” 

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