Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

What was Occupy, What will Occupy Be?

One of the things about a really good protest is that it leaves you with a lot to think about. Sometimes this is very personal. On the occasions I've counterprotested at Tea Party events, I generally got a lot out of it (and those in the long and occasionally pleasant conversations with me probably did too). Maybe the Tea Party folk in general did; most of them had little experience with protests, and even being exposed to the agenda of the John Birch Society and told that's who they are is probably a stirring event. Hmm. Anyhow, some time ago Dannel DeMarko pointed me at one of the very early editions of RapNews; that one was kind of primitive (and the particular one I found kind of offensive for some reason, can't remember why), but they got a lot better. The most recent one, the tenth, has a mocked up Anonymous-Occupy collaboration, and hearing the call of "Mic Check" still chokes me up; the General Assemblies that Occupy held were energising and emotionally gripping, significantly because of the People's Mic. I never spent the night at Occupy. I regret that.

I've been wondering whether some kind of permanent occupation would be a place I would want to live. Over the last year, I've come to feel that we've gotten our pattern of civilisation very wrong. Suburbs are deep mistakes, but even the urban life is usually devoid of community. I was thinking before about making sure there are public meeting places and parks every few blocks in every city, and for a few years I've been suggesting that private ownership of many household items that don't see continuous use is antisocial; washing machines, drying machines, even kitchens. Every day or week an item goes unused is a waste of them item. The community at Occupy went much further than I imagined; we had donated food which we cooked and distributed to anyone who would show up (my participation in this was limited to doing dishes), we took care of shelter and community directly. Churches and other charities were an integral part of our community, and we didn't have so much private property. Maybe this is a modern form of tribal life; no thick walls dividing us from each other.

I wonder if I could happily live in such a place; what are the barriers? Also, could a permanent encampment work?


  • Hygiene - This is one of the tougher problems. I like showering/bathing every day, and living out of a tent would make that difficult unless there were public facilities designed for that. Same thing with bathrooms. This would be doable, I imagine
  • Laundry - Solvable if cities were designed for this. Might be solvable using community solutions
  • Security - Would I feel safe in such an environment? This would take some adjustment. Occupy itself seems hostile to the idea of police, and that's something I am not happy about; the movement is bigger than anarchosocialism, but anarchosocialist values are a signfiicant part of it. I want there to be police and an independent judiciary (independent from the people, corporations, politics, basically everything). I could probably eventually feel personally secure at an encampment though
  • Property - I'm a bit more worried about this, because I have a fair amount of stuff. I could do without some of it (and the most important stuff in my life generally lives in my laptop bag; if anyone ever attempted to rob it I would probably fight to the death), but.. hmm. More on this later
  • Warmth - The only time I am fully comfortable is when it is at or above about 80 degrees F. I get grumbly enough in poorly-insulated apartments. Granted, I could get a winter tent, but even with that I might need an amazing winter sleeping bag to stay warm enough, and I wouldn't want to always be in that sleeping bag when in the tent. Likewise, I generally like not needing to be fully dressed in my residences
  • Introvert time - Could I recharge my social batteries in a tent without a lot of distance from others? I'm not sure
  • Cats - This is a major challenge, possibly a dealbreaker. My cats would probably not be happy living in a tent, but I would not feel safe letting them out
==Stuff==What stuff do I actually need? Or really want?
  • My laptop bag contains the stuff most important to me in my life: my data (at least, that data that's not living in various server rooms)
  • Clothes - A challenge, probably managable (my tent is decently sized, and when dry these can go into a neat pile)
  • Bike - Not strictly necessary, but nice to have. Hard to share (bikes are sized to people and typically adjusted beyond that), easily stolen, worth a reasonable amount
  • Desktop computers - I don't really need them, but they are nice to have. I would not feel safe having them in a tent; they might be stolen or someone might fall over into my tent for some reason and break screens
  • Sporting stuff - I can probably do without this
  • Books - If I had digital forms of all of them, I'd be happy to ditch all but a few books
  • Cooking stuff - Probably would not be needed living in a community like that
  • Art and other personal trinkets - I have some of this, some of it is not tent-friendly
  • Kinky stuff - Issues with tent life
  • Large stacks of notebooks - Possibly not tent-friendly
I suspect I could make do with a storage unit for some of this stuff temporarily, but that's not the direction in which I'm thinking. Having use of a coworking facility with some personal space there would solve much of the problem.

I am aware that a fair amount of this stuff amounts to what is considerable privilege from some perspectives.

Maybe living entirely in a tent 24/7 would not be for me, but if I did not have cats, I would probably be happy living in a tiny entirely-personal dwelling in the midst of a large number of similar units and a lot of public/communal space if it were designed well enough. Daily/weekly participation in community life with shared cooking and the like would be great. Although I have considerable distaste for the political context, I wonder if the kibbutzim were like this. In any case, my conclusion that we've gotten more than the capital relations wrong in modern life and that we should reshape our habits of civilisation (houses, etc) to better reflect community values is pretty strong.


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