Occupy Earth

In the week since the Occupy May Day General Strike, I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of the event.

Friends who were in New York City that day say it was tremendously exciting, especially the permitted march from Union Square to Wall Street, which apparently stretched out strong over some 30 blocks.

As far as I could tell, mainstream media reported only the arrests that occurred, and that fairly grudgingly.  There has been little effort to explain or explore the anger and frustration that propelled hundreds of thousands worldwide out into the streets on May Day.

Maybe that’s because it’s an old story.  Yesterday’s news!  We know that students are unhappy about being $1 trillion in debt; we know that millions of homeowners are unhappy about being “underwater” with their mortgages, or losing their homes due to foreclosures.  We know that there aren’t enough jobs to lift our economy out of the doldrums.  It’s old news, people!  Tell us something we don’t know!

So the question becomes, is a protest effective if it is ignored by the mainstream media?

I would say yes: the fact that the MSM treated May Day as unimportant is more revealing of how out of touch the editors are than of whether or not the protest was real and meaningful.

On social media, May Day was well covered, especially at interactive, citizen journalism-type venues like Livestream and Twitter.

And if you go on the Occupy Wall Street site now, you’ll find that the organizers are already bounding on to the next action.

May Day was just one in a whole series of protests planned. It was an opening volley of what promises to be an intense, engaging spring.

But it opened up a question that is not likely to go away any time soon.

How important is it to actually show up, in the flesh, for a protest?

I was berated by one reader for choosing to stay in my classroom on May Day rather than joining the protests.

Other readers expressed their support for my decision to “occupy my classroom,” where my individual presence was perhaps more important than it would have been as an anonymous member of the crowd on Broadway.

I have been pondering this question in the past week.  As someone who is deeply involved with new media, I have to say that I believe that what happens in cyberspace is at least as important as what happens in physical space.

Maybe it’s even more important.

It is no exaggeration to say that millions of people participated in the May Day protests online, via Facebook, Twitter, Livestream and so many other interactive platforms.

The protests spread around the world, just like the May 5 “Connect the Dots” climate change awareness events.

Through the magic of cyberspace, we were all united in a common goal: expressing our outrage over the cynical manipulation and impoverishment of the 99% by the 1%, and demanding that the interests of the 99% be taken into account in matters of political and economic policy.

Although I have no doubt that face-to-face General Assemblies and marches are important, it is ridiculous to discount the impact of what goes around and comes around in cyberspace.

Are we approaching the weird tipping point when our cyber-selves will be more important than our physical selves?

As I keep reminding people, cyberspace is totally dependent on electricity for its existence.

So if we want to preserve cyberspace as a place of radical openness, communitarianism and oppositionality, it behooves us to pay attention to the real 99% in the current equation: the natural world that has been providing us with the means to create the current that runs the virtual world.

I might be tempted to buck my agoraphobia (fear of crowds) and make the leap from cyber-protest to physical protest if the goal were defending not just jobs or homes or social equality, but the underpinning of it all, the great mother herself, our beloved community, our Earth.

Leave a comment


  1. Martin Lack

     /  May 8, 2012

    Will the mainstream media take more notice of the UN’s Rio+20 Summit on sustainable Development? They bloody well should because, it seems certain that within a decade, it will (whether they like it or not) be unavoidable news.

  2. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

     /  May 8, 2012

    There seems to be an attitude of oblivion here in the US. I doubt there will be much front-page news about Rio+20 here. It’s so frustrating…really makes me begin to give up hope for the kind of major international commitment to sustainable development that could lead us to a “green tech” future. Collapse seems more likely day by day…which means that leavergirl is right, the smart thing to do is to start learning permaculture, re-skilling, and prepare as best we can for a low-tech, very different sort of future. I’ve been reading David Holmgren, at Angie’s suggestion…it does seem increasingly likely that we’ll head into the “lifeboats” scenario in the next decade. No I am not giving up hope, and yes, I will continue to “exhort” and push on this blog for awareness and action. But one has to be realistic, too.

  3. leavergirl

     /  May 8, 2012

    Jennifer said:”I was berated by one reader for choosing to stay in my classroom on May Day rather than joining the protests [i.e. being part of the crowd on Broadway].”

    When you misrepresent my views, Jennifer, I feel angry because I have a need to be heard. I worked quite hard to explain my position in detail. I criticized you for not supporting the *strike*. I don’t care about the protests, and said so. Would you be willing to reread my comments and make a correction?

    I still don’t care about the marches, and I challenge anyone to show me they accomplish anything.

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  May 8, 2012

      I guess I did misunderstand you, leavergirl. I didn’t realize you would have preferred I just stay home, ie, “strike,” rather than go to work on May Day. It didn’t occur to me as an option, frankly; to me the point of striking was to get out and swell the crowds in the street. Otherwise it’s a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear….

  4. leavergirl

     /  May 8, 2012

    The point of striking is to stay away from work. If enough people do it, the governments topple. Tahrir Square was nice, but if it had not been backed by workers who quit going to their jobs, it would not have accomplished even the little that it did accomplish.

    Yeah, I would have preferred you stay home and garden. 🙂 After all, that is what the call was for! No to work, no to shopping, no to school. Are you saying that if enough people stop doing those activities, no one hears?!

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  May 8, 2012

      In my neck of the woods, there wasn’t nearly enough momentum for that kind of stay-at-home strike to be effective. No one would have noticed because there weren’t enough people doing it, or talking about doing it.
      I am looking forward to staying home and gardening soon, once classes are over–next week!

  5. leavergirl

     /  May 8, 2012

    Well, that’s the problem. If people don’t heed the strike, then it can’t be effective. But one does not know beforehand…


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