These past few days have been utterly enlightening for me. I realised that I have been fortunate enough to have been sheltered from really bigoted people for most of my life. It is only when you stress support for a protest camp that they begin to come out of the woodwork.
I have also been forced to consider the ethics of censorship, and what constitutes an unacceptable comment on a facebook group.
Personally, I believe that launching into a tirade of swear words including the oh-so-eloquent phrase- "your fucking shit tents"- and an arguably racist, personal attack on a participant at Occupy are grounds to remove and block the people involved.
But does the group agree? This is the question. At what point does the personal end and the consensus begin? How much room is there for the individual in the collective?
I wasted a few hours of my life last night on condescending drivel. I would not have nearly so much of a problem with that had there been a legitimate exchange taking place. For my part (posting from my own profile), I know that I was reasoned and calm.
I tried to answer questions about what the protest was for, explaining that it is about creating a forum for debate and that we welcome all to that forum to raise their questions and concerns about the location of the current protest. When pressed for any things that had been discussed and decided upon, I referred them to others involved as I haven't been able to devote much time to the Occupation and I thought others were better informed. This though, was me failing to answer the question, and acting like a politician(!).
I think what frustrated me most, and I tried to raise this with the three individuals, is that there shouldn't be an 'us' and 'them' attitude, and it is something that I know those at Occupy would not become involved in were it not for the ardent 'anti-occupiers' who insist on categorising in this manner. I was constantly categorised as 'socialist' and a 'communist' despite repeatedly letting them know that I hold no affinities to any specific political party. Not once did I refer to any of the three people as Conservative with a capital C or as Fascist, or even as a Racist. I told one of them they had been removed due to their having made an arguably racist comment, but it's not the same thing.
All of this *shouldn't* bother me, but it does.
So as to avoid my own words being manipulated and quoted back at the group, I decided to remove all of my contributions and I have since removed myself from the group, and the community pages on facebook as I really do not feel that the page is proving a real forum for debate.
However, I am also seriously questioning whether I want to continue to be a part of this movement. I do not feel 'safe' from personal attacks when I go to the GA, knowing that one of those involved in the exchange with me are planning to be there. Not to mention, having received an e-mail from one those involved this morning, just to brighten my day.
Indeed, at the end of the conversation, they saw fit to accuse me of being one of the 1% as they had clearly seen me at the GA on Monday. Having not revealed that for the entire exchange, I felt they were really hiding behind the anonymity provided by the online space. It's more difficult to be that vehement and that condescending when you're sitting in a circle of reasonable people.
All of this opened my eyes to the main difficulty of Occupy: we're not the 99%.
Because as far as I'm concerned the 99% would be a body of people uniting against the injustices of the world, without in fighting. The 99% would ALL work together.
There are people who refuse to see this. How can you overcome that hurdle?
Wednesday, 16 November 2011