Submitted by Conor Curtis (originally published in Issue 5 of the 4 O'Clock Whistle)
In May of 1968, on La Nuit de la Liberte, a group of students occupied the Sorbonne University of Paris. From there on workers began to occupy their factories; other student’s occupied their own schools, and the Latin Quarter of Paris became, for a short while, a nation of its own -- party to one of the first experiments in direct democracy the world has ever seen.
Almost one hundred years earlier in 1871, also in Paris – various groups of Leftists – Socialists, Anarchists, workers (and among all these different groups many women), occupied the whole of the city as the Paris Commune. They too tried to initiate new democracies; they too sought an end to oppression.
In October of 1789, a further century earlier, and again in France, a mass demonstration of women marched on Versailles and turned the reign of the French monarchy on its head.
These are the events, even within a single country, that have historically led to the protests you will see in New York, in London, and in St. Johns today. This is the history of what is means to “occupy.” The act of “Occupation” happened during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1524–1526, the German revolution of 1918-19, the Spanish Civil War, and during the Russian Revolutions – “Occupations” are continuing to happen in the Middle-East, in Israel and in Greece and Spain where occupiers go by the title of indignados. These movements are united - not by their ends, but by their means – by the acts and evolution of consensus thinking, and by the use of direct democracy. These protestors are united by the will to occupy. The movement’s expansion to “Occupy Sandy” – providing aid and shelter in the wake of a devastating hurricane alone speaks to its capacity.
To occupy oneself, to occupy a building, or a square is essential to existence; there have been, and will always be, occupiers. It is one thing to talk of post-modernism, of the end of strict rationalism and the oppression it has often brought – but one could never achieve post-modernism within modernism’s structures; namely corporations and the governments of nation-states. Just as it is one thing to talk of a better world (one day far from now), and it is another thing to Occupy that world today!
To Occupy is a means to change, but in the action of occupying one can see it is an end as well – a goal in and of itself – it is post-modernism in real practice; the end and the means simultaneously, a self-perpetuating social movement.
Occupy is our potential, and so long as we live, a part of us shall live to Occupy.