Lessons from Class Warfare and the Death of Occupy

An Analysis of the Successes and Failures of the Occupy Uprising, Occupy’s Comparison with Previous Recent U.S. Revolts, and What’s Likely to Occur Next

Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Earth! Occupy Love! What is our one Demand? WHAT IS OUR ONE DEMAND?

Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Earth! Occupy Love! What is our one Demand? WHAT IS OUR ONE DEMAND? Image altered from the Commons.

Occupy, of course, is not dead. The residue of the movement continues to smolder among the ruins of the Great Global Recession. An occasional flare-up bursts forth in protest here and there. In the underground of cyberspace, however, there lives a vibrant hum of activity. Instead of dramatic visibility in parks and streets, many in the Occupy movement carried their ideals, values, and freshly exercised practices away to their homes, farms, businesses, and neighborhoods.

A new alternative civilization is emerging from the osmosis of Occupy into the greater culture at large. A good term to describe this organic yet deliberate dynamic planetary community is the Breakthru Civilization. We’re breaking thru old paradigms and ways of being that no longer serve humanity as these obsolete ways aid in the destruction of life on Earth. Breakthru from love and respect for life to love and respect our selves, one another, and our planet. It is a difficult challenge to move forward towards hate, fear, and violence with compassion, forgiveness, and love armed with nothing more than aware minds, open hearts, and firm backbones. Yet this Breakthru accelerates the expansion of individual awareness and mass consciousness to understand and embrace Socialism as perhaps the only immediate alternative to the current system dominated by Capitalism and corporatist fascism.

The number of activists has dwindled since those promising days from September 2011 to May 2012. They certainly no longer reflect the greater 99%. Instead, Americans woke up to the reality of economic inequality and class war. Occupy called attention to this invisibly visible ugliness so vividly the topic of class warfare was debated among Republicans and Democrats during the 2012 Presidential Elections. Yet Occupy itself subsided into the nooks and crannies of local neighborhoods.

What happened? Especially after so much occurred in the beginning to astonish and galvanize people around our planet?

Before I answer those questions, we must acknowledge and celebrate Occupy’s multiple successes. Occupy left enough of a significant impact, certainly in the short term as this story has yet to run its course, to perhaps catalyze a larger and more multifaceted transformation than is often realized. It’s still too new. So let’s celebrate a few successes:

"The Extreme Inequality is Killing us - our Commons, our Democracy." Syd Fredrickson in Occupy Seattle, October 8, 2011.

“The Extreme Inequality is Killing us – our Commons, our Democracy.” Syd Fredrickson of the Green Party in Occupy Seattle, 8 October 2011. Photo by William Bass.

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Headless Sally

Ghost Hunting amid the Echoes of Tragedy and Carnage at Saylor’s Creek

Midnight came and went across the woods and fields of a 118-year old Civil War battlefield. With a firm grip on powerful flashlights turned off, we crept along the edge of the bridge and peered downstream into the darkness for ghosts. Well, for a specific ghost in particular, a ghost named Headless Sally. The three of us stood there in the dark feeling stupid and scared all at once. It was cold, too, down there in the damp mini-valley of Saylor’s Creek. A full moon hung in the sky casting shadows through trees and thickets leafless in Winter.

Earlier during the day we had agreed to hunt for Headless Sally under a full moon in a relatively clear and calm night sky. Luna draws out the madness in people, draws out mindless ghosts questing about on soulless autopilot, the objects of long-faded desires lost to spiritual dementia. And here we were, three Witches of Silverwood, leaning over the bridge railing facing downstream looking for the ghost of a floating head or perhaps her headless torso. We were confident of our abilities to protect ourselves against harmful or mischievous spirit entities. Besides, we figured after midnight on a cold weeknight there would be far less traffic on a lonely country road to disturb our focus than earlier in the day or on a weekend.

We have visited with ghosts nearby at the Hillsman Farmhouse at the epicenter of the Battle of Saylor’s Creek. Fought on Thursday 6 April 1865, as heavy rains fell and the creek rose, the fields, woods, creeks, and farms were the scene of a ferocious and savage three-part battle between Confederates and Federals. American Civil War combat was often at close quarters with severe injuries from up-close discharges of firearms and artillery as well as hand-to-hand fighting.

The Hillsman home was occupied by the Federals and used as a battlefield hospital. The family and servants there were forced downstairs into the basement, but afterwards helped dig mass graves for the dead. I don’t know if the “servants” were Black slaves, lowly-paid Whites, or White indentured servants. Indentured servants as an institution, shockingly enough, endured in the U.S.A. until 1917, long after slavery itself was legally abolished. Few narratives from Civil War battles more than mentioned the presence of slaves as if they were a bothersome afterthought.

The medical staff operated on screaming Union and Confederate wounded without question. Stories were told of so many amputations deemed necessary as the gory battle unfolded, the pile of severed limbs and body parts tossed out the windows reached up to the windowsills. Soft lead Minié ball bullets tore large holes through soft tissue and shattered bones. Cannons firing loaded canisters bursting with lead and iron balls packed in sawdust mowed down troops on both sides.

Sanitation was unknown, and this lack of hygiene helped generate severe rates of infections such as gangrene. Doctors and nurses, including surgeons, may care for their patients and feel passionate for their professions, yes. Their knowledge and technologies, unfortunately, were surprisingly Medieval during what many historians consider the first Modern, Industrial Age war. No wonder so many ghosts haunted the area. Sally, however, didn’t die in the war.

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