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side from anything else, ‘globalisation’ has meant that the discourse of the cosmopolitan command class has become utterly homogenous. Almost everywhere that there have been protests, these have been subjected to police violence and to a rhetoric that holds that every protest has gone too far. It seems that to protest at all is, beyond all the pseudo-democratic drivel to which the command class still pay derisory lip-service, pretty much prohibited. In Australia, Mayor Robert Doyle called the protestors he had evicted from the Melbourne City Square ‘a self-indulgent rabble,’ a strong statement which didn’t quite capture the oleaginous smoothness of his American counterparts’ more measured disquisitions.
But the language of Occupy is also noteworthy, marked by several linguistic peculiarities. The word ‘occupy’ itself is deployed as an absolutely unqualified injunction, but without the urgency most often conveyed by an exclamation mark. Occupy — but where? how? with whom? Occupy is a universal that calls for a particular. To designate its particular manifestations, the word is hitched to a place-name, the name of a town or city: Occupy Wall Street, Occupy London, Occupy X…. Certainly, not every place is as significant as every other: New York has played a key role due to its proximity to Wall Street and the media-dense situation of the US. But Occupy also implies that the occupation of any place equalizes all places. Wherever we occupy, that place is our place. Occupy is at once an injunction to take (the) place, and a declaration that this is already the case, that this place is already ours.
Moreover, the universal shows itself in its particularisation, which is refractory to any particular proposition or even bundle of propositions. As Giorgio Agamben predicted in Section XIX of his book The Coming Community (1990), entitled ‘Tiananmen’: ‘What the State cannot tolerate in any way….is that the singularities form a community without affirming an identity, that humans co-belong without any representable condition of belonging.’ What the Occupy movement has incontrovertibly done, by organising the mere gathering of singularities without the announcement of any particular message, is expose the laws of the establishment of place, as it has opened new possibilities for the use of places. To occupy means to keep busy, engage or employ: to occupy a city space is to find a (new) use for it. Property, power and protest are already implied in the term.
Yet, if one looks at the Oxford English Dictionary’s list of definitions of ‘occupy,’ something else starts to become apparent. As one moves down the list, the entries become more and more archaic, taking on a flavour of violent usurpation and sexuality. Think of the common tag ‘Occupied,’ geared to a lock, which informs a wannabe user that a public toilet is already in use: the desperate will just have to hang on or go elsewhere. As Dominique Laporte writes in History of Shit, citing Sigmund Freud: ‘To cleanse, to order, to beautify: the fact that this discursive triad manifests itself so openly in the policing of both city and speech should give us pause.’ Everywhere government functionaries cited ‘business,’ ‘health,’ and ‘security’ reasons to legitimate their evictions; everywhere, obscure old laws or brand-new provisions were pressed into service to ensure the non-return of the protesters. Above all, the discourses of sanitation and public health prevailed: the parks occupied by the Occupiers had allegedly become filthy, unsanitary, disorderly shitholes. As Mayor Bloomberg put it, ‘From the beginning, I have said that the City had two principal goals: guaranteeing public health and safety, and guaranteeing the protesters’ First Amendment rights. But when those two goals clash, the health and safety of the public and our first responders must be the priority.’ If everybody — including the radical left — prefers the idealisations and abstractions of ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’, the agencies that enforce the laws of capital aren’t in the least confused: their violence is simply part of a waste-disposal program, regulated by commissions of public hygiene.
Occupy: the movement has brought to consciousness (to visibility, to representation, to the media, etc.) the waste products of global capitalism: massive numbers of human beings are now literally the excrement of capital, shit to be hosed away.
Money versus shit: this is the true message of the Occupy movement.