Wednesday, November 23, 2011



Ok.  Let's recap.  Occupy Wall Street wasn't able to actually occupy Wall Street.  Why?  A phalanx of legal and physical barriers as well as paramilitary police prevented it.
  • What did they do? They took up residence in a place nearby:  Zuccotti park.  This occupation was made possible due to a loophole in the regulations of domestic compliance.  
  • The occupation of Zuccotti quickly proved to be plausible promise for an open source protest.  What was the promise?  It proved that it was possible for protesters to avoid immediate herding (kettling), beatings, and arrest in the heart of a major US city (given how totalitarian the US has become over the last couple of decades, that's a pretty amazing accomplishment).  With the plausible promise in place, Occupy zones (tents, settlements, etc.) spread like mushrooms across the global landscape. 
  • Some of these occupy locations were eventually raided by hordes of militarized police wielding non-lethal weapons and clubs.  Some of these occupations have found alternative locations to camp in, others have yet to do so.  Most importantly, the NYPD raided and ejected Occupy from Zuccotti square. 
Question:  Has Occupy been defeated by the NYPD's raid on Zuccotti?
Answer:  Probably not.  Why?  Over the last couple of months, Occupy had gone beyond a reliance on a specific place like Zuccotti.  It developed a recipe for how to set up a temporary autonomous zone (what's often called a TAZ).
What is a TAZ?  A location that is outside of the control of the nation-state and global marketplace.  Specifically, in the context of Occupy, the TAZ is
  • the modern equivalent of a nomadic village (a mobile, temporary community)
  • community that is self-governed (typically democratically)
  • a counter cultural hot spot (from music to visual arts to deep discussion)
  • a media hub and wireless communications network
  • a source of limited amounts of shelter/power/prepared food/etc.
  • simple security and a means of defense (this will get more elaborate)
  • a launching point for protest
What does all of this mean?
Here are some conclusions.  I'll refine this list as we progress.
  • This is formula of protest and community that will outlast Occupy.
  • The TAZ will be attractive to younger people (from the unique atmosphere to the element of danger involved).
  • Much of the technology that is being developed for the Occupy TAZ (energy, communications, etc.) is useful for building resilient communities
  • If passive TAZ defense tech/techniques are developed and deployed, these communities will be very difficult to eradicate
NOTE:   The origins of this concept are found in the work of the anarchist poet Hakim Bey (I don't recommend it if you aren't into doing deep/messy/original research).  Also, here's some background on the role of the TAZ in open source warfare.
NOTE2:  Some of the recipe for setting up a TAZ is seen in the Occupy API.

No comments: