Well, if the original start date of the Occupy movement (i.e. Occupy Wall Street, Occupy New Haven and elsewhere) was so arbitrary and spontaneous, then we shouldn’t be disappointed if the movement’s first anniversary seemed rather desultory and scattershot. Last week, there were celebratory anniversary marches. There were arrests. There was civil disobedience. It was nice, but it didn’t exactly set the 99% a-hopping again.
But hope is not lost. It wasn’t even misplaced. Occupy is where you find it. It has a physical presence (which has been waning since last spring), but it also has a spiritual presence which shall never die. Some of the most articulate and refreshing writings on the movement can be found not in its natural haunts, the blogosphere, but in print media, which has taken a step back to remind itself what worked about Occupy and what to carry forward.
The current issue of the indie music magazine Under the Radar accomplishes a couple of wondrous things. A special “Protest Issue,” Under the Radar #42 features notable rockers hoisting placards on which they’ve scrawled pet social concerns.
But Under the Radar is most valuable for still writing about the Occupy movement in the present tense. The encampments may be gone (New Haven’s was among the last to be uprooted, and that was four months ago now), but the amorphous and decentralized movement simply has shifted from a physical presence to a pissed-off aura that still surrounds major American cities.
The other thing Under the Radar does that is cool and sensible is that it examines the modern state of protest music. Many people made Occupy playlists last year when the movement was at its height, from spinner.com (Occupy Wall Street Protest Songs—A Playlist for the 99 Percent)
Talking directly to Occupy-friendly artists and other activist musicians, Under the Radar conclusively shows how Occupy is no more likely to have a single popular marching song than it is likely to ever have a hierarchical leadership. Some movements just don’t embrace anthems. Also, anthems just happen. You can’t force them.
The magazine which originally fomented Occupy, Adbusters, also (unsurprisingly) treats the movement as a living breathing entity that’s still making a difference in how we relate to government.
Occupy Wall Street (or Occupy Anywhere Else, for that matter) is far from dead—it’s merely “undergoing a period of sustained global tactical innovation,” according to the Tactical Briefings page at www.adbusters.org.
World War 3 Illustrated, the most-or-less annual radical-comics journal, had the bad timing of releasing a new issue just as the Occupy movement was at the forefront of American consciousness. Occupy is such a natural fit for WW3I that it was frustrating to see the journal sit this struggle out due to its long lead time. Not that last year’s issue didn’t have other causes to graphically rally behind: it had several worthwhile stories on the battles between the Republican government and the state workers in Wisconsin. A year later, however, World War 3 has delivered its Occupy stories, and they’re tremendous. In the best tradition of this audacious and eclectic underground comics periodical, the stories range from personal to universal, from jingoistic to journalistic, from matter-of-fact to provocative. The theme of the issue absorbs Occupy but is also much broader: “Expression, Repression, Revolution.” That triple-decker theme also conveniently covers Bradley Manning and Wikileaks, a slew of artist censorship anecdotes and even a sexual awakening or two. But it’s the Occupy elements, particularly the concise and colorful six-page “Occupy the City” overview by Jessica Wehrle and one of the magazine’s primary movers and shakers, Seth Tobocman, which I found most satisfying and inspiring.
Still, my favorite better-late, 2012 manifestation of Occupy New Haven is Archie #635. Yes, Archie Andrews, “America’s favorite teenager” of yore, and his pals & gals help occupy a park in Riverdale. For regular Archie readers (I myself am a lifelong fan of the comics), this is not a shocking development. A wave of socially relevant and relatively mature-themed Archie stories has burst from the Archie comics in recent years, including the much-hyped addition of a gay character, Kevin Keller, and the Life With Archie magazine serial in which Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, Jughead et al., all aged into their late 20s, deal with every conceivable ethical issue of modern life. The Occupy adventure in Archie #635 fits in smoothly with this era of enlightenment, but it also reminded me of a great story which ran in an early issue of Everything’s Archie 40 years ago, where Archie and Jughead were drafted into the U.S. Army and debated whether or not to burn their draft cards. Both the draft story and the Occupy story end as Archie stories often do, with a plea for peace and understanding… at least until the next time Archie gets on the nerves of authority figures Mr. Lodge or Mr. Weatherbee.
Occupy lives, and the movement’s merits are being debated avidly everywhere from pop periodicals to comic books (underground and otherwise). This is both heartening and entertaining. Let’s hope that Occupy continues to catch our interest and send out sparks.