The other day, I had the distinct displeasure of tripping over, hitting my mouse, and accidentally clicking over to one of Chris Trotter’s articles, which as always, was large on opinion and short on research. In an earlier life, I have joined the chorus of voices on the populist left that point out that the old guard like Chris Trotter (and now I guess also Pagani) are vastly unrepresentative of the left, even among Labour supporters, and once again he proves our point for us.
I’m not going to wade into whether Occupy encampments in New Zealand have lived up to their American counterparts, or the legacy of other non-violent movements, such as the independence movement in India or the civil rights movement in the USA. Those sorts of questions are, I think, best answered by people who actually participated in those movements.
The truth is absolutely that they have not had as clear an impact or as easy a job as foreign occupations have. There are probably good reasons to this that are not the fault nor under the control of New Zealand occupiers. In that sense, there is some truth to the general thrust of his piece. That’s not what I want to object to.
I didn’t even write this post to address the spurious claim that the movement should go away, as if we don’t have freedom of political assembly in New Zealand. (constitutionally, there’s no question that we do. In practice, the ability of councils to evict Occupations has now relegated freedom of assembly in New Zealand to theory at best. A council should not be allowed to evict a protest)
No, what I want to object to is his stupid throwaway line near the end of his piece:
New Zealand’s Occupy Movement has fizzled for all of the above reasons, and more, but its single greatest failure has been its refusal to transform its manifestly untrue claim to represent 99 per cent of the New Zealand public into anything resembling reality.
Chris Trotter fails to understand the refrain of the Occupy movement. Occupiers haven’t claimed to represent the whole 99%. Their refrain, “We are the 99%!” is one of solidarity, something you would expect the old guard to understand- protestors pointing out that they are like you, regular people, and that you are welcome to join, that they are part of the majority and ignoring their opinions is undemocratic. They are pointing out that their opponents take positions which hurt the vast majority of society, and that what they want is populist reform that puts large corporations and the wealthy elite back in their place. Occupations don’t believe in representative politics, they are as horizontal a heirarchy as can be practically managed, and practice participatory democracy.
If you don’t understand that, Chris Trotter, you’re not qualified to comment on Occupy encampments.