This is an introduction for students interested in occupations and this general movement of fighting cuts, capitalism, and other structures of oppression. This is an ongoing project, so it’ll gradually grow as we continue.
A Dispatch from the Dance Party
The dance party begins because we’ve come together to enjoy each others company and to do so collectively—to do so as a mass of people. Without an unwavering unified disobedience, no party would be possible.
Let’s make this clear: this is a party, not a protest. We aren’t here to make a point to the administration, the police, or other managers of society with any message other than, “this night is ours!” We see the need to fight back against an attack on our lives, upon the unfolding crisis. Capitalism is the economic behemoth fueling the exploitation, but society as a whole reinforces it. We want to shift our focus from exclusively economic issues, or a perspective of activism, onto re-imagining society to fit our needs as a community. Within our current social framework, we are allotted specific times and designated specific places in which to have fun (for instance, during the weekends and after work; in the bars and the park). Even our free time is managed. To this point, we want a real ability to participate in society, to organize our work and our communities, but also to take control over our leisure. If we want to make our lives better, we must challenge the social norms that structure them. So join us, take over and play in the streets, and not in their playgrounds!
IT’S WAY TOO LONG, SO READ IT SOBER.
Here we are at a university. This may or may not be your first year; regardless, right now you’re seeking an education (or, perhaps to put it a little more cynically, a degree). It’s an opportunity to gain some independence, and some help on figuring out what you want to do with your life. Yet, as students we face the greatest amount of debt in the US: a painful reality that often leaves us worse off after graduation than before. In fact, student debt surpasses every other form of debt—even credit card debt! Rising tuition and fees at the university, coupled with unemployment pushes us further down the hole. From any angle, it paints a difficult future for much of us.
Workers on this campus also face hard times, as the same conditions that created a dramatic tuition rise over the past several years have also produced severe pay cuts, greater workloads, less hours, and cuts to pension among a slew of other issues. It’s important to acknowledge that many of these workers are students at the university as well. These students are putting themselves through the hardships of a minimum wage and poor working (and living) conditions, just in order to receive an education steeply declining in quality while ascending in costs. We work and we borrow in order to work and to borrow. In fact, the very same conditions have produced hardship for people off campus as well. Using the poor economy as an excuse, the city has slashed its budget for community programs, many of which are tailored for children in poorer neighborhoods. Homelessness has surfaced as “an issue” for the wealthy business owners downtown—not out of empathy for difficult living conditions, but because presence of the homeless trims their profits down. The police budget is disproportionately reduced at a slower rate to social programs during the budget crisis, or can often be actually increased in fear of unruly poor people. The state would rather deal with angry unruly people by suppressing or locking them up, rather than finding solutions to the issues that are making them angry and unruly. It’s noticeably becoming a burden to live in this city if you’re someone who’s trying to get an education; someone who’s trying to rent an affordable, decent room; or someone who needs a job, let alone one that doesn’t leave you feeling raw after work.
The term “crisis” is thrown around regularly on and off campus, in city halls and through out the state. But what we see clearly isn’t the multinational corporations, the $100k-a-year crowd, or the ‘privileged’ in any real sense of a crisis. Rather, we see ourselves in crisis and we see the management of us as the crisis. Those that slash the budget, those that get paid the big bucks, those that feel the need and have the authority to control us aren’t really concerned with the economic crisis like we are. Many of us struggle to feed ourselves, while the managers of society struggle to buy a porsche. So when they tell us about the crisis, they aren’t speaking about the stress and anxiety it causes them to cut pensions or raise tuition, they’re speaking about the stress of managing us. So really, we find that we are the crisis.
With suffering, social unrest is bound to follow. With social unrest, the need to manage us, as the crisis, predictably becomes the next logical step. The university administration speaks the language of managing the crisis quite effectively; they use terms such as “the budget” and “reasonable” to direct our concerns away from themselves and to enact what they see as solutions that allegedly help prevent future problems. They re-introduce rotten policies they’ve failed to pass before, but now with the popular support produced by this language of crisis, they can get away with it (most probably due to the feeling of inevitability and passivity endorsed in their rhetoric). Finally, the managers of the crisis will further manipulate us, use coercion and use force to enact their vision into reality.
The administration deflects problems by blaming the budget or the state, but they also mask their responsibility by deflecting public aggression towards protesting students and workers. They do so by criticizing our “mistakes” or controversial political actions to the point of oblivion. They reduce us to mere caricatures of adolescence, while they demand sympathy for their “tough decisions”. When a campus building was occupied by demonstrators and some property was damaged while being used as a barricade (or at least as some sort of buffer) against police brutality, the administration deflected any concerns of actual police violence by repetitively attacking the decision of students to protect themselves. Furthermore, the administration coerces protesters—regardless of their level of involvement in these demonstrations—through the use of trumped up student judicial charges or veiled threats to the job security of dissenting campus workers. Finally, they use force to ensure our obedience; specifically they utilize police to beat and bludgeon demonstrators getting in the way of the management of the crisis. Whether its a militant political action or even a subdued protest we often meet the blunt edge of a baton. Anyone or any people that fight effectively for themselves are a threat on the administration’s management and their status quo.
This model of management isn’t unique to the university either. This model of management can be seen everywhere. Chances are that after you graduate, you’ll either join the management or continue to be subjugated by it. It’s not really that any individual person is at fault, rather an entire economic and social system that continues to burden workers, people of color, women, and all other oppressed people that must be challenged.