South Africa: All occupiers are equal, but some occupiers are more equal than others

Critical reflections on #OccupyCapeTown – Published on Pambazuka News, by Jared Sacks, November 3, 2011.

Jared Sacks attended an Occupy Cape Town event on 15 October and found a huge theoretical gulf between the lived experience of those whose voices are invisible and the liberal white activists who proclaim that we are all, in fact, the same.  He writes that: It is about time that white male activists who sincerely want to dismantle oppression, begin to take seriously the voices of the oppressed from within the 99 per cent. 

Approximately 200 Cape Town residents participated in the call for a World Revolution Day on 15 October, inspired by the growing worldwide Occupy Movement. We arrived at Company Gardens next to parliament in typical Capetonian fashion: mostly late, disjointed, and with a huge array of goals and personal agendas to complete on the first day.

In fact, the majority of ‘occupiers’ arrived so late for the revolution that the clean-shaven undercover security operative (sporting an earpiece and touristy camera) had already deemed the protest to be non-threatening and was long gone. The police barely noticed the relaxed picnic atmosphere that was apparent once the crowd grew to more than 70 … //

… Yet, the most telling experience of the day was the debate that took place before Occupy Cape Town marched up Long Street to the offices of ETV. During the general assembly that preceded the march, someone expressed their concern that a placard proclaiming ‘FUCK the Rich’ would be used against us when filmed by ETV. Others agreed saying that it was a violent statement, released negative energy, and was not in line of the peaceful purpose of the occupation.?Attempting to use the democratic procedure of the general assembly, a number of white liberal activists agreed, saying that there should be consensus with regards to the slogans we use on our placards and banners. Nothing seemingly violent or racist was acceptable. While the group of poor black protesters from Mannenberg who had written the placard reluctantly agreed to leave it behind, this decision was resisted by an independently-minded person within the group and that same placard eventually did find its way onto the news.

If its true as radical feminist bell hooks explains that ‘patriarchy rewards men for being out of touch with their feelings’, then a relevant corollary could be that, in a white supremacist patriarchal capitalist society, white men are not only out of touch with their own feelings and that of others, they are also out of touch with the modes by which they belittle and oppress others. This is not any less true during a radically democratic occupation than within the oppressive institutions of society itself. Thus, it was only logical that the dominance of liberal whites who mostly desired the tweaking of capitalism or the creation of idealistic utopias by withdrawing from the system (rather than overthrowing it), would attempt to build some sort of ideological hegemony based on their own privileged Western orientation … (full text).

Comments are closed.