Back in late 2011 when the Occupy movement still had some momentum, there was a big debate in Oakland about whether to change the name from Occupy Oakland to Decolonize Oakland.
In the end they decided to stick with the name Occupy, but a group split off and took the name Decolonize Oakland.
The reason for the name change as I understand it, is that the term “Occupy” is offensive to some people who define themselves by one of the social categories the dominant civilizing forces put them in.
Considering Occupy is a word used when a Colonial or Imperial force commodifies the land indigenous people inhabit or even the indigenous people themselves, it is not surprising that the people most affected by this process would want to choose a different name.
The problem I have with this is not that people want to disassociate themselves from a word that carries the connotation of chattel slavery and genocide. My problem is the people that make up Decolonize are still defining themselves by the social categories imposed on them by the dominant order.
While I acknowledge that oppressed groups of individuals experience their dispossession in unique ways that can form the basis for solidarity, I also acknowledge that defining oneself by a social category imposed by the dominant order robs people of the ability to create their lives on their own terms in free association with others.
As a mass movement, Occupy Oakland defines itself from the point of view of class struggle. The virtuous “99%” versus the villainous “1%.” The individual desires of each member of the 99% do not matter to Occupy Oakland. What matters is that each individual member of the 99% subordinate their desires and passions to the class struggle ideology of Occupy Oakland.
I commend the members of Decolonize Oakland for rejecting the economic class struggle program of Occupy Oakland.
The problem is Decolonize Oakland is merely switching out one form of ideological subordination for another!
According to the Decolonize Oakland Points of Unity, Decolonize Oakland is a
“collective of queer people of color and people of color.”
While the desire to break free from the Occupy movement is understandable, the creation of a new group based on a shared social identity imposed upon them by the dominant order requires each unique individual to subordinate their individual autonomy to the group.
Their Points of Unity go on to say:
We decolonize to claim spaces for the self-determination of communities of color in Oakland.
Decolonize Oakland speaks of monolithic communities of color where none exist. What does exist are individuals living in Oakland who have been assigned social identities that alienate them from their own lives.
Rather than striving to free themselves from the network of institutions that alienate them from their own lives and creativity, they seek to create a mass movement using an in group/out group dynamic that treats everyone in the in group as “good” and everyone in the out group as “bad” regardless of the individual thoughts, desires and passions of the members of the groups Decolonize Oakland assigns people to. (Meet the new rulers, same as the old rulers)
It should be noted that the motivation for this partially comes from the failure of a large percentage of the individual members of Occupy Oakland to acknowledge and comprehend how the social identities imposed upon them put them at odds with other members of Occupy Oakland who have different social identities imposed upon them.
But the solution is not to create a myriad of splinter groups each with their own political program based on the social identities imposed upon the members of each group. The solution is for each individual to use their own unique creativity and passion to break free from the social roles imposed upon them by the dominant order.
From this viewpoint, it doesn’t matter which involuntary social group an individual belongs to. What matters is their will to break free of all social identities so they can create their own lives according to their individual passions and desires.
Only then will individuals be able to create their own lives according to their own unique passions and desires and see other people as individuals striving to create their own lives as well.
At that point individuals can freely associate based on affinity and begin attacking the ideological structure that creates the institutions that enforce the rule of civilization.
If we fail to free ourselves from the bonds of imposed social identity and subordination to political ideologies, our struggles will merely replicate the institutions and structures that oppress us.
And if that is the case, why bother?