Thursday, December 01, 2011

Strength in Diffusion

When we take our EarthView geography program to middle schools, one term we always discuss is archipelago, because students are able to see so many more Pacific island groups than they usually notice on maps or smaller globes. I am always reminded that I first learned the word when I was in high school, and that I first saw it used in a figurative sense, in The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn's grim report on the work camps that were scattered throughout the former Soviet Union.

It was probably my frequent reflection on Solzhenitsyn's brilliant phrase that led me to coin the word occupeligo in October, upon hearing a few interesting stories about the spatial configuration of what is more commonly called by the oxymoron "occupy movement." Since the entire point of the demonstrations is to be a fixture in public places, the idea of movement is not entirely sensical to me, though of course the occupations are spreading to a growing number of locations -- hence occupeligo.

Today Radio Boston's Dan Mauzy held a fascinating discussion with Professor Timothy McCarthy, who teaches about human rights and social movements, and Philip Anderson, an Occupy Boston protester who is quite consciously diffusing the movement from the core urban areas to which it has been largely confined to date. Listen to Can Occupy Boston Continue Without Dewey Square? for a really intriguing discussion of the great complexity of the relationships between the uses of physical space and the exercise of political rights such as assembly, association, and speech.

Anderson's diffusion efforts are presented on We Can Occupy, which rejects the notion that the occupeligo has no clear objectives. The site encourages much broader participation in promoting a cause that is actually not vague at all. We Can Occupy argues for the physical decampment of the occupeligo with these assertions:

You don’t have to sleep in a tent to understand what’s wrong with our economic and political system.  You don’t have to march in the streets to believe that we should have a healthy economy for all and a government that serves the people.  You don’t have to get pepper-sprayed to change the direction of our country.

AP Photo via Radio Boston

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