I’ve just posted a Guardian article called “The Medieval, Unaccountable Corporation of London is Ripe for Protest” (1) and I wanted to comment further on it because it draws attention to an important and timely matter.
The beauty of the Occupy Together movement is that it can physically but peacefully target the seat of power. Because it can do so, it holds more promise of effecting reform than a foreign nation fighting a war from abroad.
And it has the added advantage of promising to effect reform quickly and without residue by choking off the seat of power.
To illustrate that I’d like to refer to a historical example. One of the most profound of historical lessons occurred because of a careless decision made by a traffic cop.
In Beijing on April 25, 1999, the members of Falun Gong, a qigong community, wanted to deliver a petition to the central appeals office asking for the release of Tianjin practitioners who had recently been jailed for protesting.
In response to the call, 10,000 Falun-Gong practitioners assembled outside the Beijing office causing a congestion problem. So a traffic cop required that they line up single file along a certain street with a high wall. The practitioners snaked down the street and around the compound. They sat quietly reading and even picked up their refuse before moving on.
However the compound was not just any gated community. It was the residential compound of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – Zonghnanhai, a seat of CCP power and privilege. It was not just the compound of the leadership, but even more to the point of the leadership’s wives and children. The traffic policeman had lined Falun Gong up outside one of the nerve centers of the CCP, the place where the leaders’ dependents lived. As such it jangled President Jiang Zhemin who personally resolved to destroy Falun Gong from that moment on.
It isn’t my purpose to trace the subsequent banning, incarceration, and torture of Falun-Gong practitioners. At times, it has been horrific in China, sometimes rivaling the Nazis in cruelty (such as the harvesting of organs from FG followers).
But the lesson that should not be overlooked is that every nation state has a soft underbelly. And the Occupy Together movement, by occupying Wall Street, and as the article referred to earlier also encourages, the City of London, will, like Falun Gong, be occupying what amounts to the real seat of power in a country.
This is not China and 1999 is not 2o11. I think there is no chance today of any response such as the CCP made to Falun Gong in 1999. We are ready for reform today and so I think this finely-targeted approach has a high chance of success.
And there is something symmetrical about the message it sends. The people would be preventing the trouble-free administration of government by their mere physical presence. What a message that sends that the people cannot be forgotten and left out of the governmental equation or they will intervene in ways that makes governing impossible.
The Parliament Buildings in London, the Capitol Building in Washington, Number 10 Downing Street, the White House – in my estimation, these are the buildings that the Occupy Together movement should be targeting. If they interfere with the running of government by targeting the legislative buildings (Parliament, the Capitol), or if as Falun Gong showed in Beijing, they bring matters to where the leaders live in (10 Downing Street, the White House), that act would have far more impact and speed things up much more than targeting a park in the heart or center of a city. (State capitols in the case of states.)
Again everything rests upon the action being peaceful and non-threatening. Mere presence is enough. My thesis is that the impact of any action is multiplied the closer it’s carried out to the real seat of government, be it Parliament or the City of London, and/or the living quarters of the leadership’s dependents.
So if I were in China right now, I’d suggest they follow Falun Gong’s unwitting example and ring Zonghnanhai again. In London: the City of London, Parliament, and 10 Downing Street. In Washington, Wall Street as we are doing, but also the Capitol Building and the White House. However, any violence and the demonstration would be marred and could backfire, a fact which makes having a strategy to deal with agents provocateurs imperative.
This is a surgically-targeted approach but it also has its demanding requirements. It could shorten a campaign significantly but only if carried out with the same loving and peaceful attitude that Falun-Gong members showed the whole time they waited outside Zonghnanhai.