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Why Occupy Values Lead to Occupy Violence

"Cleveland 5" member Brandon Baxter

We hear “That’s just your opinion” or “Everyone has his own truth” used as serious rhetorical arguments these days. And sadly, “Who are you to judge?” often serves as a substitute for an intellectual debate. These phrases spring from the rampant and morally dangerous postmodernism that has conquered our culture. According to Summit Ministries,

In a postmodern world, truth and reality are understood to be individually shaped by personal history, social class, gender, culture, and religion. ... Postmoderns are suspicious of people who make universal truth claims. Such claims of universal meaning are viewed as imperialistic efforts to marginalize and oppress the rights of others. ... Postmodernity, as a worldview, refuses to allow any single defining source for truth and reality. The new emphasis is on difference, plurality and selective forms of tolerance.

Postmodernism developed as a reaction against the structures and confines of modernity in all areas of life: social norms and relationships, the arts, religion, and even epistemology — how we know things:

Dominate postmodern concerns for plurality, diversity and tolerance have not led to a more stable and secure society. Instead, the postmodern era exchanged one misguided mood for another. Postmodernity was fueled by a shift from the human optimism of modernity (based on scientific certainty and technological progress), to a pessimistic mood of skepticism and uncertainty. One observer noted that, “Modernity was confident; postmodernity is anxious. Modernity had all the answers; postmodernity is full of questions. Modernity reveled in reason, science and human ability; postmodernity wallows (with apparent contentment or nihilistic angst) in mysticism, relativism, and the incapacity to know anything with certainty.”

A perusal through the archives of the Occupy Cleveland forum gives us insight into the group’s postmodern decision-making process, which resulted in an inability to distinguish right from wrong and demonstrated their devotion to an “incapacity to know anything with certainty.”

Two months into the Occupation, the group began to experience the problems associated with living in a lawless communal camp. People stole their stuff, a young girl had been raped, and some group members were showing their violent sides. They decided to create a “Good Neighbor Agreement” (GNA). Unfortunately, they couldn’t come to an agreement about what constituted violence. Some of the comments:

"Violence is against a person, not a thing. Call it something else."

"Do you really want to get in to the semantics of the word? Is gardening violent? How 'bout cutting down a tree and making a fire for warmth?  As I said prior, broadening the word to include so many things makes it irrelevant. I have no problem with rejecting vandalism as a principle, but don't assume that it is included in rejecting violence."

“...Some of us are morally opposed to handing someone over to the cops and consider it a violent act. But it's an issue on which we reasonably disagree and we're not going to use the Good Neighbor Agreement to tell people not to deal with cops if they honestly feel it's necessary in cases of assault, rape, and the like. We should probably just let that be a matter for individual judgement.”

"So for some people that makes this not exactly a commitment to nonviolence, because it basically allows me (for example) to call the cops on someone who commits an assault at the tent, and to those people that would be me committing violence. Well, if that's your point of view, cool, and I get it, but then the cop thing is an exception...”

"BTW, I can tell you for a fact that at least one other prominent Occupier is strongly opposed to calling police, for the same reasons stated here. Even when someone has committed violence, this person says, putting them through the criminal justice system only imposes more violence.”

"I think I agree with that reasoning but simply consider it an exception to my belief in nonviolence because in many cases I don't think our society has any immediately useful alternatives to calling the cops."

"Remember, this is coming out of a process where we as a movement couldn't actually agree to disassociate with someone who continually made physical threats against individuals. It wasn't one of those gray-area things.”

The “Cleveland 5” bombers found homes in this environment, where the soup of postmodernism replaced absolute truth and their comrades drew a moral equivalence between violent criminals who plan to blow up bridges and the criminal justice system that tries to stop them. The relative truth of each person rises above simple propositional truths like "blowing up bridges is wrong." Connor Stevens attempted to justify his anarchist views in a rambling autobiography that reads like a textbook of postmodernity. He compared the actions of the U.S. government to his terrorist activities:

Somewhere along the way “primitive” and “civilized” got mixed up.  As Levi-Strauss observed,  when the “civilized” anthropologists go on about savages, they are in fact talking about themselves, the lens through which they are looking.  Here enters  “quantum psychology” – the relativity of the observer and the observed.  For instance, the US government is accusing me of being a terrorist, but I respond, stop talking about your mother that way.