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Occupying Europe, when the colonizer reclaims wealth

I have a fondness for the spirit behind the Occupy movement. I suppose my fondness is based on potentials. The potential to change something, to move in a different direction, to create new forms of organization, to engage young people politically in ways that resonate with them. I guess I still like the idea of a space for utopia. After the mostly jaded ‘90s and early ‘00s, the return of a potential for utopia is, for me, the potential for hope. I know, such an outdated and unfashionable notion, one that was even outdated by the time I came of age. But you can say that, in spirit, I might be a child of the ‘60s. So, I see these popular assemblies as picking up where the ‘60s left, not imitating or reproducing the spirit of the 60s, but using some of those ideals as part of a historical continuum. And for that alone, I root for the movement.

So, when this week we discussed with the other editors that we would devote Tiger Beatdown to different views of the Occupy movement, I cheered. I pointed out my frustration at the unexamined replication of American slogans that have little or no value in the European Union, namely, the tirelessly repeated “We are the 99%”. Which, let’s face it, is a great catchy phrase. From a marketing perspective, it contains everything great bylines are made of: short, descriptive, vague enough to be used in different contexts while still retaining its original intent, easily remembered. Except that, when repeated on European territory, as it is the case in most Occupations currently taking place across the continent, it is complete nonsense. Just to offer one example, at Occupy Amsterdam’s website, you can see, on the left side of the screen, the Official poster repeating this 99% meme. This, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, is a lie. At a quick glance, this Wikimedia map illustrates my points pretty clearly. There is no point of comparison in wealth distribution between any European country and the US. Even Turkey, which is not even considered part of Europe, has more income and wealth equality than the US. To put it in layman terms, European wealth is in the hands of a bigger group than a nominal 1%. The problem with basing your movement on a lie, on a catchy slogan imported from some place else is that your opponent can easily dismiss you. Facts, when in the hands of people with power, win discussions. And this, I am afraid, is not to be overlooked because the Occupy fight is not against one institution or one specific group, but against an entire system. If this movement is honest, then it will have to acknowledge that the fight itself is a struggle against kyriarchy, even if, in the interest of simplifying discussions, they prefer not to use such an obscure term. And because of that, the language we use, the facts we lay down on the table, the points we make need to be impeccable and impeachable. Which so far hasn’t happened at all.

The Empire strikes back

The European Union’s wealth is the wealth of Empires. Mainly the British, Dutch, Spanish, Belgium, French, Italian, Austro-German and Portuguese empires. This is the wealth built on the backs of the African slave trade and the colonization of lands as distant from each other as the African continent, the Americas, Asia and Australia. This wealth is made of unspeakable suffering and economic deprivation for those in the colonized territories. This wealth is also made of resource depletion and subjugation of native populations. This wealth that never belonged to Europe to begin with.

And yet, people talk of “Occupations”; which come to think of it, Europe invented as the very foundation of “modernity” to begin with. So what exactly does it mean to “Occupy” Europe in this context? What does it mean when the citizens of a super power of Europe’s magnitude talk of “Occupations”? National treasures, welfare states, museum collections, food production, trade agreements, the diamond trade, the automobile manufacturing industry (heavily based on rubber trade to produce tires), oil production and commercialization, military interventions: all of them and many more, based on this very idea of Europe “Occupying” extra territorial spaces. The very same wealth people now Occupying these public European squares reclaim as their own, demanding it is re-distributed while it was generated as a result of Europe’s occupations in the first place. And yet, none of this is examined or contextualized. Most people operating under the illusion that this wealth they are reclaiming is rightfully theirs, that they are entitled to it.

Europe, which through systematic occupations, created what Andre Gunder Frank has called the process of the “development of underdevelopment”. And yet, the European Occupy movement does not even attempt to integrate basic concepts like Dependency Theory, and its very European foundation in relation to Europe’s colonial past and neo-colonial present and how the very same wealth the Occupiers reclaim is not entirely legitimate:

The very basic premises of dependency theory are that:

  • Poor nations provide natural resources, cheap labor, a destination for obsolete technology, and markets for developed nations, without which the latter could not have the standard of living they enjoy.
  • Wealthy nations actively perpetuate a state of dependence by various means. This influence may be multifaceted, involving economics, media control, politics, banking and finance, education, culture, sport, and all aspects of human resource development (including recruitment and training of workers).
  • Wealthy nations actively counter attempts by dependent nations to resist their influences by means of economic sanctions and/or the use of military force.

And now, to prove that none of this Dependency Theory is a thing of the past, in a very recent display of neo-colonial power, NATO forces, the pan European military arm, occupies Libya, a former Italian colony, supporting the “good guys”, the rebel insurgent group whose idea of justice was to sodomize Gaddafi minutes before his execution (Warning for extremely graphic content). Europe, once again, behind the pillage of bodies outside their territory, because that’s another concept that Europe laid out the foundations for: the idea of what Judith Butler very aptly named “the non grievable” lives. Those that are placed as the perpetual “Other”, not “one of us”, undeserving of grief.

Occupy a Cage

These “non grievable” lives are only allowed to occupy very limited European spaces, namely, they are to be held captive as a punishment for crossing European borders. Their bodies to be kept outside the territory that only legitimate subjects can Occupy to reclaim wealth. Even though these people come from the areas that created the European wealth. Now they are conceived as unnecessary, unseen, silenced, their only permissible movement that of deportation, a return to the predated land that Europe has deemed no longer worthy of occupation, the formerly colonized territory. And this, I’ve said it before, is supposedly done in the name of the same European citizens that are now taking to the streets to reclaim the wealth they believe is deservedly theirs.

Travelers and Roma people constantly evicted from European spaces, their right to Occupy anything denied while a complacent media enforces their status as “Other” and as such, undeserving of the right to inhabit spaces that should be reserved for legitimate Europeans. Because, let’s be clear here once and for all: only people who are legitimized by the State can occupy anything. The rest, the undocumented immigrants, the refuges, the Roma, the asylum seekers, had their right to occupy revoked. However, the European Occupy movement is not widely addressing this deprivation and their role, as rightful subjects, in it. Instead, I insist, the movement claims a bigger portion of the tainted pie.

The foreign threat

All of the above brings me to one of my favorite topics: Europe’s contemporary role as a hegemonic power based on the constant need to demonize “the Other”.

None of this is new. All European Empires were built on this notion of “the Other”, the non human that was only good in so far as she could produce labor and resources and, in turn, more children to be exploited. Nowadays, these ideas constantly framed as “the immigrant menace” and the inevitable raising of xenophobia and racism; European governments passing laws demanding more and more stringent requirements to access a documented residency status. The non Western immigrant that did manage to acquire a residency, forced to learn the language of the country or risk deportation. The old colonial practices now enforced on European territories under the guise of “cultural preservation” and “integration”.

In Decolonizing the Mind, Ngugi wa Thiong’o described the practice of language controls in colonial Kenya:

Thus one of the most humiliating experiences was to be caught speaking Gikuyu in the vicinity of the school. The culprit was given corporal punishment – three to five strokes of the cane on bare buttocks – or was made to carry a metal plate around the neck with inscriptions such as I AM STUPID or I AM A DONKEY. Sometimes the culprits were fined money they could hardly afford. And how did the teachers catch the culprits? A button was initially given to one pupil who was supposed to hand it over to whoever was caught speaking his mother tongue. Whoever had the button at the end of the day would sing who had given it to him and the ensuing process would bring out all the culprits of the day. Thus children were turned into witch-hunters and in the process were taught the lucrative value of being a traitor to one’s immediate community.

Nowadays, European States (the Netherlands and Denmark are two such examples) have laws that demand Non Westerners learn and speak the local languages or risk fines or, failing to comply, eventual deportation. Their right to occupy a space subject to assimilation.

At the bottom of these practices there is one undeniable truth: the wealth that was acquired through the Empire, should remain, as much as possible, in the hands of the Empire’s subjects. The subjects that do not belong to the Empire, kept at bay through barbed wire, military raids, unfair trade balances, strict controls and subjugation.

If European Occupy movements have a real desire to change the contemporary power imbalance, all of this needs to be an integral part of its ethics. However, as much as I want to see this movement succeed, I do not have very high hopes. In so far, in Europe, the Occupy movement is mostly White and European. I have seen Amsterdam’s first hand (photos can be found here) and while it might not be exactly identical to the entire European wide phenomenon, by all accounts, it seems to replicate the demographics of its counterparts across the continent. White, native subjects of the former Empires demanding that their needs are met. Which is undeniably a very valid demand and one I wholeheartedly support. However, this expectation should not come at the expense of further oppression for “the Other”. Especially when European wealth was created at the expense of this “Other”, this non European that now bears the burden of her colonial past.

A social movement that demands change without examining the role of its participants in dominant discourse and their active and necessary participation as “subjects with rights” in the enforcement of State violence is only going to produce half baked results. It might timidly generate a superficial improvement in immediate wealth re-distribution, perhaps achieve some cosmetic short term improvements in the form of concessions disguised as “legitimate change”. However, such movement will only be an instrument for the perpetuation of the status quo. One where certain groups are deserving of a voice while others, “the Others” are quietly kept in their place. After all, Empires have never been very keen on sincere self examinations.

26 Comments

  1. anarres wrote:

    Wow. Thank you for writing this.

    Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink
  2. Leo Maathuis wrote:

    A very good analysis of all europeans

    Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink
  3. For this one piece, I’ll make one thing clear: I am not going to approve any comments that base their critique on the idea that I am speaking out of “ignorance” and that I have no clue of what I am talking about.

    It is fine to disagree with me, but to pretend that you (generic you), as a commenter, hold the truth and I am misguided and ignorant is a form of violence. If this is your defense of a movement, to exercise rhetoric violence on someone you disagree with, then I can see I missed one other critique in my piece.

    Additionally, telling me “But the US is also an Empire! Why don’t you criticize them!”, is NOT legitimate critique either. I do not live in the US, I have no in depth knowledge of the sociopolitical realities at play in the US Occupy movement (at least further than what media or first hand accounts share), so I won’t be criticizing it. Plenty of writers are doing it already. And, if your best defense is that “someone is doing it worse”, then I’ll have to laugh. I do not think “being less bad than someone else” is a legitimate political goal in any case.

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink
  4. STRATO wrote:

    I agree with most of what you said (as usual). Now, there is something that I find problematic.

    You say that migrants are “forced to learn the language of the country”. Is this an aggression? The US have *one* official language. In Europe, there are lots of languages, some of them spoken by 5-10 million people only. How are they supposed to survive if newcomers don’t have to learn them? And if they disappear to be substituted entirely by English, or Spanish, would that not be imperialist?

    You don’t need to look overseas for examples of people punished (even sent to prison) for speaking their own language. Ever heard of Catalan? A Spanish politician suggested bombs might be used to finally tame the Catalans YESTERDAY, in 2011.

    So, do I think it’s an unspeakable shame, the way inmigrants are treated in Western countries? absolutely! But should people learn the language of the country they work and live in, and not rely on a lingua franca? well, how many languages do we want in Europe?

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  5. Caitiecat wrote:

    Excellent analysis, Flavia; feel free to shoot back at those saying “The US is worse” by pointing out that we here on this side of the ocean have been criticizing exactly that: the disappearing of the First Nations, which have been occupied in reality for hundreds of years. There’s no analysis going on in a wider sense, though, of how the desire to “occupy” Wall Street ignores that the land Wall Street sits on, as indeed all the land in the US and Canada, was taken from First Nations. We have a shameful record of genocide, suffering, and exploitation. We learned well from our ancestors in Europe.

    Excellent analysis.

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  6. Well, the thing is, people WILL learn the language if they feel part of a community. I didn’t learn Dutch because it was forced upon me (that actually, came into law after I had moved here and already learned the language). Moreover, I am now starting an academic course in Dutch (in 4 weeks), which I am paying for myself, because I want to debate better. This did not happen because the government is threatening me with deportation (I already have the skill levels necessary to not be afraid of that), but because I *want* to be better at social participation. And I can assure you, I am not the only one who feels this way. However, people who are coerced into doing something or else face serious consequences become resentful. Learning a language should be, at the risk of sounding tacky, a labor of love. One where you feel there is value to it, and where there is value in the community you belong to. Not because the State tells you that otherwise you are going to be deported.

    Also, the US does not have an official language and that’s why people cannot be legally forced to learn English.

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink
  7. Elle wrote:

    @(4) There is certainly a world of difference between saying that learning the language of the country in which you currently reside is a good idea and something that most immigrants should probably do if they want to advance themselves (economically, socially, however) and deciding that you will kick them out of the country if they don’t.

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink
  8. nktw wrote:

    CatieCat makes the point that I wanted to add: it seems like all ‘Occupy’ movements are occupying stolen land, and while there’s some minor discussions here and there of that fact, there ought to be more acknowledgement of that, especially given the current state of our Aboriginal communities (in Canada, anyway). It’s our greatest shame, as a nation that perpetuates an image of being inclusive and multicultural and accepting of all. Yes. Unless you were here first.

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  9. Christina wrote:

    This is an interesting perspective, however I do have one serious objection: Leo Maathuis is absolutely wrong when he says that this is a good analysis of all Europeans. It is not. Instead the blanket term “European” is used to cover a lot of nations. Like you, I currently live in the Netherlands and I would agree that what you say applies nicely to the Dutch mentality. But it is certainly valid with regard to, e.g., the Greeks, the Irish or the Finnish.

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  10. Anna wrote:

    “The USA’s wealth is the wealth built on the backs of the African-American slavery… This wealth is made of unspeakable suffering and economic deprivation for native Americans. This wealth is also made of resource depletion and subjugation of native populations. This wealth that never belonged to the US to begin with. … What does it mean when the citizens of a super power of USA’s magnitude talk of “Occupations”? … The very same wealth people now Occupying these public American squares reclaim as their own, demanding it is re-distributed while it was generated as a result of USA’s occupations in the first place. And yet, none of this is examined or contextualized. Most people operating under the illusion that this wealth they are reclaiming is rightfully theirs, that they are entitled to it.”

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink
  11. Cyn wrote:

    As I was telling you earlier (IN OUR NATIVE LANGUAGE!! OMG!!!!), that thing about ‘having to learn English or the language of the European country you’re living in’ is very unilateral. In Mexico, we all know the usual US people who have been living there for ages and whose comprehension of Spanish doesn’t go beyond ‘me no entender’. And what do Mexicans do? Instead of telling him ‘aprende a hablar, pinche gringo’, we go to almost physically painful lengths to let ourselves be understood by him, in spite of our level of understanding and knowledge of the English language. Some go to the extents of hiding their accent, and try to make it sound as US-ian as possible. And after making the sacrifice of trying to make ourselves comprehensible in our own country, they laugh at us and say we all sound like either Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite or the cast of FRIENDS.

    Some European immigrants whose first language is not English do bother learning Spanish. I remember meeting two German girls at a Ladyfest who learned Spanish (and to a very advanced level!) exclusively to come to Mexico to that Ladyfest. And in uni, I remember exchange students from German, French and Italian-speaking countries speaking fluent Spanish and even using slang. One of my dearest teachers was Italian, and her levels of Hot Gossip Mexican Spanish were amazing.

    It looks like it’s the people from English-speaking countries the ones that are less bothered with learning the native language of the country they reside. And, ironically, they are the ones who insist us to speak English when we live in those countries.

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink
  12. Christina wrote:

    Oh dear, I meant to say that it is *invalid* as regards Greece, Ireland or Finland… Sorry!

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink
  13. Christina, that’s why I specifically named the former Imperial countries. However, Greece is not entirely without past issues (and present ones, like the conflict about Cyprus, for instance).

    Although nowadays, through the re-distribution of funds by the EU, nobody is free from these questions. There is a significant chunk of shared wealth going around and it is proportional to every country’s GDP.

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink
  14. AMM wrote:

    As a (USA) American who lived for a number of years in Europe (Germany), I can think of two ways in which Europe and the USA differ which are relevant:

    First of all, it is far more widely accepted in Europe that The System is not egalitarian: that power and wealth are controlled by certain classes who go to considerable effort to protect their power and privileges, and that inherited rank and wealth will trump ability and effort. (I’ve assumed that this is because of the history of feudalism and class systems.) By contrast, the large majority of USA-ans subscribe to the myth that hard work and talent are all you need to get ahead. The Occupy Wall Street movement is the first time I have seen USAans across society accepting the idea that the system is rigged against them. USAans are still struggling with the notion of class struggle, whereas it is more familiar in Europe.

    Second, European societies are more xenophobic than American society is. The USA has, over its history, absorbed large numbers of people from all over the world, and while many deplorable things have happened and continue to happen in the process, on the whole, within a generation or two, they are gradually (if somewhat grudgingly) accepted and absorbed into the fabric of US culture and society. By contrast, European countries do not seem to have any way to accommodate themselves to or integrate people whose culture differs from their own; immigrants have the choice of abandoning their own culture entirely and becoming imitation Germans, French, etc., or remaining outsiders who will always be seen as a threat to the host country’s society. The Danish cartoon affair and the French headscarf law are examples of this, as is the situation of the Roma. I’m not in Europe to see how this plays out exactly, but I would suspect that it would make it harder for average people in one country to see themselves as belonging to an international group that is being oppressed by what is by now a rather pan-European elite. I’m thinking of how the poor whites in the USA, especially the South, never made common cause with the Blacks.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  15. Sara wrote:

    That’s interesting Cyn. When I worked in business in Central and South America, it was understood that if you didn’t speak Spanish, you were dead in the water. I’ve never met anyone willing to bend over backwards to speak English to me, and am usually just happy if no one laughs at my broken Spanish. I think your perspective is interesting because maybe it just never occurred to me that anyone I spoke to was willing to speak with me in English.

    Flavia, another well-written article! Although, I felt throughout that you felt that maybe these protesters had no right to protest? I was a little confused there, because that’s the argument I thought you were making. I’d like to see European culture less xenophobic, and I agree that it needs to happen here as well.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  16. @Sarah, in my last paragraph I mentioned I not only want to see the movement succeed, but all of what I wrote should be an inherent part of the movement’s ethics. Just to give you an example of how it currently is not, check this photo (at the bottom of the post) from Occupy Amsterdam. WTF?! I mean, not only is none of Europe’s colonialism not addressed in the movement, but they openly mock any attempt by misappropriating sacred elements from Native American cultures?

    To make matters even worse, some European Occupiers are kicking homeless out of the camps because they take space in the tents! I mean, if they cannot even understand how one of the most vulnerable groups of society should be an integral part of their movement, then, I am afraid, it is a movement doomed to fail at real change.

    Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink
  17. strato wrote:

    @Flavia, Elle: I agree with both of you (and thank you for clarifying the US situation for me). As you can see, language is a sensitive topic around here…

    Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 6:58 am | Permalink
  18. Sara wrote:

    Hi Flavia, I read the last paragraph, of course, and got that you supported them. I was just surprised, as that wasn’t how I was expecting it to end!

    That picture is… wow. Sometimes people just make me want to shut my brain down so it all goes away.

    The Occupy movement in NY is facing an issue with running out of resources because they were feeding both protesters and homeless. I think they may have been trying to integrate, but with limited success. I’d like to see them succeed, because I couldn’t imagine just kicking them out.

    Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink
  19. Gathly wrote:

    I agree completely with these points, but I worry that while the occupy movement is heading into winter, we need to make sure it survives, before we start to attack every issue. I agree, though, that these issues must be addressed.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Permalink
  20. Berenjena wrote:

    Hello! This is a great article, and in my opinion spot-on. I’m Spanish but I live in the UK, and I’ve seen the occupations in both places, been to a couple of protests, and read quite a bit about them.

    Now, one aspect of the problem as I see it is that these protests are occurring from a very institutional framework. They are speaking of taxpayers and leeches, democracy and absence of representation, etc – mostly issues of justice that affect merely the citizens that actually identify themselves with the State.

    However, from what I saw in Spain some months ago, there were efforts from some sectors to speak out for illegal immigrants and the horrible conditions they live and work in (and how they are treated if caught) and to express solidarity with the Saharaui people and the Palestinian people. I’m not saying this equals having a coherent theory of justice and equality (including the imperialistic past in the discourse), and for being a “globalising” movement it sure is exclusive. But I do know that they aren’t all like that.

    So it’s not all that clear cut – but of course the demands are fairly oblivious to global injust structures of power, and concentrate on the national, and on State matters.

    There is a further explanation to this, though (and this extends to Occupy London too): a lot of the people protesting haven’t been politically active before. Some because they are young, some because they are incredibly disillusioned and disaffected. This means they aren’t politically aware of many things; they are not politically educated. And they aren’t entirely to blame for this (although I do not condone political apathy and disinterest).

    People get out and camp in the square because their privileges are being cut. People wake up when they start realising they have been fucked over. That is the start of mass political discontent – not automatic universal solidarity with other (much more oppressed) groups. I think this solidarity *follows* after the initiation of political activity, because people start reading, people start getting curious as to where the wealth comes from, people gradually become politically educated.

    For raising awareness, of course, articles like yours are indispensable. But in the same way I cannot demand of every “anti-system” person that they be a feminist (although it greatly frustrates me that they aren’t), because they don’t have the political education for it, I cannot demand that everyone be immediately aware of issues that they haven’t been educated in.

    In any case, for such a movement to succeed, it is VITAL to speak out for ALL oppressed groups, and to include them so they will speak out from within the movement. There has to be an alliance and a chain of solidarity with immigrants, ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’, with the working classes within the nation states, and with the agrarian and working classes of the developing world that are exploited for European benefit.

    About language: I entirely agree that nationality tests and language-forcing is bullsh*t and can be counter-productive. Completely xenophobic and disgraceful.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink
  21. @Berenjena, I was very, very disappointed at how Europeans were quick to abandon the entirely legitimate (and original) label of “Indignados” (Indignant) and start getting behind the “Occupy” banner. If anything, a protest based on indignation, from the get go, is based on a non colonial notion. Indignation, as a sentiment, is way more inclusive than the idea of “occupying” spaces, there is no State endorsed “legality” involved in it. One can be simultaneously indignant about one’s personal situation, while expressing the same outrage for the treatment of minorities and the raise of xenophobia. Whereas, Occupying, from the start, implies “the right to be in that space”. And yet, now all of Europe is being swept by “Occupy” copy cats, while abandoning the very roots of the movement which, let’s not forget, started in Spain with the Indignados taking to the streets.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  22. Tinet wrote:

    Thank you for this article – it’s very important to closely examine the words we use and educate ourselves about our own roles in the systems (local and global) that we are struggling to change.

    Regarding the figure “99%” – I of course cannot speak for the entire movement, but I always assumed that it was a rough, and yes, “catchy” number that stood for the wealth distribution in the entire world. Not just one specific country.
    According to Wikipedia, “the Gini index for the entire world has been estimated by various parties to be between 0.56 and 0.66″, which is a greater income disparity than in the USA only (0.45-0.49 according to the map you linked to).

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  23. Norah wrote:

    My aide went to check out occupy Amsterdam a few days ago. She said it was ineffective, filthy and seemed unsafe. She nearly ran away. It was apparently full of people who seemed to think of it only as an opportunity to do lots of boozing and drugs. She still holds out some hope for other towns. It may also have been that the groups who would need the attention/help of occupy in the Netherlands most, were not being included much. But I wasn’t clear on that one and would have to ask again. That may also be different in another town, I don’t know.

    I think that protests against some stuff currently going on in the country are being done a lot better comepletely independently from the occupy movement. Those are more specific though.

    About mandatory language lessons: it just gets worse when you check up on them: lots of people come into the country and aren’t being forced into them much. Maybe officially they are, but no one really cares or does much if they fail them, and many people don’t seem to have to do them at all. If you speak, say, English, no one is going to give a damn if you don’t learn to speak Dutch. I know many people from a variety of countries who have been living here for years and years and barely even understand a word of Dutch, let alone speak it. It mostly targets certain kinds of immigrants, the ones people have decided are the wrong kind. It’s definitely not about an attempt at preserving the language, that’s a pretty thin excuse. It’s an attempt at keeping certain people out by making it more difficult, or just more tiresome, to try to stay.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink
  24. YouThere wrote:

    I have no background in international relations or politics, but this made me think.

    You are right to point out the statistics being used during the movement. But on another level: are occupiers claiming that the wealth is theirs, or are they protesting against the *principle* of disproportionate wealth/power kept by the minority, who sponge off the majority who, despite being poorer, must pay for it (in all senses of the word ‘pay’)? That sounds like the colonial pattern to me and it seems right that Europeans should also get up and fight it – just as Indians, Algerians, South Africans etc did in the C20th.

    As a Black British person I wonder about the argument re. most of the occupation being white. These are majority white countries. Although in places like London, Leeds, Manchester etc there are sizeable black populations, we are still only %2 of the country. Biggest minority for the Netherlands, Indonesian 2.4%, 2% Surinamese; Germany, 2.4% Turkish. It goes on. There aren’t many of us and not everyone is politicised, left-wing, or even sympathetic to the cause. I know plenty of people – some of whom I am related to – from former colonies who study business, work in investment banks and, besides a dislike for personal racism, perpetuate many of the principles you’ve outlined above.

    I currently live in Singapore. It’s also a former British colony that currently tops the global chart for Mathematical literacy and has a steadily growing economy. The poverty here is stark and power is firmly in the hands of a majority Chinese single party (who now dominate the Malays and Indians) which has ruled since Independence. There is no Occupy movement. It was suppressed before it began, and even then there was widespread apathy towards the idea. The pattern I mentioned earlier is here repeated.

    I suppose my over all point is this: while your citation of Dependency Theory is unusual and sparks an interesting debate, isn’t there the danger of simplifying both the Europeans and the “others” in a C21st context? I am not saying that “Brown people are colonialists too!” therefore everything is hunky-dory in Europe – but I find it hard to apply this kind of criticism to the concept of occupation when enacted by people (not a military), in their own country, throwing stones at the powers that *oppress them as well*, even if to a lesser degree.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  25. @Tinet, in my piece, I didn’t compare income disparity or wealth distribution around the world. I only mentioned, specifically, the income and wealth differences between the US and Europe and how these differences render the 99% slogan quite ineffective (as in, in the US, it is said that 1% of the population hold most of the wealth; whereas in Europe, that percentage is higher than 1).

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink
  26. STRATO wrote:

    For the record, linguistic issues with newcomers are anything but bulsh*t. They are the crossroads between two oppressions, and, thus, extremely difficult to tackle.

    There are not just indignados in Spain, there are indignats as well. And there is a lot to be indignat about!

    Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink