We all occupy a placeby Daniel R. Hirtler on 05/08/12
For all the important public discourse that has been sparked by the "Occupy..." movement, the brilliant core challenge that has been set against our capitalistic society has not been clearly raised as an issue yet. That challenge is that we all (stated as inclusively as anyone can conceive) have a right to occupy space in this world; that our occupation of space cannot be commodified because there is no alternative to our being but that we cease to be.
The occupation of publicly accessible space as a living place raises the issue of a society's moral right to govern the use of public space if there is no provision made within that society to allow any and all uses which members of the public may need or want to participate in.
The "Occupy..." movement chooses to set up camp in the locations where it protests. It uses public space to supports the bodily functions that human beings require to perform in order to live for any extended time. As the governing bodies at these locations object (more to the camping than to the ideology), it becomes clear that we, as a society, have not addressed humanity, and its right to exist, in the cultural constructions we have made. We only acknowledge the individual, and only then when that individual controls resources and power. We drive the powerless out of our society, and out of our cities, insofar as we are capable, often to the point of death.
The laws against public urination and defecation are enforced against persons in most cities, while, at the same time, the public has not guaranteed everyone who is in the city, a publicly acceptable place to urinate and defecate. this is a fact that people who are established in a place have long, willfully ignored. It is assumed that everyone will go back into the private realm before they demonstrate the needs of human beings.
What about people who no longer have a private place to go to live. As a society, we do not see having a private place to live as a right. We see it as a commodity. In many places the public may offer some accommodation to the homeless, but it never comes without a cost to the person who is accommodated. In other words, for those who have failed (for whatever reason) to be able to secure a place to be within the society's market system, the society will force those people to participate in that system they failed to negotiate in order to house them. Living in the streets, in the parks, on the buses is made illegal and trying to live in that public realm is made punishable. Hmmm...a market that forces one to buy because no alternative is allowed. What about letting human beings just live.
We, as a society, do organize the public spaces that we create to permit them to serve the common good for which we make them, but we do not take humanity into consideration as we decide the scope of the public realm we create. If we really valued our humanity, and really valued our human privacy as a right which should be enjoyed by all who want it, we would develop a public realm where those things are respected.
Our humanity would be respected by permitting its expression in a meaningful way, in meaningful places, by all humanity, not just permitting the expression of socially condoned thoughts and actions. If humanity were respected, its discomforts would be permitted to be visible for introspection and cultural change once those discomforts were understood.
Our human privacy would be respected by accepting that keeping one's life out of the way of others is not an obligation, but a choice, and the choice, if taken, should be supported by all of us, as a society. The balance between hiding oneself and being seen should be cherished as a human right, not to be forced into society's mold.
Sadly, most people who talk about this public occupation, reduce it to the stupidly practical. They say that if "some-people" use the public space in the way they need or want to, then "all-people" have their use of those spaces taken from them. It is indeed true that my occupation of any space precludes your occupation of that same space at the same time, but that only addresses a physical fact. The sinister thing those people are actually saying is that when "some-people" use the public space for their individual purpose, then "all-people" have their condoned use of the public space infringed upon. They are saying that the public realm is not maintained for the use of our humanity, but rather for the workings of society's established norms. In reality, order and freedom are both needed in order to manifest humanity into a culture. Once formed, any culture crystalizes and wants to be done with freedom. while we still live our culture should remain formative in order to serve our needs.
We need to talk about the issue of our human right to be, and particularly our right to be somewhere. Many of the issues that are discussed now; the unjust distribution of wealth, illegal immigration, criminalization of private behavior, would be a great deal more manageable and less polarized if we talked enough about our human right to be (here), and started to establish a common picture of that human right.