A plea from the undead

A 2009 text from the California student movement directed at fellow students who had not participated in the occupations and protests.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 10, 2012


From the graveyard of history comes a plea from the undead… BE REALISTIC, DEMAND THE IMPOSSIBLE!!!

I sincerely hope that all of you know about the walkout and the student occupation that took place the whole first week of school. The struggle continues, and this message is brought to you by those students who were a part of the occupation as well as those who have joined them in their fight.

One of the most bewildering observations made from the inside of these events, especially the student occupation, was the realization of how symbolically important they were for activists all around the world- within hours a solidarity rally was held in Union Square in New York; letters of solidarity have come groups from all over California, all over the US, as well from as far away as South Africa, Croatia, the UK, Greece, and Italy; The UK Guardian ran an editorial several days ago on the emergence of new student movements that began its story with the UCSC occupation- and here, right in front of us, how unimportant they were for those who passed by and read our banners, looking upon us as if we were no different than some student group in the quad advertising our fraternity of sorority.

The most common criticism we’ve heard time and time again in response to these actions, posed by skeptics on the sideline, is the question, “Do you really think this is going to change anything?” There is a short and simple answer to this one. “No, absolutely fucking not.” As single actions, as single events composed of only an insignificant percentage of the student/worker body, from the start, they had no chance of doing anything at all. Sometimes it seems that the only thing that could have possibly appeased the people who asked this question is if the morning after the events, the world entered into a new perfect era of peace, freedom, equality, and prosperity.

Their cynicism reeks the stench of premature death, as if history were already written and nothing could be done to change it. We won’t accept this. We can’t accept this. If we do then there is no point to anything, no point to education, no point to even wake up in the morning.

For those of us who are juniors and seniors, we try to put the problem out of our minds and just focus on graduating, feeling lucky we’ll be able to finish before it gets worse, but trying as hard as possible not to think about what comes next in the absence of a job market and a secure future. For those of us who are freshman and sophomores, we feel cheated and robbed, financially and academically as we are forced to pay more for less and more crowded classes that no longer have sections and TA’s to help us, and socially and culturally as we are now expected to partake in a fight over a problem we didn’t start, at a time when we just want to have that standard right of passage college experience of partying and getting to know ourselves.

No one here picked this crisis. No one wants this crisis (except of course for those corporate oligarchs who are able to find it profitable). But it is a reality that we must step up to challenge.

The media likes to pick rhetoric that softens the blow- what we are dealing with is a recession, just a temporary setback; we just have to buckle up right now, fasten our belts, and get through it; we just need our faculty and staff to take something called “furloughs.” Yudof explained the meaning of this word perfectly to the New York Times, saying the reason for using the word “furlough” is that it sounds more, “temporary than “salary cut.

What we’re experiencing right now isn’t a temporary setback, but an irreversible downward spiral. It is a fundamental restructuring of society always passed quickly and covertly during times of crisis, meant to leave people so shocked and awed at what is happening to them that they are unable to organize and respond. (Why do you think that the majority of these “resolutions” were passed during the summer months when students were away?) It is a phenomenon that has already occurred all over the world where free trade economic policies cut social services and put everything under private control, giving unimaginable power to an elite few while impoverishing the rest. It is an economic shock therapy treatment pioneered in the US that has now come home.

We’re being fucked right now and history has given us no reason to believe that anything will ever get better without a fight!

Many slogans were generated as a result of the first week’s occupation. Many of them were chanted by hundreds of students who partook in what were meant to be politically galvanizing dance parties. One of the many slogans produced from the occupation was “No business as usual!” As classes return to “normal” (albeit severely lacking resources available in the past), it would seem this message has already gone unheeded. This year can’t be like any other year. It already isn’t.

The problem does indeed seem like an impossible one to solve but in an allusion to the spirit of a student movement before us, for a week over the quad flew the words: “Be realistic, demand the impossible, or else…” that is, or else be ready to face the consequences of inaction- a society that no longer considers working towards anything but a centrist political compromise, and a civilization that is no longer able to dream of bettering itself.

Perhaps most notorious of the slogans was the single demand “We want everything!” Why should we want less? We want everything back that’s been taken from us and we want shit we didn’t even have in the first place. We want our junior high track team back. We want our state parks protected. We want a job market with the promise good paying jobs with benefits. We want well functioning affordable universities with well paid staff and faculty. We want all war to end. We want a just, free, equal society. We want the promise of a bright future. We want the impossible, and to get it, we need to be willing to do the impossible. We must end this dead end logic that waits for hope to fall as manna from the sky above. We must ourselves be the hope that we desire.

There are many ways for everyone to get involved in what, at this point, cannot be anything less than a broad social movement. Everyone must think what knowledge, skills, and resources they possess that they can contribute what ideas they have to push this struggle forward. We must organize. Start just with your immediate friends and make a plan for action. You don’t have to do this in place of partying; as our dance parties were meant to show, activism can be a party itself. Form networks amongst smaller groups and coordinate efforts. Break down the barriers between undergraduate students, graduate students, workers, professors, and community members. We’re all in this together. If you disagree with any of the tactics that have been used, then don’t simply criticize; pick and follow through with tactics you don’t disagree with. We are all working towards the same end. Together we must make this year, and the years to come, and however long it takes, something the administration, the state, and all of those who got us into this fiscal mess, wish they had never started.


Originally posted: October 11, 2009 at Occupy California