The demands for a return to American Dream-style individual prosperity have been very prominent in the emerging “Occupy Our Homes” movement. This latest iteration of Occupy, dedicated to assisting those being evicted and foreclosed from their homes in forcibly keeping what is theirs, has been taking homes this winter in lieu of public places. This has been a welcome development, yielding an escalation in tactics, a path to direct populist communication, and a direct confrontation with the infallible institution of private property. But troubling signs of capitalist ideology have emerged in the rhetoric behind their actions. They desire nothing less than a return to the economic “normalcy” that the 1% has normatively determined: the American Dream for everyone. Everyone deserves to have an affordable home. Let’s all go back to the 90s, when things were going so well for us economically.
The rhetoric of capitalism is ever present, to the extent that, even when we can clearly identify our discontent with the system, we largely mistake individuals as the culprits, instead of the ever-present ideology that enabled them to act and enabled you to participate. The target should not be the group of individuals that is preventing you from acting out your capitalist-reinforced vision of “normal” life — the American dream, as it were — but instead that dream itself, based on false premises and a distorted idea of the fully-realized existence. Don’t bother with whatever oppressor is it today (is it Goldman Sachs? Perhaps Chase? If we don’t have a named shiny office tower to march on, how will we actualize our discontent?). Bother with the institution of oppression itself — that is, capitalism — and its rhetoric and ideology that is imposed on you, even through your own social movements.