If you play by the rules, it’s impossible to win.

Posted: December 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

In Kristen Britain’s fantastic novel Green Rider–which I recommend to everyone–there’s a scene which I would say had been written about Occupy if the book hadn’t been published in 1998.

The book’s protagonist, a young woman named Karigan, finds herself trapped in a place between life and death with the two antagonists, a rouge prince named Amilton and the magical Shawdell.  Shawdell’s magic has made him one with Amilton, and Shawdell is the dominant part of the merged spirits.

On the table, a game of Intrigue was set up.  Amilton leaned over an army of red pieces, his eyes darting here and there over the board.  Shawdell, in contrast, leaned back casually in his chair, watching Karigan’s approach with interest.

“Won’t you join us?” he asked.

Karigan adjusted her grip on the sword.  “Why are we here?”

“Would you believe anything I told you?” he asked.

“I will judge your words for myself.” 

“You will not like what you hear.” 

“Just explain,” Karigan said. 

“All right.” Shawdell’s voice was quiet. “With your actions, you have released wild magic and it has torn the wall between worlds.  You brought us here.” 

“I don’t believe you.” 

“As you wish,” he replied. 

All that mattered was leaving this place.  “How do we get back?” 

Shawdell mocked her with his light and musical laughter. “You would trust me with the answer?  You who not believe what I tell you about where we are?”  She glared at him, and he stopped laughing.  He leaned forward. “To leave, we must finish the game. You must sit down and play.  Won’t you have a seat?” He gestured at the empty chair. 

“I don’t want to play,” Karigan said. 

“I thought you wanted to leave this place,” Shawdell said.  “You must win the game to leave.” 

“No,” Karigan said.  She hated Intrigue.  She always lost.  She gestured to Amilton. “Why doesn’t he make a move?” 

“He moves when I give him leave.”

“And when do you move?”

“I move when you sit down to play.”

“And if I refuse to sit?”

“Then we remain an eternity in this place.  But if you play the game, you have a chance to win.” 

“Why don’t you use your magic?” Karigan asked. 

“Play the game,” Shawdell said.  “Play the game.  It is the only way we can leave.” 

Karigan laughed, giddy with sudden insight.  She was the Triad, the random element.  She could spur the game on or maintain the stalemate.  She controlled the game.  She remembered what Zachary had said to her, playing in the castle not long ago. “If you play by the rules, it’s impossible to win.” 

She raised the sword over her head.  Shawdell quailed.  The sword slashed down like a scythe.  The blade bit into the cork game board and the pieces scattered.  The sword carved into the table and deep through it.  The place between worlds disappeared, and the sword clattered loudly on the stone floor of the castle.

Occupy is the Triad.  The random player.

We aren’t anywhere close to splitting this world apart yet, but so far, we’re headed the right direction.  We aren’t playing the game of electoral politics–the game that is rigged against us.  And we should keep it that way.

As we head into the 2012 election season, the Democrats are going to tell us to sit down and play the game.  They’ll tell us it’s the only way.  And we have to fight back against that lie.  As Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never tear down the master’s house.”

They will throw up pictures of incredibly scary Republican candidates, but remember it’s the Democrats who have actively engaged in cracking down on Occupy protests.  It’s the Democrats who have expanded the practice of military detention.  And Democrats have signed on with enthusiastic support to completely strip US citizens of their right to due process and impose massive austerity packages.  The Obama administration has made it abundantly clear to a new generation of activists that we cannot win this game by electing Democrats.

We don’t need to play their game.  We need a new game.

This is part of why the blockade development is so exciting.  As Boots Riley said, “They coordinated attacks against us.  We’re going to launch a coordinated attack against the 1%.”  Blockades, occupations, strikes, and community pickets aren’t playing their game, and the results aren’t rigged in their favor.  That’s why the crackdown has been so coordinated and has escalated in scale rather quickly (considering the movement is not yet three months old).

But whatever actions we pursue going forward, independence from the political parties is going to be key.  Whether it’s occupying foreclosed homes, mic checking CEOs and politicians wherever they go, or showing our solidarity with striking workers–the Democrats aren’t going to support Occupy, they’re going to fight it.  And they’re going to fight it hard.  Just like Shawdell and Amilton, corporations and capitalist politicians are one and the same.  They fight together, and they’re probably going to die together.

From Oakland’s general strike to the massive labor turnout in NYC, we are showing that we are beginning to understand collectively that our power is not in the isolation of the voting booth, but with our arms linked in the streets.

We aren’t playing by their rules.  And that’s exactly why we can win.

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