# LIBERTY SQUARE /// Judith Butler at the Occupy movement “This is a politics of the public body”

Judith Butler spoke twice at Occupy Wall Street on October 23rd 2011 and, as an excellent theoretician of the bodies, brought this anatomical and biological dimension to the debate. Using the human mic has the advantage to force people who use it to reduce their speech to the essential, and in that case, gives us this beautiful ode to the physicality of the occupation: “It matters that as bodies we arrive together in public, that we are assembling in public; we are coming together as bodies in alliance in the street and in the square. As bodies we suffer, we require shelter and food, and as bodies we require one another and desire one another. So this is a politics of the public body, the requirements of the body, its movement and voice.
I already wrote in my last article about the radical choice that we make when we occupy a space as a body and its fundamental importance in this movement. It as bodies that this system oppresses us the most expressively, we therefore have to resist as bodies or as Felix Guattari puts it in a superb text To Have Done with the Massacre of the Body:

We can no longer allow others to repress our fucking, control our shit, our saliva, our energies, all in conformity with the prescriptions of the law and its carefully-defined little transgressions. We want to see frigid, imprisoned, mortified bodies explode to bits, even if capitalism continues to demand that they be kept in check at the expense of our living bodies.

Guattari Felix. Chaosophy. LA: Semiotexts 2007

The following text is the one read by Judith Butler at Liberty Square:

I came here to lend support and offer my solidarity for this unprecedented display of popular and democratic will.  People have asked, so what are the demands that all these people are making?  Either, they say, there are no demands, and that leaves your critics confused. Or they say: that demands for social equality and economic justice are impossible demands.  And impossible demands are just not “practical.”  But we disagree. If hope is an impossible demand, then we demand the impossible. If the right to shelter, food, and employment are impossible demands, then we demand the impossible.  If it is impossible to demand that those who profit from the recession redistibute their wealth and cease their greed, then yes, we demand the impossible. Of course the list of demands is long. We object to the monopolization of wealth, we object to making working populations disposable, we object to the privatization of education when education is a public good, when we support the right to education. We oppose the billions spent on wars, we oppose the expanding number of the poor, we rage against the banks that push people out of their homes, the lack of health care for increasing numbers of people; we object to economic racism, and call for its end.  None of these demands are up for arbitration.

It matters that as bodies we arrive together in public, that we are assembling in public; we are coming together as bodies in alliance in the street and in the square. As bodies we suffer, we require shelter and food, and as bodies we require one another and desire one another. So this is a politics of the public body, the requirements of the body, its movement and voice. We would not be here if elected officials were representing the popular will. We stand apart from the electoral process and its complicities with exploitation.  We sit and stand and move and speak, as we can, as the popular will, the one that electoral democracy has forgotten and abandoned. But we are here, and remain here, enacting the phrase, “we the people.”

4 Comments on “# LIBERTY SQUARE /// Judith Butler at the Occupy movement “This is a politics of the public body”

  1. Re Occupy & Trinity Church: You don’t need to be religious to understand -and embrace- the idea that “Whatsoever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” But many of the 1%, in blind greed and endless schemes, have forgotten this. They have closed their eyes to what the word “society” should really mean, what it can mean. But due to Occupy Wall Street, we are finally talking less about CUTS and more about BLEEDING. Instead of demanding m-o-r-e budget cuts -to be borne by the middle class and poor- we are FINALLY focusing on the shameful bleeding that the poor and middle class has endured, for all too long. Instead of talking about even m-o-r-e cuts in the taxes of millionaires….we are now talking about fairness and justice – about an economy and a political system that is increasingly run for the rich, and by the rich. Instead of talking about LESS government, we are talking about a government that WORKS FOR ALL OF US, not just a favored few. Thank you OWS, for reminding us that people -ordinary working people- really DO matter, and for helping open our eyes to what’s going on in this country, and why. The attempt by OWS to occupy Duarte Square (the empty lot owned by Trinity Church) is much more than a plea for sanctuary. For like Zuccotti Park, it’s an attempt to carve out a protected space, a living conscience for the city, amid the repression. A refuge…in a city where control-freaks would sweep us under the rug, and out of the way. In a city where they would pen us in, and permit us to death. In a city that tells us to “move on, move on”….. you don’t belong, you don’t count, you don’t have a right to be here…don’t assemble, don’t block the street, don’t trespass, don’t EXIST! They would deny us, deny our lives, deny our very futures. IF WE LET THEM. But OWS responds, both in word and in DEED: it says we’ve had ENOUGH – we BELONG, we STAND our ground, and we DO matter! This IS our land, and we want it BACK! The word OCCUPY…says it all! That’s why OWS has captured our imagination. That’s why a living breathing OCCUPIED public space is important for OWS. Like Lady Liberty’s never extinguished torch that burns in our harbor, OWS needs to have a concrete, persistent, in-your-face presence.. ..to continually remind us of what we’ve lost, of what we are, and what we can be; a protected place to affirm, to illuminate, to defy…and to inspire. Trinity Church, with its oft-proclaimed ideals (and its huge land holdings), should look deep into its collective soul, do the right thing, and help OWS secure a sanctuary. Not merely a space of refuge, but one of hope, non-violent change, and compassion. And dare I say: a space of love – love of country, love of your fellow man and woman, love for the poor and oppressed. Can thoughtful Christians argue with these simple Christian / human values? For if Christ were physically with us today, as He was 2000 years ago, He would be among the FIRST to climb those fences, and occupy Trinity’s Duarte Square. Of this I am certain. Let us pray that Trinity Church -and others -hear the call, and respond. For the old ways are not working…

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