We get a lot of visitors here at Chez Blaze because of the extra bedroom, through CouchSurfing.org and from family and friends who all have lots of reasons to visit the capital of their country/the awesome tourist city in Europe.
We had a couple of exurban Americans here earlier this year, and I was walking with one of them in a public garden outside the city where we came to a quasi-isolated corner where one can see a castle. There were two boys, maybe 16 or 17, sitting on a bench and talking while looking at the castle. We kept on walking, and the American confided in me that he was afraid that those boys were looking for a fight.
Those boys? The ones sitting in a flower garden talking? They didn't seem that threatening. But I don't live in suburbia anymore.
As a suburban refugee myself, I had to get over the idea of people being in the same space as me and sometimes not doing anything in particular when moving to an urban area. My spidey sense used to go off all the time in this country.
It might sound stupid to people who haven't lived in suburbia all their lives, but you don't see people who you don't know too often in the burbs. You don't see people you know too often either, outside of work or school or church. Heck, you don't see people all that much if you don't have an actual reason to see them.
It's something I've been thinking more and more about lately, about how some social apes like us decided that it was a sign of status and safety to not interact with others. That if you're a dude and you want to hang out with another dude for no reason, well, that's kinda gay. If you're a woman raising children while working a full-time job, where's the time for friends? If a relationship between a man and a woman isn't sexual and neither person is queer... well, is such a relationship even possible?
As a politics blogger, my instinct is to blame this on someone with power. And the federal and local governments have encouraged the development of "everyone in their own box" neighborhoods. Keeping people far from each other - and wary of each other - means that they're less likely to organize.
The Nation has an interesting commentary of Occupy Wall Street up, talking about its relationship to sexuality. These two paragraphs about alienation stand out:
We just talked and talked. "You know, if you count it up," said a beautiful boy at Zuccotti Park, "the average college senior has spent two years of his life playing video games." David was his name and he had read a study, but the evidence was under his own dark-coffee skin. He was 21. It seemed entirely plausible to him that he had expended 10 percent of life-so-far in solitary electronic combat. He had merged into the mass at the renamed Liberty Square with a camera, but put it aside and sat talking with my friend Prerna and me for two hours. What had so much video gaming wrought? I asked. An abstraction from reality, he reckoned. An abstraction deepened, Prerna thought, by almost never having known a time when "reality" was not also coupled with "TV."
Now there was elation just to feel, talk, press against another shoulder, hear one's own voice with others echoing, "We are... we are... we are..." Maybe that is why the cold, the rain, the relative privation, have not mattered so much to the relatively privileged protesters. They have hungered for their moment of true feeling. A skinny blond boy rolling cigarettes had not slept in days but anchored Nick at Night [the cigarette-rolling station] --"more popular than the food table," he said--where others came for a loosey and talked the night away. In a far corner of the park, drums beat and girls whirled in thin silk shifts. They had done it for hours. They could do it all day if rules hadn't placed limits on noise. Check your cynicism, I told myself on my second visit to the park. These are people drunk with love, and feeling thus, are loving in return.
This is pretty much how I've tried to approach queer politics on this site: sex and conjugal relationships are good because of their ability to end alienation, but neither is the end of the story. Having one solid relationship and few to no other voluntary relationships is a poverty; having lots of sex without relationships is another poverty. What's important is the connection that can happen in all sorts of relationships, a connection that shouldn't be limited.
The image that's been used to deride the protests the most is that of drum circles. Apparently, no one would have a problem with drums being played by themselves, nor do commentators who are fans of some form music with percussion have a problem with drums played by musicians in an organized context.
The image that disturbs them is that of drums being played by people because people like playing drums with each other. People getting together in a messy context where everyone has a voice, even if it's in drum-form.
It's the anti-status symbol of these past few weeks, people coming together, because it doesn't build alienation. And, of course, anything that's really subversive (not the fake subversion that mass culture often offers up) is going to marginalized by the establishment by any means necessary.
Here, subverting alienation isn't cool. And sometimes it's labeled as dangerous - Premarital sex will kill you! Don't talk to strangers, they'll only mug you! Don't organize with your co-workers, they only want to take your money! Or frivolous, because the only important things in life involve church, money, one's biological family, and that one conjugal relationship you're allowed. Or connection gets gay-bashed. That's a popular tactic.
But it's a good in and of itself, and if people at these occupy protests are learning to get along better and forming relationships and talking and organizing, who cares if they don't have a list of demands that the media can sound-bite. What they're accomplishing by getting away from the TV screen is important enough.