How our occupation became just a consumerist festival.

Disclaimer: This article represents an opinion of one person/some people and not of the whole occupation. There is no authorised group and no official body that could decide upon an ‘official’ group statement for the occupation. The people in the occupation and in their immediate environment have diverse and controversial opinions. This diversity of different stances is therefore not censored here, but differing opinions can be equally valid and have an equal right to be seen and heard. No text will speak for the whole occupation or is necessarily approved by everyone participating in the occupation.

Last weeks in the times of cutting and destruction of our home I am often remembering how was the life here over one year I had spent here, how much it changed and how much we lost. From my perception there were two etaps of the occupation. In the first one we have been very few people and we were thinking a lot about how we live and what are impacts of our actions. Then the second period which started in summer with lot of people ariving in short time without enough time to discuss all parts of the daily forest life and get used to live diferent life than in city and criticaly think about impacts of our actions.
As one part of this change was that the occupation abondoned its anticonsumerist aproach. When the occupation was smaller we used to dumpster dive most of our food and have been critical about food which was donated to us and tried to communicate to people to at least not buy for us colonial products and idealy to simply not buy things for us maybe with exception of oil which was usualy missing in dumpsters. With exception of one or two treehouses with stupid gas cookers we cooked just with wood. As well we tried to recycle lot of building material we needed. For example instead of using new nails we usually rather used reycled unstraight rusty nails, straighten them and used them again. Oh I hated straightening these nails so much in beginning but after some built treehouses it just became normal and I wouldn’t get an idea to take new nails when there were buckets of old ones standing around.

For some of us anticonsumerism was of a strong importance for others bit less but it was a present topic in our conversations and I think quite everyone was somehow reflecting on our consumption and understood that everything which was produced for us had certain impact on enviroment. Our occupation was never perfect and there would be always things to criticize but we were trying to use what we had and buying things rather rarely than as a normal rutine.
Summer and especially end of summer was a challenging time with a lot of people ariving from diferent places and with different backgrounds and often with being used to different kind of life than we lived here. The eviction was about to start and the need to build and prepare structures to resist it felt to be more important than to talk about what are actually the changes we want to achieve in society and how would our utopias look like.
One of the changes which was easy to spot was change of food which was eaten in the forest. Before it used to be mostly fruits, vegetables and different kinds of freegan products found in the dumpsters behind supermarkets combined with organic potatoes which we were getting from a local farmer who was supporting us and in summer you could see more and more often rice or quinoa being cooked as well as fancy vegan products being around. Coffee was not anymore just in dirty packages found in trash behind Rewe or Edeka but nice looking “fairtrade” coffee and so on. What I found worrying was not only that people in the forest were consuming these things but that there was by most people no motivation to change something about it. One example of this was when we got offered from already mentioned friend farmer that we can go on their fields and collect potatoes for ourselfes it was dificult to gather people who would be willing to go and make this work. I mean why to collect potatoes from field when we can eat rice or pasta from supermarket?
I was not verry happy about this changes but it was still haven’t seemed to be so bad but it normalized the consumption to certain extend so that crazyer things were being more and more bought and consumed. One example was abouth a month ago when people from one barrio bought new planks from sawmill while there were always enough planks from pallets and other recycled sources so there was never really need for that and in my opinion if we are struggling against deforestation buying new planks from a sawmill should be the last option. Other example would be the many kilometres of plastics rope we used for building in trees. I mean I as well used lot of the bought rope because I concider it neccesary for what we were doing but I tried always to measure how much I need and thought about if it is actually usefull to build certain traverse or whatever structure. Unfortunatelly these days I see people grabing roles of polypropylen rope to build and when I ask them what they are about to build they often say that they don`t know but theat they wanna build something.
While eviction cops often destroy structures and cut down trees with treehouses without removing them same day so you can almost every evening go to fallen trees and save lot of the material we used. I would expect that with this amount of people around that couple of people would go each night and save the stuff before it gets trashed next day but often I find myself alone pulling out from the ruins of the houses sleeping bags, collecting the food, unknoting the climbing ropes, carrying away stupid gas cookers and other valuable stuff. I am going now everynight to recycle broken treehouses but there are still so many valuable things left because there are usualy not enough people to do that and at some point I also have to go to sleep. I mean why to go to save the ropes if we can get new ones? Or why to carry the sleeping bags, clothes, isomats or climbing material in the night when we can just get new ones in freeshop and if something would be missing we can always ask our supporties to buy us all what we want and if not we have enough money to buy it by our own.
The peak of consumerist culture was the Saint Nicolaus day this year. Someone initiated that people who support the occupation should send presents for that holliday to activists. There were literally full post cars of packages regulary coming over couple of past days. I want to say that it’s really nice gesture from everyone who send us gifts and it is nice to see how many people are thinking about us but the form of the action was bit unlucky. We live in abondonce. We have freeshop too full of clothes and sleeping bags. There is plenty of food everywhere and basicaly evyrthing you might need is here and in big amounts. The whole present action was in my opinion a mistake but what I find really bad is how people here delt with this huge amount of unnecesary things. Some of us wanted that it get used in a sensefull way so people started to sort out some things like candies, warm sleeping bags, rainproof jackets and other usefull stuff to take it to Bosnia to distribute refugees who are survivinig there in shit conditions even in the winter outside. Other things like phones or power banks we thought to sort out for next political actions, next occupations and so on. Some stuff could go directly to new forest occupation which is starting in other country in next weeks and some people from here are going there. Well unfortunatelly this were the thoughts of minority of people here and many people wanted to open the presents, eat all the chocolate and get new nice things into their private posession. It was so big amount of stuff so some of the things got saved for these projects but a lot got just looted and privatized. There were crazy situations like person with a litle bit wet sleeping bags coming to the pile of stuff sort out for refugees, throwing away their sleeping bags and taking one of the new ones from the pile. Yesterday I was watching this absurd situation of people standing around the pile of presents and opening one after another. I couldn’t believe the situation so I ask if the people are really opening the packages for themselves or if they are opening them to sort out the things for other projects and someone from the crowd answered me that both. People open them take what they want and the things they don’t want we will donate to people who need it.

Fuck that, fuck that, fuck that! So thats how it goes? Fucking privileged people in Germany who have everything they need and much more take the good stuff and the things German activists don’t want we give to refugees? Fuck that! Fuck German “anarchist”! Fuck this camp! Fuck your unreflected “climate movement”! Fuck all this shits!

I want to scream and I want to rip down all the banners hanging around and talking about international solidarity, about anticapitalism, about enviromental protection, about climate change. It is all just emptry words. To be fair there was a little protest of few forest people hanging next to the huge pile of “presents” banner saying “This is what capitalism looks like.” and shouting the same words. There are quite some people who find this whole thing to be wrong but it seems to me that we are still in minority.
I am sad how this occupation end up. I loved this forest and I loved to be part of the community we’ve built. It was my home. Now I feel ashamed and I want to run far away from here.

The enviromental or the climate movement in Germany is big and can mobilize lot of people but I think it needs to reflect a lot on its own behaviour otherwise it can’t achieve enything else than maybe bit greener capitalism.

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7 Responses to How our occupation became just a consumerist festival.

  1. Sunny says:

    Thanks for expressing all these thoughts, for sharing your reflection and therefore enable others to do this as well for themselves.

    I see all that You experienced and understand Your position an feelings very well. E.G. I’d have been the first person to help collecting & saving all the stuff from torn down treehouses…
    You mostly described both sides quite well. The “ones” and the “others” had quite different views of how and what to do in the forest. And there were all kinds of “in betweens”.
    The question I have is: Would You have liked all people, that couldn’t “dive deeply into forst-life” to stay away? From summer to autumn would You rather have stayed only with those deeper involved?
    Being exclusive in a way and shutting out those, who cannot involve in the same
    This is a difficult but important question in my opinion.

    Around me there are different ideas of what would be best. And there is the idea of a buddy-system for newly arrived people in order to allow a quick introduction and make them familiar with developed ways and thoughts or agreements of people in the occupation. It could make it easier to be “really involved” for “short-stayers”.

    I think we all ought to be respectful to ourselves an keep in mind that each one is moving on it’s individual path. And that all ways start with the first step. And some of all these young people just started activism in and around Danni. Some already longer “grown-ups” as well…

    Example: A person just left home with parents shortly, started studies or anything perhaps, and seeing the necessity comes to take action as a climate activist.
    Isn’t that a great thing? This decision to get up and start acting instead of just watching (or looking away)?

    It is very obvious that in the beginning people have not yet considered everything that could be considered or changed.
    That takes time. (Now there is time.) And it goes on and on. And doesn’t end, I think.

  2. ragau says:

    @author
    Thanks for this insight. Fast growing communities are not easy to handle (experienced this too in organizing just a gathering). I totally go with your points of criticism and feel your frustration through your words, but in the end: humans doing human things. When growing up in a throw-away consumerism society, it may be hard to shift your mind in a few weeks of romantic rebellion. It takes time, I guess.

    @mike
    it’s not about being better anarchist. It’s about how we wanna live and bigotry we sometimes find in ourselves (but often don’t wanna look at, so we react out of cognitive dissonance). And feedback, sharing your experience and critique ist valuable and legitimate.
    Just to assume Schwanzvergleich may is a cheap trick to fire back, even if there might be truth behind it too.

  3. lee says:

    Dear friend, I feel you, I feel you so much. Sad story is we are all part of this shitty dystopia, it is deeply ingrained into our heads. So pardon the people that took those gifts for themselves, they are part of a sort of cognitive dissonance I see very often thanks to which it seems really hard actually impossible to do what we believe in. Some anarchists were born in burgeois environments too. We need to talk about this more. I see selfishness everywhere too among my anarchist friends, and I also wonder if they are for real. But I try to remind myself that they dont need insults, but rather help. We all do.
    Thanks for reflecting on this. Dont let your anger towards the system be drowned by anger towards individuals.
    Lets make recycling fucking gr8 again always and forever.
    much revolutionary love

  4. Freihafen Osterholz says:

    Thank you for your honest reflection. In our relatively small occupation we do not have the same kind of material support that Danni has, but at the end of the day we do not want for anything.
    I see a value in using the abundance of solidarity that forest occupations enjoy to work more efficiently i.e. if there’s a pack of new nails around, I’ll use it instead of going through the motions of recycling old ones. But there does seem to be a slippery slope there towards full-on personal gain consumerism. We will have reflection and discussion on this topic to make sure that our struggle doesn’t turn into a “Materialschlacht”.
    I hope you are able to effectively and emphatically communicate your concerns to your comrades.
    Solidarity from the Osterholz occupation!
    #Entkalken
    #BlackSnakeKillas
    #OneStruggleOneFight

  5. Falter says:

    All of you, don’t be so harsh on each other! I understand the criticism and it should be taken seriously.
    On the other hand, hundreds of people from all sorts of backgrounds who, as you have stated, did not have the time to get adjusted to the new system, cannot expected to be perfect. Everybody, activisti and supporties, should keep your thoughts in mind and everyone of us all should work on themselves.
    Let us try to keep up our principles, but then, let us not be too harsh on each other if we are not able to live up to them now and again.
    Besides: Presents are not capitalism, people just meant to send love and be nice! Even if, sometimes, people, civilians, don’t know everything about veganism and sustainability!

  6. Piekarnik says:

    Quick thought for the first responder: maybe rather than going immediately for the eye gouge, you should consider the implications in what is being said here.

    What if there is something to the idea that an initiative of this kind becomes with firm but ambiguous principles, which over time become distorted by the accumulating influx of outside, transient demonstrators, who have not had time to adjust to this newfound way of live, and have not had the experience of weathering through them in heavier seasons.

    This image of a stubborn, superior-minded anarchist, unwavering in loft egoism, might be an easy construct to refute, but there is evidently something more going on here. In the outline, as presented, it is clear that this particular manifestation of resistance is under incessant encroachment from the forces which it seeks to defy and constrain. Surely the “fuck this and that” is all a bit gratuitous, but by the same token it ought not to be such a challenge to sympathise with someone who spent a year watching something already quite fragile drift further and further towards wanton consumerism.

    Have you considered that this might not be directed towards you specifically? Perhaps there are instances in the description which hit home, and remind you of a carelessness on your own part. Whether or not you feel that being attacked on these grounds is ultimately justifiable, there might still be something to learn from how you, or people you know, may be coming off in this particular presentation.

    Switching out wet sleeping bags for new ones – I witnessed this myself. But a superabundance always has at least two misleading effects. One is to convince the participants that there is more about than anything useful can be done with. The next is that people very quickly begin to use the store available as a kind of walk-in communal wardrobe, in which wet or dirty clothes, in terrible conditions, can be easily substituted for clothes which have been recently washed and dried, and left out neatly for anyone in even marginal need. An additional one might be that the impression is given that there is a sort of supernal mother figure always in the background, though never physically present, always available to replace what is sullied with something clean.

    I think it is always worth remembering that in this particular time, there is a collision going on, and one for which many of us may not feel comfortable admitting is taking – namely, between many of these late-stage bourgeois comforts and a new strain of entitled anarchism, which have never experienced enormous bouts of turmoil firsthand, and expects that principles alone, or the appearance of principles, will be sufficient for the whole enterprise.

    There is something dubiously ahistorical about this, and I often consider the chasm between the repression of anarchists historically, whether it being the torture and imprisonment of religious liberationist outfits in medieval Europe, or the systematic silencing and extermination of intellectuals and activists in the last century. In comparison to what we have now (and it must be admitted, the campsite was a veritable Weihnachtsmarkt on the day question) and what our predecessors had to contend with, famine, persecution, interment, defamation, insanity, perhaps we actually ought to be as careful as we can in our efforts to prevent the gentrification of these demonstrations, and to protect ourselves from being passively neutralised.

    ____

    Quick thought for the poster: you worked hard, you developed many valuable skills, and you manage to remain clear-headed enough to make valuable observations as to how such an action can become corrupted and complacent. You deserve a lot of credit for that. But keep in mind that one year there, or even ten years, twenty, however many it takes, will not put you so far ahead of everyone else on the positive end of the spectrum.

    If this was all as simple as you reaching conclusions, and those conclusions being then extracted and lain down as the universal benchmarks, then we would have already accomplished whatever was needed to have been accomplished some millennia ago, and the problems we face would never really threaten us.

    I am not religious, but I find the following metaphor might help to explain what I mean. Imagine a child being taken into a Buddhist monastery. The only way for an individual to attain to the highest proposed level of wisdom and escape from the long coils of mortal suffering is to spend an entire lifetime contemplating the cyclical and epicyclical varieties of life and death in the wider world, while still retaining something of a non-commutative distance. The implication is that the birds, the worms, the beetles, the peasants, the monarchs, the washerwomen, and everyone else upon the surface of the earth has missed their opportunity to take part in this particular system of abnegatory rituals, and discovered the proper way to what they refer to as enlightenment.

    I happen not to believe in total enlightenment, and doubt that it would ever be possible in a monastery. But as to achieving some sense of wisdom and closure in regards the agonies and circumspections we all face, there are those who for whatever reason have found themselves in a position of greater advancement, and those who have yet to even decipher the path they must take to achieve something similar.

    I recommend not looking back on all those who have not made it as far along the way as you have, and condemning both them and the action itself as an irredeemable failure, only worthy of your scorn. What are were trying to discover the roots of all of this, our world, our challenges, our solutions, if not for the possibility that there may be a better way for people to learn and to communicate this learning with one another? Are we otherwise only doing it for ourselves? Why bother? What are either one of us worth, in the long haul? For the other species on the planet? Perhaps ife will re-emerge, transform, and undertake its bewildering race towards diversity once again. Who is to say that any manner of mass extinction, even once as outlandish and unfortunate as the one we are currently causing, will have any effect over time besides the jumbling up once again of the conditions for life, and one more epochal generation of organisms?

    Evidently it is for each other that we strive. So why be so quick to write off the majority completely?

    Learn first. The learn to teach. And always teach to learn as well. The lessons cannot hold forever. They need to be passed on. It is the only way that anything will ever change.

  7. mike says:

    It’s quite apparent that you’re the best anarchist around, we should all bow down to your great revolutionary wisdom, thank you SO MUCH for enlightening us, oh great one.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NGu__oqMcKM

    PS: Fuck you too.

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