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Composite Remarks | Judith Butler

Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Washington Square, October 23, 2011

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.”

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