Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupying Wall Street

Many bloggers and pundits are arguing that the #OccupyWallStreet movement is the start of something big, potentially transformative, that will give us our best chance of wresting our desitny out of the control of the corporate oligarchs, and restore our democracy.

Or is is going to be a brief flash in the pan, with no lasting effects?

I'd like to think the former.  I fear the latter.  One of my metrics is how many of the privileged college students on my campus really get involved, or whether most will continue their lives of self-absorption.  So far, there's not a lot of activity.  College students ain't what they used to be.

RMJ at Adventus
The Occupy Wall Street "movement" seems to be less about recreating the democratic republic in miniature, and more about reclaiming the ancient Greek ideal of "democracy." It is not unknown in this country, the idea that democracy means listening to all the voices of all the people. The man standing at the town hall meeting is a citizen entitled to be heard like very other citizen, where the vote is a consensus of those gathered, not the decision of representatives. If Occupy Wall Street doesn't have one message to convey, that is because it is conveying a message by what it is rather than just by what it says. Ironically, in this web-linked and internet besotted age, actions still speak louder than words. And trying to reduce actions to words is as much a distortion as trying to reduce the parables of Jesus to simply moral homilies.
Richard Eskow at HuffPo
How do you end insanity? By seeing the reality as it is - not by seeing parts of the truth, but by seeing the whole. You start by seeing that we're being run by, and manipulated by, a system. It's a corporate system that drives our politics, our news, and even our entertainment. You begin to see it as a system that's overthrown our basic values and discarded our basic sense of decency, replacing themwith an exaltation of consumerism and a condemnation of the unfortunate.

People have been waiting for someone to connect the dots. They've been waiting for someone to explain how these forces act together and work totether to exploit us. They want to know how and why they'e been losing their wealth, their security, and even their self-esteem.

The #OccupyWallSt protestors are succeeding. They're carrying the message - and they're being heard. They've won over the Transit Workers Union, the Airline Pilots Union, the SEIU, and - in an echo of Tahrir Square - soldiers in uniform who are willing to defend them. You don't do that by proposing a financial transactions tax, as important as that is. You do that by demanding an end to the insanity, the madness that's being manufactured and distributed every day by the leaders of corporate America.

Douglas Rushkoff at CNN:

The members of Occupy Wall Street may be as unwieldy, paradoxical, and inconsistent as those of us living in the real world. But that is precisely why their new approach to protest is more applicable, sustainable and actionable than what passes for politics today. They are suggesting that the fiscal operating system on which we are attempting to run our economy is no longer appropriate to the task. They mean to show that there is an inappropriate and correctable disconnect between the abundance America produces and the scarcity its markets manufacture.

And in the process, they are pointing the way toward something entirely different than the zero-sum game of artificial scarcity favoring top-down investors and media makers alike.


dr.primrose said...

For stories on what's happening with the parallel group in Los Angeles, see Hundreds of protesters take over downtown intersection and Bank protesters arrested after trying to cash $673-billion check.

Counterlight said...

The ones I saw among the hard core campers here in New York looked less like college students (although some certainly were) and more like the social dropouts who congregate in places like Williamsburg, Brooklyn or San Francisco. They were a rough looking bunch, but they were strikingly well organized with high morale, and remarkably friendly.
The gawkers and tourists were largely sympathetic with some making their own signs and joining in.

As to whether this goes anywhere, we shall see.

dr.primrose said...

Good column by Paul Krugman in the N.Y. Times -- Confronting the Malefactors. Some excerpts:

"There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear, but we may, at long last, be seeing the rise of a popular movement that, unlike the Tea Party, is angry at the right people.


"What can we say about the protests? First things first: The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right."


"[I]t has been easy to forget just how outrageous the story of our economic woes really is. So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts.

"In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis.


"[T]here are real political opportunities here. Not, of course, for today’s Republicans, who instinctively side with those Theodore Roosevelt-dubbed 'malefactors of great wealth.' Mitt Romney, for example — who, by the way, probably pays less of his income in taxes than many middle-class Americans — was quick to condemn the protests as 'class warfare.'

"But Democrats are being given what amounts to a second chance. The Obama administration squandered a lot of potential good will early on by adopting banker-friendly policies that failed to deliver economic recovery even as bankers repaid the favor by turning on the president. Now, however, Mr. Obama’s party has a chance for a do-over. All it has to do is take these protests as seriously as they deserve to be taken.

"And if the protests goad some politicians into doing what they should have been doing all along, Occupy Wall Street will have been a smashing success."

JCF said...

So help me, if the Democrats want to WIN in 2012, they'll run against people like "Mittens" (heh) and their "Job Creators" meme: "Yeah, creating slave labor jobs in China!"

dr.primrose said...

Yet another good column on this subject from Paul Krugman in the N.Y. Times - Panic of the Plutocrats. Some excerpts:

"It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.

"And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called 'economic royalists,' not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.


"The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.


"What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

"Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

"This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.

"So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth."