Link. If true, this is very good news. But if we should take anything from Egypt, it’s that toppling Assad’s just gonna be the beginning. Best of luck to the Syrians. May their road be easier and more humane from here on.
The Global Occupy Movement has spread to over 1,000 cities. As days turn into months, the number of people on the street steadily increases. Momentum seems to be building, not waning. The Occupation has arrived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I think that what we are witnessing with this movement, and the corporate media reaction to it, is the cultural retirement party for an old social map printed in black and white, lacking the interactive apps of the new maps — whereas the Occupiers serve as a welcoming committee for the arrival of options, of other ways to be in this world. It would serve us well, we human types, to address this cognitive gap. I believe that it is not only possible to communicate with the cognitively impaired, but, as we have allowed them to run amok through the halls of power, it is now imperative that we do.
I googled “They made their point,” and “They should go,” and “Occupy.” This is some of what came up;
“They made their point—only I’m not sure if they knew what that point was—no one else did. Apparently, it wasn’t all that important at the time of the start of the movement .” – Steve Rose, blogger/cop
“They made their point. Probably about time to go home.” – Otto Maddox, self described dork
“Maybe it’s time for the children to go home. They made their point, and they can continue their protests and activism, but the time for the campout is over.” – Rob Port, angry person
“They made their point, people acknowledged it, now why don’t they go do something useful?” – some forum commenter, being useless.
“That’s the great thing about this country, you can stand up and say what you want, but I think they made their point,” – Asian businessman that joked to a cop, “Bring out the tear gas and call it a day.”
“They made their point now get out and get back to living. Lets stop this NOW.” – Rosie
“They made their point, but now, they are overstaying their welcome.” – Larry
“They made their point…Which is they have none…Why the press covers this story is beyond me…Just kill ‘em.Time to move on…” – LiberalsRDopes, angry person
“They made their point,” – Sgt. Limbert of the Mission Police Station
“They made their point but are now becoming irrelevant, ok….got your message, now go back to work, school or your bong, but stop costing taxpayers money that has to be diverted from other programs to police these love-ins.” – rjag, Angry Canadian
I’ll venture to say that “their point” has not been made, nor will it be for some time, because of the difference in the way in which one interprets what a “point” is. On the one hand, the occupiers come from a place of realizing the wisdom of sustainable growth. Conversely, the naysayers, rather than admitting an inability to grasp the meaning or implications of something new and different emerging in the political environment, invoke a cultural banishment spell (such as “They made their point”) to put it out of their minds. It’s a recusal from the dialogue under the premise of some higher cultural authority, or sense of “normalcy.” I think that is my favorite response to the Occupations, and I hear it often. It’s that irony thing that I like so much. It reveals a lot about the person that utters it, and the cognitive maps in play. The purpose of slogans like “They’ve made their point” is to reduce and marginalize anything seen as a threat to the status quo or their bourgeois personal identity — which often, in these types of cases, are one in the same. “You’ve made your point” used in the examples above, translates roughly into “I’m tired of hearing your nonsense, and/or I’m ill-equipped to respond intelligently.” It can be seen as a self-defense mechanism employed by a threatened creature. If seen this way, compassion for the opposition comes more easily.
The rhetoric of 99% vs. 1% has a use. Of course, a Movement of 100% would be really nifty for a bit, but not possible, nor desirable. For those “We’re-All-One” purists that have a problem with the divisive function of the 99% slogan, may I remind you of the Red Vs. Blue wedgie that has had us on our toes for the past decade? I’d say surgically cutting out a 1% cancerous tumor is a big improvement over chainsawing the country down the middle. There’s magic in taking out and isolating just one percentage point. For a moment, the 99% have an opportunity to imagine that their individual causes can be joined with a greater cause. I see the 99% icon as symbolic of dethroning a monarchy, or aristocracy. We are “in the meantime” now. This is the moment when power shifts.
This is not a protest, and the people are not protesters. This is, as the name implies, an Occupation. The Occupiers are not there to do anything as much as they are there because of what has been done. This is a direct consequence of unchecked greedy causes. The people that just want this to go away are afraid. Of course, there is the fear of the “1%,” the CorportateBankerLobbyistMedia cabal and the authorities that serve them. That fear says Mission Accomplished. But there is another fear, on the other end of the spectrum, a fear and anxiety around daring to hope that real, meaningful change in the consciousness of the human endeavor is possible. Maybe not everyone would describe it that way. Here’s another way: who doesn’t want to live a more authentic existence? If given a choice between surviving and thriving, what would you pick? We can have this discussion now, and those choices are available. Endeavoring to understand how we live in the world together is the new sexy. “OMG, did you see how huge her ethnobotanical-socioeconomic comprehension was? That was hot.”
There are a large number of Americans that want what we all want, they just don’t want it to be complex. This condition of narrowness, which manifests as various forms of fundamentalism, has little to no capacity for irony, metaphor, or a spectrum of possibilities. Yes or no, good or bad, black or white. Think binary. The neocon revolution was only made possible by the crass manipulation of the fundamentalist mindset. The spectrum of possibilities that color the Occupy movement gets lost in the monolithic shadow of Good and Bad.
It might be helpful to imagine a kind of cultural deafness that monotheists, fundamentalists, and the like, suffer from, and like many that suffer a diminishing of one capability, another capability is enhanced. Those that seem the most resistant and/or uninformed about our socioeconomic/sociopolitical situation, will be the ones that muscle the corrections through, once it becomes clear that that is what MUST be done. Meanwhile, they will defend what they “know,” right or wrong. They want no part in “maybe” or “perhaps.”
Some people can change their mind easily. Some can try on a philosophy and take it for a test drive, and then just as easily step out of it. For people like this, it may be hard to imagine how a fundamentalist operating system works. But it’s really pretty simple: fundamentalists identify themselves with their beliefs and ideas, which are defended as a part of the self. Asking a fundamentalist to see something from someone else’s perspective is like asking them to exchange their eyeballs. But what they lack in adaptive facility, they more than make up for in manual effectiveness. They get’er done. Finding an appreciation for the form and function of the fundamentalist portion of the 99% serves everyone.
If the intellectual elite and and the progressive left are the brains and heart of the country, then the fundamentalists and their kind are the muscle and bones. The muscle and bones want to respond to correct impulses that lead to their strengthening and growth. They are not concerned with why or how. The neocons led them along by dangling a bible on a stick for thirty years. I think the muscle and bones need to be treated better than that (and that doesn’t mean taunting them by dangling Dawkins instead). Like we have provided handicapped spaces for the infirm, and braille on the elevators and ATMs to accommodate the blind, let us endeavor to translate the complexity and beauty of this Occupation into a simple binary message for the cognitively impaired.
For those planning to become more directly involved in the overhaul of American representative government, as well as any other cultural overhaul that might be timely, might I suggest learning to speak Fundamentalist, as translators are desperately needed at this time. Many Americans suffer the same cultural ills but cannot coordinate to correct them due to cognitive incompatibilities. I don’t think we can expect our frightened dichotomous brothers and sisters to be the ones to initiate a broader understanding of our condition. Do you?
Via Reddit somewhere. I can’t remember.
There were ominous clouds and some cold rain (rain not pictured for fear of camera damage; clouds tho)…
- (For those of you that’ve never been to Toronto: the spiderwebs of cables are for the streetcars. After marching up Bay Street — our financial centre — the occupation settled in a park on the other side of the church above)
There was energy…
There was drumming…
There was chanting…
There was listening…
- (I wasn’t there too long, but I stayed long enough to listen to a number of speeches — most were on point, focusing on the rapidly worsening inequality in Canada (which is worsening at a faster rate than in the states), the corporatization of our healthcare system, the importance of engaging those who disagree with you, the insanity of our neglect for the environment (tar sands, tar sands, tar sands). The speakers were diverse — recent immigrants, retirees, nurses, students, lawyers, academics, union leaders. I was stirred by many.)
There were eyes looking right out at you…
There was interesting hair…
There was photogenic child exploitation…
- (These were the only two instances I saw. Lots of kids, but mostly just enjoying shoulder rides and taking our crazy world in. Discussion question: Different, better or worse than dressing your kid in heavily branded clothing?)
Dissonant misguided messages were dissonant and misguided on huge signs (big signs or not, I didn’t see anyone too interested in talking to either the Paulites or the Maoists tho)…
There were young dudes with Guy Fawkes masks…
Didn’t seem to really be about anonymity…
Not sure if it’s still going on. I’ll bike over after work and get back to you. I had to leave early ’cause my uncle was getting married…
I told some kids there that it was my first gay wedding and they didn’t look very impressed. One informed me that gay weddings are more fun than regular weddings. Kid was speaking truth. It was a really fun wedding.
We’re all so shocked at the respectables’ patronizing dismissal of the OWSers (Occupy Wall Streeters — can we get this abreve off the ground?) The main respectable criticism seems to be essentially that the OWSers are naive because they haven’t distilled/stripped their message down to a phony miracle-pill solution like the Tea Party has (had done for them by the FreedomWorks, Fox News, etc. that is) with the whole starve the government thing.
People making this argument over the last week that have particularly grated me: Andrew Sullivan (just track back using the links from his most recent post on the topic) and the Slaterinos in the most recent Political Gabfest (segment 3).
This may seem counter-intuitive, since any of Andrew Sullivan, Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson or David Plotz — very smart, elite-educated people — would, I think, readily admit that there is no miracle pill, that the problems that have locked their country into what’s undeniably a pretty terrifying trajectory (destitution continuing to climb up the percentiles, the total capture and expansion of the state repressive apparatuses by plutocratic interests, environmental disaster, flashes of what many might label fascism in the political culture) are systemic and demand a broad and multifaceted response, but the logic is this: the wider public is too passive and unsophisticated to rally behind anything but a ready-packaged, easily sloganeered, snake-oil, miracle-pill solution.
Their logic, I think, is sound. But where does that leave us? In a position in which the only thing that can work rhetorically can’t work and will likely be destructive practically. Where anything that might work practically is doomed to fail to gain traction. In short: stuck on our current trajectory (along which the only variable is the velocity at which we’re traveling at a given moment).
Inchoate rage, English riots-style, seems like the perfectly logical response to such a situation from a generation of Americans that was promised (like every generation of Americans) that their quality of life would not be worse than that enjoyed by their parents (not that that promise hasn’t been broken before, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t and isn’t a big deal). Funnily enough, though, the OWSers’ overwhelming peacefulness hardly conforms to that model. But putting that aside for a minute….
Why are we so stuck on this trajectory that makes no sense when thought of in terms of the personal interests of the vast majority?
The consolidation of economic, state, and mass-cultural power (via the services of the most expensive and sophisticated — strategically and scientifically — marketing apparatus in the world) in the hands of a tiny plutocratic elite, themselves unified by the adherence to the ideology of personal acquisition implied by the perfect comparability of the empty signifiers of abstract value (dolla’ dolla’ bills yo). What REALLY matters to them is an abstract quantity, and they’re making tremendous progress in making it so that what has to REALLY matter to everyone is the same thing (the comprehensive strip-back of government social support in any form).
The most glaring problem with this is that in the end, what REALLY REALLY matters is going to reassert itself when global temperatures climb four degrees, crop yields plummet by 35+%, we run out of oil, and people turn the kind of nasty and brutish that desperate people turn, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road-style.
Energy and food aren’t abstraction and plutocratic individualism is going to fall short of being able to avert civilization-destroying crisis from their shortfalls, especially considering the degree to which the plutocrats have committed to a total denial of the problem (again, projecting their denial onto the culture via their unprecedentedly well-resourced and sophisticated marketing apparatus).
The only thing that might work is rationally coordinated international collective action that is totally impossible the way global capitalism is currently configured. So yes: the OWSers are opposed to capitalism as it exists. What’s naive about that? Or about what they’re trying to rally: a broader recognition of this systemic problem. And guess what: plenty of people recognize it. What I’ve found most unifies everyone across ideology is our pessimism.
They’re giving us an opportunity to organize into a peaceful movement in response. If it’s subverted, or ridiculed away, they won’t take the problems they’re responding to with them. What they will take with them, I predict, is the legitimacy of peaceful action. Look to England for what comes next.
But what does restructuring capitalism mean? I strongly suspect you would find overwhelming support among the OWSers for at least the following, any and all of which would either ease the degree to which money dominates or will come to dominate most peoples’ lives or head off the kind of non-abstract calamity we can all see coming:
- Independently enforced consumer-protection-oriented regulation of especially the financial industry
- Single-payer healthcare
- Strong public investment in clean energy and transportation technology research
- Intellectual property / patent reform designed to make information as free as possible
- Strong public investment and regulation of higher education (and the way students are financed).
- An end to corporate welfare (especially for the non-clean energy sector, including ethanol companies, and for high-input industrial agriculture)
- The legalization (or at least decriminalization) of at least marijuana and the end of the drug war
- A comprehensive reevaluation of the use of private contractors for services that could more economically and ethically be provided by public employees
- A withdrawal from Afghanistan
- A return to at least Clinton-era taxes / tax distribution
- A serious engagement with the problem that advancing technology means less productive work is out there (as productive work is traditionally defined — namely, low-skill labour)
I could go on, and I bet that most OWSers could too.
(PS – It should be granted that there are a lot of Ron Paul End Fiat Money libertarians there who would disagree with a bunch of the above. I’d like to point out that they’re only there because their shitty movement was totally subverted by corporate interests because, fundamentally, their ideology is extremely vulnerable to being subverted by corporate interests. I wish they would go away.)
At 10pm on Tuesday, Jeff Mangum played an unannounced solo acoustic set for the protesters at Occupy Wall St.
Jeff took requests from the onset. After finishing his first song, he asked the crowd: “I’m here to serve you. What do you want to hear?”
Later, when the liverstreamers asked him to introduce himself to the 4K+ people streaming the performance online he said “I’m Jeff from the band Neutral Milk Hotel” in the most unassuming way possible.
Later, when taking requests, someone yelled at him to “Play some Dylan!” He replied “I only know three chords. Haven’t you noticed?”
Everyone screamed out “We know who our enemies are!” at the end of “Oh Comely.” That was fantastic over the pitiful stream; I’m sure that was a particularly chilling moment to experience live.
Jeff: “You guys have done a beautiful fucking thing.”
Protesters in unison: “You have done a beautiful fucking thing!”
His latest in Slate. Diagnosis (for the cure, toss him a hit):
First, America and the world were victims of their own success. Rapid productivity increases in manufacturing had outpaced growth in demand, which meant that manufacturing employment decreased. Labor had to shift to services. The problems are not dissimilar to those of the early 20th century, when rapid productivity growth in agriculture forced labor to move from rural areas to urban manufacturing centers. With a decline in farm income in excess of 50 percent from 1929 to 1932, one might have anticipated massive migration. But workers were “trapped” in the rural sector: They didn’t have the resources to move, and their declining incomes so weakened aggregate demand that urban/manufacturing unemployment soared.
For America and Europe, the need for labor to move out of manufacturing is compounded by shifting comparative advantage: Not only is the total number of manufacturing jobs limited globally, but a smaller share of those jobs will be local.
Globalization has been one, but only one, of the factors contributing to the second key problem: growing inequality. Shifting income from those who would spend it to those who won’t lowers aggregate demand. By the same token, soaring energy prices shifted purchasing power from the United States and Europe to oil exporters, who, recognizing the volatility of energy prices, rightly saved much of this income.
The final problem contributing to weakness in global aggregate demand was emerging markets’ massive buildup of foreign-exchange reserves—partly motivated by the mismanagement of the 1997-98 East Asia crisis by the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Treasury. Countries recognized that without reserves, they risked losing their economic sovereignty. Many said, “Never again.” But, while the buildup of reserves—currently around $7.6 trillion in emerging and developing economies—protected them, money going into reserves was money not spent.