You’ve heard the 1%'ers and their apologists say it to Michael Moore, to Susan Sarandon, and to others who are famous and wealthy: you’re hypocrites for expressing support for the Occupy Movement.
Let me get this straight: if you’re wealthy and you refuse to recognize the grotesque unfairness of the division of wealth in society and the injustices too numerous to list, and instead luxuriate in your money, and if you despise and fear the Occupy Movement, then you’re not a hypocrite.
But if you have money and you use some of your money, your influence, your voice, and your body to support the Occupy Movement, then you’re nothing but a hypocrite?
As someone who I thought liked me said about me recently because he thinks (mistakenly) that he inched into the 1% last year and apparently likes his money and fears the 99% more than he liked me: if Dennis supports the Occupy Movement, why doesn’t he just give away all of his money? Why doesn’t he just work for free and give it all away, if he really supports the 99%?
If we take the Occupy Movement’s detractors’ argument seriously, then what do we find underlying their newly found outrage over hypocrisy? We find a philosophy that says that one’s narrow economic interest should entirely govern one’s political perspective. If you’re materially well off, then you should not question how society’s resources are divided up. You should not question whether other people are being systematically treated unfairly if it doesn’t involve you. You should not worry yourself about the homeless, the poor, the people who are beaten and murdered because of their skin color, females who are insulted, assaulted, raped, and murdered because they're females, people of different sexual orientation who are ridiculed and even murdered because of their sexual orientation, the vets who suffer from PTSD and are committing suicide at the rate of 18/day, the people who can’t find work and who are losing their homes and losing hope. No, you should only and always care only about No. 1 – yourself. Because the world, you see, is all about YOU.
This kind of Ayn Rand perspective is precisely the philosophy that underlies the neoliberals’ – the free marketers’ and the privateers’ – take on the world. They think that if they are not concerned about anyone except good old No. 1 then nobody else could possibly be any different. If I’m selfish, then that must mean that everyone else in the world is also just as selfish as I am and anyone who claims to be anything else must be a hypocrite, pretending to care about others beside themselves. Because really, that’s how the world works, doesn’t it? We’re all self-centered and materially driven and if you’re not self-centered and materially driven then you’re just fooling yourself and trying to fool others.
This is precisely why the world is so upside down: because the people who hold this self-centered, narcissistic attitude are in charge of things. They call the shots and the system that they govern over and personify is designed to take the hard labor, the sweat and tears of the 99%, the tremendous resources of the entire planet, and suck it all up like a giant vacuum into their own golden coffers for the 1% to decide what they’re going to do with the bounty that the whole world creates but that they get to treat as their very own. If it means spending $248,000 on a playhouse for their children to play house in, then so be it, because to the winners go the spoils, right?
As Robert Parry of Consortium News wrote on October 5, 2011 in “Reagan’s ‘Greed Is Good’ Folly:”
Under Reaganomics, the bounty for the rich from lower taxes was supposed to “trickle down” to the rest of the American population, creating a rising tide that would lift all boats. However, in reality, it floated only a handful of yachts – filled with beautiful people flaunting Tiffany jewelry, Prada crocodile handbags ($41,000 each) and Louboutin boots ($2,495 at Saks).
As author Barbara Ehrenreich wrote in last Sunday’s Washington Post, this era’s “‘hyper-luxury’ is represented by the 123-room Los Angeles mansion just purchased by 22-year-old British heiress Petra Ecclestone, which might be able to comfortably house 50 homeless families while leaving plenty of room for its owner should she care to remain on the premises.
“The term probably also applies to the new vogue of high-end children’s playhouses, one of which sells for $248,000. As one leading purveyor of such air-conditioned toys put it, ‘A special playhouse is not the sort of thing you can put off until the economy gets better.’” [Washington Post, Oct. 2, 2011]
Other beneficiaries of Reaganomics, the youthful and macho hedge fund managers, have turned Lower Manhattan and other favorite haunts into locations for Maserati dealerships, trendy restaurants, expensive bars, high-priced escort services and the finest cocaine.
“A special playhouse is not the sort of thing you can put off until the economy gets better.” No dear me, of course not! We absolutely must buy that darling playhouse for our little one and why should we wait until the economy improves, when it’s awfully nice for us right now?
As I put it in my book, Globalization and the Demolition of Society, describing the neoliberal philosophy:
“It is only in a capitalist society where the degree of economic surplus is substantial enough and the interdependence among people more obscured (though very real nonetheless) that individuals who claim that they want freedom from the necessity of cooperation and coercion are not ridiculed as absurd antisocial jerks. And in neoliberal regimes, such individuals get to tell everyone else what to do as if their self-serving values were the very pinnacle of human development.
“Behaving as if society doesn’t exist doesn’t alter the fact that people have to rely upon others to survive and that one’s survival depends upon society itself. [Frederick] Hayek [godfather of neoliberalism] tries to conceal this reality under a doctrine that defends and promotes the notion that some (or all) can act as if they are free of any obligations to others. Taken to its logical conclusion, if everyone were free of the will of others, then no one would be or could be in a relationship with anyone else. Two people who are a couple, for example, exert their wills over each other. We call that ‘going steady,’ ‘marriage,’ or a ‘partnership.’ Hayek recognizes that it is impossible to be entirely free of the will of others, but what he doesn’t do is acknowledge the inevitable and necessary interrelatedness of compulsion and freedom. If he did recognize that, then his whole argument would fall apart since his view is premised on attempting to minimize compulsion to the nth degree, regarding, as he does, compulsion as per se undesirable.
“If someone knows more about something than I do, does my doing what he wants, even if my own desires and plans are different, mean that I have sacrificed my liberty? I have sacrificed some of my individualism, but what if others are right and I am wrong? I would want to be compelled to do the right thing if I were wrong (I might not like it, but this was what it was like practicing piano or learning the proper grip in tennis as a child). Being involved in a discussion about why another way of doing things is preferable is important in its own right, because just being told what to do based on faith or control doesn’t help anyone learn. But getting anything done with a group of people does mean that the opinions of some individuals are not given precedence at any given time. The idea that it is wrong on principle to compel someone to do something that is different from his or her own individual assessment is obviously wrong. Freedom isn’t the absence of necessity. Freedom can be expanded on the basis of recognizing, understanding, and on that basis, transforming necessity. (For further discussion of this question and its complexities, see Chapter Five.)
“Capital likes to assert its independence from everything else, but first and foremost capital cannot exist without labor. Labor, in fact, creates capital. Rich people with big houses and manicured lawns may live lives of luxury, but they can only live those lives because others do the less carefree labor and dirty work of tending the gardens, cars, house, swimming pool, tennis court, and children of the estate. Rich people like to think that they are free of anyone and anything, but their very lifestyles and survival depend upon the work and support of others, most of whom are low-paid laborers. Rich people’s sense of self and the degree of their life satisfaction are intimately tied to others in their social networks from whom they derive their sense of belongingness (e.g., the other members of the business and social circles within which they operate). Hayek’s fantasy fuels those who are either already wealthy or who aspire to wealth or to putative independence, conveniently overlooking the actual fact that their status can only exist because of mutual obligations and actual necessities. Those people of the rentier class whose worry-free lives appear to be dictated little by necessity can only live in such a way because many other people in their lives are subjected to great necessity.” (Pp. 44-45)
 Douglas Keay, “Aids, Education and the Year 2000!” Woman’s Own, October 31, 1987, quoting Margaret Thatcher: “[W]ho is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families.”, MargaretThatcher.org, http:// www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=106689, accessed July 3, 2010.
 Frederick Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,  1978), 12: “The task of a policy of freedom must therefore be to minimize coercion or its harmful effects, even if it cannot eliminate it completely.”