Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
Location
New England, USA
Title
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
Bio
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.

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OCTOBER 17, 2011 6:38PM

Occupational Hazards

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As the movement variously known as Occupy Wall Street (OWS) or “We are the 99%” enters its second month, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what it's done and where it's going.

Polls continue to suggest that support for the the movement is growing. A recent NBC poll had suggested that 37% of the public were sympathetic to its goals. Now more recently Time is out with another poll suggesting that 54% of the public has a positive view of the movement.

Of course, allegedly competing groups have sprung up to muddy the waters, calling themselves things like “We are the 53%” and “Actually, You're the 47%” have gotten involved, but there's no evidence these are representative of anything. The fact that the Time poll shows a 54% positive rating for OWS makes it seem unlikely that the “We are the 53%” movement can speak for some ethereal opposition. That would already add up to 107%.

But one thing is clear: A lot of people are trying to speak out.

But about what?

Well, different things. Their web page (one of them) asserts, “Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.” Officially, it's not about party or position. I've even heard the word “apolitical,” used to describe it, as here on the October 1 edition of the new MSNBC show Up with Chris Hayes—a series I just cannot say enough good things about.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There's been discussion, of course, about whether you can have a political movement that has no agenda or rallying principles. It's like a vacuum that's waiting for something, and the sad truth is that such a vacuum is unstable. Something or someone will move to fill it if these people don't. For example, it's been speculated that the entrance of labor unions into the mix ends any appearance of political neutrality. Conservative publications have begun to paint the movement as “funded by” more formal organizations like labor unions that have joined the fray.

The New American, for example, suggests “Labor unions, communists, ‘community organizers,’ socialists, and anti-capitalist agitators have all joined together to ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and protest against ‘greed,’ corporations, and bankers. But despite efforts to portray the movement as ‘leaderless’ or ‘grassroots,’ it is becoming obvious that there is much more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye.”

It seems clear to me that The New American is engaging in opportunistic spin for the sake of appeasing or leading a base which is predisposed to think these things. But it doesn't matter to my point. I mention it only to indicate that a movement can't remain agendaless and leaderless for a long time and still get something done. Whether it has already done so or will do so in the future, it will need to take some sides.

Facing the Political Realities of the Culture War

There seems to be a hunger for a new kind of politics or even something outside of politics. And sure, one can hunger for all kinds of things, even things that don't exist or can't exist. But practically speaking, I don't think it's possible to be outside of politics. Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. You might find a new process, but you can't get out of the game.

So, for example, this could become a political party of its own or it could ally itself with an existing party. But it can't say “let's not have political parties,” at least not all in one step. It has to go step by step. Power right now is held by the people they are railing about, and those people will not go quietly from office. Someone will have to run for office, and that someone will have to have specific ideas and policies that appeal to enough of the voters—apolitical as they profess to be—that a majority will prefer to vote for the same agent of change.

There's a war on, in case you hadn't noticed. The Republicans like to grumble that Democrats are trying to start class warfare. But that's just their spin machine talking. They already started the class warfare. It's there in a great many Republican policies and proposed policies. It's why the rich have been getting richer and the poor have been getting poorer. See my article To Serve Our Citizens for a few examples of what I'd call class warfare by the Republicans, but it's just the tip of a very large iceberg.

One of the great innovations of the American system is not the last resort availability of the the Second Amendment as a remedy of last resort, but rather the peaceful transition of power. It's quite an amazing notion that rather than fight a bloody war every four years over things that really matter to us, we effectively just scheduled an every-four-years peaceful transition of power between regimes that are often quite politically different.

This process of change we use is remarkable, but we've done absolutely nothing—not in 1776 and not now—to revise our individual psyches. We still feel the same passions as people in other countries who accomplish a change of leadership with guns. The stakes are just as high. And even peaceful change still requires planning, organization, work, and sacrifice—just hopefully not sacrifices in terms of blood.

The people who have the power just as passionately don't want to give it up. So if you have a movement that has no agenda and no leader, the opposition is going to say “fine, we'll use our agenda and our leader.” And that will be that. If you want the power, you have to take it. Thank goodness this movement doesn't want to use its second amendment remedies. Good call. I'm sure the non-violent approach accounts for some of the broad-based support. But it has to be prosecuted in other ways as a war would be. In particular, there will many battles to be fought, not just one, before the overall war can be won. Let's not make the mistake of thinking that a bit of shock and awe will cause “the 99%” to be greeted as liberators by “the 1%.”

In thinking through this war metaphor, I came to ponder whether the The Powell Doctrine had any useful application to what's going on. Some of the items on Powell's checklist seem to have been accounted for, but others have not. They are:

Excerpts of The Powell Doctrine

  • Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  • Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?

This movement has no clearly defined agenda, and hence no clearly attainable objective.

I might even suggest that if one were defined, it would already have been attained. A lot of people have learned they are not alone. That is a big victory against a power elite that has wanted to use spin to suggest that “things are working just fine, thank you.”

There is talk of being there for much longer, but while a few die-hards may be in it for such a long haul, most will need to go back home and work. It's expensive to remain camped out for a long time. And what's to be gained? Perhaps some small things, but at large risk.

The Need to Evolve

The opposition has responded clumsily, resulting in some shakey, handheld videos, taken from awkward angles, of people getting pepper sprayed inappropriately or even outright beaten. In one case, a woman was arrested for what appears on video to be simply doing business with her bank. In the latter case, the claim was that a number of people had refused to leave the bank when requested, which is odd since she had already left the bank and they had to haul her forceably back into the building. That raises questions.

However, if the group stays in place, the opposition will find more sophisticated ways to act that doesn't draw this kind of visible attention. What's being protested is cash, after all, and that cash hasn't gone away. It will still buy a lot of public relations and a lot of slick video editing and advertising.

In my judgment, what this movement needs most is to be identified with people not with an event. The event itself has had its effect. It's time to change the circumstances of the game before the opposition becomes too used to it. They will become experts at responding to occupations. But this ought not really be about occupation, it ought to be about change.

So, to paraphrase advice usually credited to the late Senator George Aiken (R-VT) about the Vietnam war: it's perhaps time to declare victory and bring the troops home.

It would be ironic if a movement such as this, which many have compared to the protests of the Vietnam war, ended up itself becoming a quagmire, like Vietnam. For those not familiar with that reference, I found this very nice explanation of the quagmire problem on the web:

Q. Why is Vietnam a quagmire?

A. Because the enemy (communists) were ‘grinning at us’ knowing we couldn't win it (without taking drastic measures), and we couldn't withdraw from it without looking like fools. So we were stuck! So, Nixon had to figure out a way of getting the US out...with honor.

Source: Answers.com

Iraq and Afghanistan have mostly the same issues, of course.

And that's the problem facing the 99%. They may have reached the limits of what they can do by sitting in a park. The rest of the hard work of a peaceful movement needs to be done by other means. For example, there need to be detailed suggestions made about how to organize things and those things need careful wordsmithing. The human microphone was a remarkable bit of technology, but not every bit of technology is good for every purpose. Detailed editing might work better online, perhaps by wiki.

And there's also an issue of simple economics. This is the poor fighting the rich, and it's simply expensive to be camped out. These people need to conserve their economic resources for another day.

It's surely the case that if the group leaves these various places, local ordinances will be rushed into place that make it harder for such an action to happen again. As long as nothing bad has happened, OWS will stand as a monument to why such ordinances are not needed. Its example of non-violence will be confirming proof that need for tighter regulation is unwarranted.

I think we would initially see foolishly paranoid laws put in place. It's unconstitutional, of course, since the First Amendment protects against the making of any law “interfering with the right to peaceably assemble.” But it might take a while to work a challenge through the system. I offer this as an example of an activity I'd expect to become roadkill in the rush to “protect” our citizens from peaceful assembly:

Certainly that concert stopped traffic. And from a regulatory point of view, there seems little difference between such a concert and Occupy Wall Street. It's a bunch of people peacefully assembling in a way that is admittedly loud and interferes with traffic. Yet both activities have a purpose that seems to justify the inconvenience. Why the conservative right is not willing to defend peaceful assembly at least as vigorously as they defend the right to carry guns around, I do not know, but they seem to be rushing to characterize these kinds of activities as mobs and to find ways to end-run this First Amendment protection.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

So if we might lose this so-fragile right, why do I suggest withdrawing? Because, as time passes, the risk is that agents provocateurs will be hired to infiltrate this large group in order to encourage (or even to commit) illegal acts. Once that happens, the tide could turn on public sentiment and there could be a bunch of expensive theatre orchestrated by those in power to justify additional regulations, as happened with the Patriot Act. Naomi Klein discusses this pattern behavior for political power grabbing in her excellent book The Shock Doctrine.

Science fiction author David Brin's ideas about using sousveillance, or “inverse surveillance” to keep tabs on the police, for example, seem suddenly not the stuff of science fiction, but of desperately practical reality. Certainly there have been lots of cameras around when some bad things have happened. And yet not enough. The police feel comfortable trying to block filming of their acts. In what other area where a crime is being committed would someone who tried to cover it up not find himself indicted for conspiracy in the commission of the crime? We need to help the police see that filming is a good thing, not a bad thing.

But remember that if actors get involved to stage an event, those creating a problem may be paid not to have cameras, thus muddying the waters. Police might later claim the crowd was out of control, and there would be no way to challenge such a statement. Most of the police have been acting in a remarkably restrained and honorable way, but just as with the crowd, there can be exceptions and it can spoil things for everyone. All the moreso if it's orchestrated by people paid to create a certain scenario in order to justify a later political move. The occupiers should not assume they have the power to hold things in check forever since they are exerting no control of any kind.

Strategies like I'm suggesting—constantly changing the rules of the game—are used all the time by enemies of the state in fighting wars. It's called asymmetric warfare. It's a way for a poorly funded force to level the playing field with a well funded force. If terrorists can learn to be clever, then surely ordinary citizens pursuing their ordinary rights through peaceful means might as well learn to be clever as well. It's necessary to change the situation periodically in dramatic ways so that it doesn't exist so long that it can be studied and responded to.

What Occupy Wall Street really has going for it, I allege, is its novelty. And the longer it persists in the same form, the more it loses that novelty. That's dangerous not only to its appeal but also because the longer it remains stable, it can be studied and opposition can be perfected, as in the movie Groundhog Day. It's a mistake to think the 1% are sitting idly. They are planning. If the situation at Occupy Wall Street remains constant, we'll see more effective responses. You can bank on it.

If this is a legitimate political movement, it will survive closing down the event because the people and the concerns will survive. People have met some new friends. Networks have been built and can be leveraged. A true grassroots organization can start to form. New tactics can be employed that continue to surprise. What tactics? I don't know—surprise me. Non-violently, please.

For now people know now that they are not alone. That is the victory and it's already achieved.

The danger here is that the people who pulled this off will try to do too much, getting used to the power that is within their grasp. Yet this is what corrupted the others they're railing against. These people need to exercise the wisdom to say “we're done for the day.” Another day, others will do something else of interest.

Tomorrow is Another Day

A legitimate movement must show its ability to outlive its birth, and show itself capable of adapting to the real world where real people live. Occupy Wall Street must be more than an occupation. It must be a commitment to new ways of life back in the real world.

Perhaps next it will be Lawrence Lessig's call for a Constitutional Convention.

Maybe someone will start a new political party, or revive an existing one, or just run as an independent.

The field will again be wide open. But OWS holds fast and things turns violent, or if interest appears to fade, that will be the worst.

I'll close with the St. Crispen's Day speech from Shakespeare's Henry V, which I've adapted in a very minor way to suit the moment:

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood keeps the peace with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

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What is not mentioned is the fundamental driving force behind the whole phenomenon. What creates solidarity is negative pressure. What created the Jews as a solid group was the persecution by everyone else. Black people feel their solid community by the universal persecution they feel and it is still very much there. So with the 99% movement. It is the joblessness, the homelessness, the enforced poverty and destruction of community by decaying infrastructure, the raping of the ecology by outright greed, to integral nature of capitalism to treat people as a commodity to be tossed away when it is profitable to do so that is the immense force behind this movement which is basically a community scream that this is no longer tolerable. The people in power cannot stop their integral inhumanity because that is their source of power and it is humanity itself that is fighting back, however formless that resistance may be at this moment. That is the source of the power and it is evident it is growing because the brutal pressures against decency and survivability of humanity itself is growing and generating this counterforce.
Thanks, Jan. I do agree, though the piece was running way longer than I wanted so I was ruthlessly cutting out things that didn't support my point. And even then I probably didn't cut enough. I wasn't really trying to sum up what they are saying, but rather to say that they are obviously saying something but that they're going to have to be specific and that doing it in their present encampment may not be the efficient way to do it. They say they are apolitical, but I think at some point to make progress they will have to be concrete and it will even lose some people. A movement that is all things to all people is nothing to anyone in my opinion. I believe you're absolutely correct that there are some deep commonalities that need to be mined and clarified.
Honoring Kent's preference that comments stay on topic I'll limit my words for the moment primarily to "Thank you" (both Kent and Jan) and R to the post. [Only this instant found the post and the first comment. Immensely appreciative!]

R
OWS has spread unpredictably:
http://westandwiththe99percent.tumblr.com/
This may be taken as a very negative viewpoint but as a reiteration of my first comment I tried to indicate that the powerful drive behind the present movement is fear. People are losing their jobs, homes, educations, health and entire hopes for any future. It is fear which is the backbone of the movement. Fear is what made Israel with its relatively tiny population one of the strongest nations in the ME. Fear is the drive behind the so-called "war on terrorism" so the people of the USA are swallowing their basic rights to freedom of speech and action and tolerating obscene invasions of their privacy. Historically it is fear of death which has driven all the major religions. Fear is the most powerful social force in society and the goddamn fools that now control society through money and are now pressuring the world population into poverty and despair cannot seem to understand that this psychological beast has terrible fangs. It is merely starting to snarl now but its muscles are tensing and it will eventually leap and the carnage will be terrible indeed if there is no sensible response.
Jan, I do agree. I think it's why people are willing to get arrested and beaten. Not that they're asking for it. But I think many know it's a risk and sense that it's one worth taking.

I spoke of bloodlessness in here, but one thing I omitted, again for space, was a discussion of bloodless consequence. Just because someone is being non-violent in their political approach doesn't mean there is no violence in the system. To cut off aid to poor people is in many cases to kill them, sometimes slowly and painfully. And it's that kind of thing that causes people to act.

So far the situation has been calm, but I agree with you that were the situation to drag out, there is a risk, too, of people losing discipline and wanting to try “other strategies.” A group that prides itself on no centralized control won't be able to stop that. To some extent, I sense that this is a legal dodge by the people starting it, to not be blamed for what happens. But ultimately it will require the courage of someone's convictions to speak for the group and try to even manage it and get it to agree to concessions, since there are other players in the game and expecting to win 100% is unrealistic.

One reason the Republicans have won with these odd agendas has been turnout. They get their base to turn out and rely on the other party's base to be apathetic. When people are hurting, they turn out in greater numbers and elections start to actually resemble what the people want. That may be a good thing, though it's sad to see people have to hurt in order to motivate them to do things like go to the polls.
Let the anlysis begin! The war has been going on for decades. Thank these kids for making it public - or are we even talking about the same war? I am talking about the war that has raged since King's death - a war against freedom and justice - that has stripped the left of its urban base, and castrated it in the burbs. Lets help the kids out and call it what Longy Zwellmen called it - a war against Fascism - as he used his mob to fight the Nazis of New Jersey in the streets. Now we have Fascist Jews ! Fascist Islamists! Fascist Christians ! All united for one purpose - and that is protect the status qou. How do you unscramble that egg?
vietnam war as quagmire "Because the enemy (communists) were ‘grinning at us’ knowing we couldn't win it (without taking drastic measures), and we couldn't withdraw from it without looking like fools. So we were stuck! So, Nixon had to "
dude, Im surprised you fell for this revisionist history propaganda, but its subtle stuff.
vietnam was a quagmire because we used *unconstrained* warfare and still lost.
but the Military Industrial Complex has done well on rewriting history so the lessons were erased/forgotton. in our new Quagmires. which are identical. just different.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
--sinclair louis

"One withstands the invasion of armies; one does not withstand the invasion of ideas."
--victor hugo

occupy wall street, my speech to the masses
Marte, thanks for dropping by to read.

Janus, thanks for sharing that link to WeStandWithThe99Percent.tumblr.com. (I had originally read the name as WestAndWithThe99Percent and confused myself.)
Snowden, it may indeed be the same war but it's hard to tell since there is no agenda and no spokesman. To move forward, they will have to say, I think, even at the risk of losing some people who were only willing to follow when it stood for every possible thing.

vzn, it's certainly oversimplified but I'm not sure it's that revisionist. No two or three setence explanation is going to capture everything, so thanks for offering your own counterpoint. As I see it, the ongoing cost in dollars was an issue. Growing negative public opinion was an issue. Face saving was an issue. And this quote captured enough of that to be useful, I thought. It's OK if you disagree though. And thanks for the quotes and the cross-references.
Kent, great piece. What about a series of general strikes? If there are massive work stoppages that shut things down, would that have more of an impact than the sitting in the park? I know it's hard to convince people to strike when jobs are scarce, but I've seen general strikes cause European countries to come to a grinding halt. Wonder if it would work here.
FLW, thanks for visiting. It's possible. Certainly that's in the space of possibilities. It's not exactly my specialty area. Not that any of the rest of this is either, but somehow labor law seems amazingly complicated to me both in its execution and its history. I do have a possible post idea on a related topic, but I'll try not to spoil the punchline here. Gotta have some reason to slug through these things.
Kent, you're right that eventually the protests will have to take a more channeled direction. Whether that's in the form of a new political movement, support for a handful of current legislators or some specific policy objectives is hard to say. But they deserve credit thus far for consciousness raising. It's put the rich-poor divide into the public discourse and that in itself is desirable.
Abrawang, I absolutely think it's been worthwhile up to here. There's been great discipline and much has been achieved. But again the question comes back to Powell's—what would constitute an exit strategy?
You sound like you're not intimately acquainted with OWS. I am, having taken part in two separate demonstrations on Saturday. The first started at 3:40AM, when I got up so that I could be there before 5:30AM when ESPN was broadcasting in my town. I held up a "WE ARE THE 99%" sign next to some frat boy's American flag. Later, anarchists more successfully showed their "OCCUPY GAME DAY" signs.

At 3PM, Move On had its own small rally at the university. Composed mainly of thirty 60+ year olds, we made picket signs, and we walked through the university. Since universities are now a bastion of class privilege, we got a lot of shocked and surprised looks from the rich college kids. Eventually our march joined up with about 2,000 more marchers.

It was a natural high to see the level of diversity in the crowd that marched from the downtown to near the football stadium. Participants ranged from nine months to 90, and their political beliefs spread across the entire range of liberal-progressive-left-radical-anarchist spectrum. Wealthy people hobnobbed with the homeless. And yes, there were plenty of different races, creeds, and sexual preferences there in the crowd as well.

I believe that OWS is taking a page from the Egyptian peaceful protests. Given the fact that harsher weather is soon here, I anticipate that it will naturally evolve into new directions. The wonderful thing about OWS is that the youngsters are reinventing the wheel to a great extent. In my day, we called it participatory democracy. Today they call it the General Assembly. Same difference.

Listening to the youngsters, it's possible to feel as if I'm eavesdropping in on my much younger self. In no way, shape, or form do I want to participate in General Assembly meetings. I had enough of that many years ago. But the strength of OWS is that peace, labor, social justice, religious communities, and any other sympathetic group can continue to express their solidarity with OWS -- as long as they remain non-violent.

The challenge to OWS as I see it right now is to reach out to the disaffected elements of America where they might not ordinarily go. Expand your self-confidence and your comfort zone. Make contact with your local Tea Party members, and start a dialogue to see what you have in common. An idiot can tell you what our differences are with them. But remember, the Tea Party is angry for many of the same reasons that we are. And the OWS people might actually be surprised to find new allies.

I am sure the movement will continue to evolve and mutate. Its free form and non-hierarchical structure will maximize their creativity. In the end, there is a new spirit in the air. My local newspaper had an editorial supporting the OWS crowd. The headline read:

THERE'S SOMETHING HAPPENING HERE, AND YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS. DO YOU MR. JONES?
Lefty, all the accounts are as you suggest. But I'm just trying to address inevitable realities in time for them to be managed rather than to come crashing down unexpectedly. The last thing this organization needs is to go out with a bang or to be split by unexplained action that no one understands. I do agree there is much positive in the other stuff. But I think it also risks being a big John Stewart nothing event where people get together, think cool thoughts, and then go home and do nothing about them. It needs an agenda. Frankly, if I heard that they were making sure to register every single person present as a voter while they were there, that'd be a good thing. If they were making sure they went home to register 5 others, or something like that, that'd be good. Small goals, but more than I'm hearing they have. I'd be fine about seeing a new party formed with new process. I'd be fine about seeing an existing party try to work with them. But I think doing all of those things will just be an opportunity for the standard politicians to game the system. I could be wrong. But I think considering the concern won't hurt anyone.
Agree with some of this, not with all of it; may return later but I'm at work right now. I just thought I would display this link for browsing:

http://coupmedia.org/occupywallstreet/occupy-wall-street-official-demands-2009

My personal view is that the objectives and motivations should be obvious.
I agree Kent, it does need an agenda and I hope that happens before it loses momentum. Because what you say here is true:

There seems to be a hunger for a new kind of politics or even something outside of politics.

Jan says it's motivated by fear and that may be so but I think a lot of people were feeling a sense of unease and discontent before things started to get bad; I know I was. It's hard to quantify what you can't quite put your finger on - it's not like there's a big bad dictator everyone agrees they want to oust. Fear may have precipitated this movement but that's a good thing because it puts a face on it.
Highly rated, Kent. You raise the bar so high every time you pound out a message on the keyboard. I will surely read this a second time as it is so full of valuable information and even more vital wisdom, that I am a little stoned over its effects on my brain. Take that as you will, but it is meant to be a legitimate compliment. Not many things I care to read more than once. This is the best I've read on the subject and I dare not attempt to leave a cohesive POV without sounding naive. I must point out, however, that the phrase you used, "spin machine talking," says to me, all there has ever been inside the political spectrum of both sides. And the spin keeps changing to suit the mind set du jour. The system is so broken, there are no more definitions that stick. It has failed us all. A collective bust.
Blogger John Robb talks about "the crisis of capitalism." Capitalism in its current form takes its direction from a relatively small number of people. Concerning this group and their decisions, Robb notes --

"This small group, combined with adherence to a rigid ideology increasingly divorced from reality, has inevitably made bad decisions, regardless of how much technology and decision support they could afford. . . . Worse, these decisions have been increasingly based on flights of ideological fantasy (rather than adapt the ideology to a changing reality, they turned inward and added wheels within wheels of complexity). Namely, our economic decision making elite built ziggurats of financial complexity and speculation to produce returns not possible in the real world. Speculation so fantastical, that it produced some of the most grotesque misallocations of capital in history. . . . These financial ziggurats are now crumbling to dust and with it our global economy. A long and grinding economic depression and hollow states await below. So, now we now sit on the edge of the abyss, a real crisis of capitalism. An event potentially so momentous (worse than the depression of the 1930's), that it has the potential to collapse the last great ideology. . . . Ideologies live or die based on how they are applied in the real world and not in how they seem to work in theoretical discussions or books. Any ex-communist can attest to that."

As things deteriorate from a corrupt capitalism, people will increasingly lose faith in it and take action, in the same way that the corruption of the Catholic church caused a loss of faith in the church and motivated the Reformation.

So if you want to see the kind of thing that's going to happen I suggest that you look not to other relatively recent protests, but instead to the Protestant Reformation. Whether the OWS protests peter out or lose novelty, a fundamental change in the intellectual landscape driven by real-world effects will not. Because if Robb is right, what we're witnessing is the start of the destruction of the last great ideology, and as that happens, things are likely to get nasty.
Rick, I think it's a good list that you cross-referenced I think they're leaning, perhaps unwittingly, toward outdoing Obama in the pointless squandering of an obvious mandate in the quest to be purple. Later, if things fall through, they may wish they'd taken the moment to really push. The quest to get such legislation passed would be a much better rallying point than the quest to retain a presence in a park that would like to clean its bathrooms.

Margaret, I don't think we're all disagreeing on that issue about fear. Fear has many faces. Unease and discontent is a fear that something will go awry, or a fear that someone is not working in our best interest, etc. I think what's changing lately is the sense that the ones who are not acting in favor of the 99% are getting fearful and in a hurry to grab power before someone notices what they're up to. This creates both an opportunity (that in their haste they'll be spotted doing really craven things) and it also creates a danger (that they'll succeed in buttoning things up tight).

Another observation I often make to myself about war and heroism is that you don't get to time it. People who are true heroes often don't get to wait until it's a good time to be a hero. They leave things unsaid. They don't have their affairs in order. The thing for which the heroism is needed often does not wait. An event presents itself and people act in the moment as best they can. I mention this because deliberation might seem cool and the obviously right political strategy, but if there is not necessarily time for deliberation if the opposition is busy searching for ways to make your deliberation illegal, or you know that the consensus building will not terminate until too close to the election to be useful. Sometimes good leaders cut conversations short, even conversations that if continued would yield good information, and go with “good enough.” That is the quality of decisiveness and it's different than being blindly authoritarian. It does not assert that what is being done is necessarily right, but it asserts a willingness to simply make a critical decision on the necessary schedule and to take responsibility for that shortening of the process leading to error.

Much good thought has come from all the discussion. More discussion would lead to more good thought. And so on. But at some point it is enough to work with.
Cathy, I totally agree that both sides spin things. I believe only the Republicans are scientific about it, though; the Democrats are not so organized that I'd call their efforts machine-like. The Left has spin yes, but spin machine no. That's my take anyway. The Right seems to put the book 1984 to shame in some of their NewSpeak style messaging. And they also have related practices of controlling terminology and presentation as illustrated, for example, in the famous Gingrich memo Language: A Key Mechanism of Control. Their brazen willingness to just say things I think the Left would never resort to really sets them apart. Consider the title of H.R. 2, for example: Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act. And this whole drumbeat replacing the word “rich people” with “job creators” as an attempt to make them seem warmer and fuzzier when talking about why they should be given tax breaks.
Mishima, you wrote “... some of the most grotesque misallocations of capital in history ...” Yup. That's pretty much it. I talked about this a little in my long-ago post Rethinking Mega-Corporations, by the way. I don't think the accumulation of the world's wealth all in the hands of so few has served us well. It has allowed the solving of a very small number of problems in ways that they might not have been solved at the expense of making a huge number of other problems that we ought never have had.
what your piece brought to mind
1. I really, really want us to be more towards socialism (especially medicine). The closer it gets to happening, the hungrier I get for it.
2. Hitler was a socialist and was really good for his country...at first.
3. This movement does not have a leader and we need one (so that we can freaking vet her/him- see point 2)
4. Jan's 2nd comment rang a chord, and I'm back to my fear of revolution. Revolution (or instability of any kind) is never good for the weak. I do not want my patients out on the street. Not for the state/country's greed/mismanagement of funds, or the disenfranchised's need for blood. I hear you all, and I get it, but there are those worse off than you. I only ask that you don't obliterate them as you reach for that brass ring.
Julie, I myself am not down on capitalism for things that are appropriate to it. I think of it as a tool and it's not good for all purposes. There is a concept in economics called price elasticity of demand. Things that have this elasticity are things where if you vary the price, people use more or less of it. These are usually good candidates for the market. If iPods are too expensive, people buy fewer, and the world copes. But health care is not like that. If you raise the rates, people just have to pay. They have no choice. So the market doesn't react properly by adjusting demand to match price changes. That leads to extortion effects, in my opinion, and things that are like that—which are commonly the things one needs to live, like health care, medicine and in some cases even food (especiall if there is a scarcity) need to be handled through different mechanisms than entertainment items and other luxuries not essential to survival. So I'm all for socialized health care, but I don't want us to be a socialism across the board. I tend to think that the right answer lies in between the two extremes of either all capitalism or all socialism. Republicans like to claim a purist stance and claim anyone who doesn't support pure capitalism is a socialist, but really there are many shades of gray. That doesn't mean you have to agree with me, but I wanted to at least expand the terminology a little so you didn't just think you had to be one or the other.
cool! good to know Kent :) Thank you!
laugh, you'd think I'd know it already, but one of the joys of growing up Army is that shades of gray have a tendency to get lost in the overwhelming demand for loyalty.
I like thinking I can pick and choose aspects of government I like and not have to belong to any specific group. Messy, but more honest all the way around.
'occupy' is politics by the powerless. it will be either useless, or bloody, and very likely still useless.

citizens vote, but americans have nothing to vote for, except politicians. there, even the dimmest is beginning to suspect it's just a charade.

without citizen initiative you are not a citizen, anymore than a carpenter without tools is a carpenter. so you 'protest,' like unruly children. how can any good result, without a program, and without a means to change anything even if you know what needs to be changed.

this is america's 'children's crusade.' full marks for good intentions, but 'f 'for execution.
This is an eye-opener in so many ways.

It seems that as things get worse in our western nations, those who have become aware of the blemishes and pitfalls of our form of capitalism are blindly assuming that socialism would correct these problems.

I can only hope that people keep in mind that socialism, as it’s been tried to date, has been found seriously wanting. One of the pitfalls in dumping one system for another based on a philosophy of “either/or” is that both the “either” and the “or” may be equally unable to do the job that we ask of a system. It is stunning to me how often, when I question those who suggest we adopt a socialist system about just exactly what they have in mind - what they mean by “socialism”, I get vague touchy-feely answers or a rant about the evils of capitalism.

Where I do get strong and clear answers, a rarity, I find that I never get the same answers from any two different knowledgeable advocates of socialism. I must wonder just how many forms of socialism there are?!

The thinking of far too many people seems to be along the lines of:
1- Capitalism bad
2- Socialism is the opposite of capitalism
3-Therefore, Socialism good

Can’t say this impresses me very favourably.

.
says the man who has free healthcare ;)
@Julie,
If you comment was directed at me, I cannot fathom its relevance to anything I said. Of course, I am not up on the latest in socialist ways of tying so many things to Canada’s health care system.

My I disabuse you of the idea that health care in Canada is “free”?

Ask any taxpayer in Canada whose tax-freedom day is June 26th whether or not health care is free! ( In the US it’s somewhere around the middle to the end of April)

My US friends can have such “free” health too - if they are willing to pay what we pay for it..........!

.
@skypixieo

Hi, Sky; "podunk here" (another of my ?"sleep/wake challenged" logging onto OS hours):

Question: Why do you assume that the bottom line of the current OWS movement of people and their activities is that they're asking for 'socialism'? Isn't a part of Kent's discussion the suggestion that there's a degree of flux (the ?"inchoate"?) in what this aggregate of "in the street" assemblages are out there ?"for"? Isn't it possible that the positive potential (if there is one ... let's hope for the moment any way, o.k.?) of all these still not-agenda-specified "OWS"/"97 [or whatever number]%" gatherings .. might be that we don't have to fall back into the earlier "capitalism vs. socialism" dichotomy either for our discussions, or our thinking itself? Yes, I know Kent's post focused on the need to clarify goals and organise around them and I certainly agree with that, in the ?'longer term? of whatever will or won't become of this upsurge of collective gatherings. But in the interim: Aren't we, here on OS (as well as the many who get to the geographical gatherings) part of the, perhaps, ?"interim process"? of productive change itself? If so, why must our exchanges be any more about the pros and cons of 'socialism' (a ?20th century? image/concept) vs. 'capitalism' (that so many knee-jerk dismiss [myself included I confess ;-)] as "nasty, brutish" but unfortunately not so terribly "short"?

In other words, Sky -- why did you "pick on" 'socialism' in your comment? Isn't at least (vaguely?) possible that the energies of OWS here; Arab Spring "there" etc. etc., could be brought together to help formulate a system of group administrations (nation-state; wealth; or otherwise not previously defined) that goes beyond the "capitalism/socialism" dichotomy?

I oughtn't send this long overly impetuous comment but wotthehey, I'm old; gotta go to bed. ;-)
[r] thanks for the analysis, kent! there is a traction for collective FEELING in this country at long last. Post the Bush horror and the Obama horror. Thank God for the youth. And they have their spirit still not pounded into the ground yet, despite the gaming of the system against them to enslave them economically or set them up to die or suffer physically or mentally militarily, and they are saying one big fat NO!!!! to the sustained indecency of Reaganomics and crony capitalism and gangster corruption and political prostitution!!!! Everybody is scolding about concrete intellectual rational analysis. It is high time we collectively processed the FEELINGS of rage and fear but also empathy for each other and a sense of human dignity that has been molested for too long. The longer the occupations continue, the more they illuminate the grotesque amorality of the government and the pirate corporations as well as the too long learned helplessness of the vast majority of Americans. No organized leadership? Terrific. The ambitious political egos and the media branding have a way of hijacking movements from full out moral directions. This one has a moral direction. I am not as skeptical as many here apparently. Last week I got to see close up and personal how down and dirty police and government play in the name of their corporate sponsors. The tenacity of these mostly young adults brings me hope. What a refreshing hope after the poisonous faux-one delivered by Obama. I heard Axelrod puffing up about OWS and how the GOP doesn't get it and I needed a vomit bucket. After the Dems massive sell out. I am glad they don't have their greedy hands on this one and hope we can keep them off. As well as the rabid rat bastard repubs. Where does this leave us? At least calling out evil. High time. Bipartisan evil!!!! please ... at least this a break from the kabuki of media and both legacy parties. libby
A general strike to bring a country to a halt. Wow the death and destruction caused by that would be SO COOL. And the loss of income for businesses that are then forced to fire employees they can't pay. Way COOL too.

Please guys, remember the other revolutions of the 20th century that also pitted the rich against the poor. The death, destruction, evil and horror (not to mention genocide) they gave the world is greater than that of even Hitler.

And remember too, your computer was made by a corporation.

Bye.
Hi, al. I tend to agree with you about the risks you present. In a sense, I don't think the 1% are challenged by the fact that the 99% don't like them, so it's not disturbing to them that these people get together and merely chat. They're probably most concerned that the chatting might lead to something and thrilled that the main thrust of things is “let's take no coordinated action.” I bet they're laughing themselves to a comfortable sleep about that. Now it's certainly the possible that the mood will change and that people will want action at some point; that seems to be the reply. A sort “don't rush things, we'll get there, but we want to do it in our own way.” But this is the point where my particular commentary is trying to inject the point: You don't have the luxury of time. You are not as in control of the situation as you think. Control is siezed by actually acting, and meanwhile you are the guests of the 1% who are gathering the sort of moral confidence to act and are studying the mode of potential actions to be plausibly deniable.

I'd liken it to how sometimes you drive up to a corner in a car and there is no traffic on the near side of the street but there is solid traffic on the far side. No opening. So what do you do? You wait. But only a little while. Then eventually you pull out into traffic and kind of passive aggressively poke your way into the traffic. They finally care and let you in. But the thing is, you could have done this instantly when you arrived at the corner. Why do you wait? Because you are building the moral righteousness to do something passive aggressive that you can defend not by saying &lduqo;this is legal under traffic law” but “this bending of traffic law was necessary because traffic law was not working.”

Right now, there is waiting going on. But it's not purposeless waiting. Things are happening. I'm not denying things are happening for the 99%. They're doing productive things. I don't doubt it. But I don't see an acknowledgment—a healthy fear—that the 1% are doing productive things, too, things that will serve the 1% rather than the 99%. I don't doubt that at some point the 99% will have the moral righteousness to act. The question is whether the 1% will muster similar righteousness to act on their own behalf before the 99% act on theirs.

It can still fall apart.

Another way of saying it: In poker, they say if you don't know who the fool a the table is, it's you. The 99% seems to think it's playing a winning hand. And it's a good hand. But if they think there are no other possible winning hands...
Barbara, I don't think anyone's forgetting these things. I doubt anyone walks out on strike feeling fully protected. They know they want that paycheck from the very company they are striking for. And strikes are not used casually. Certainly I'm not advocating strikes as a first line of action. I tend to be a ballot box kind of guy myself. But before you condemn those who are advocating strikes, keepin mind that there is already misery afoot, just not being covered. See my article To Serve Our Citizens for some examples of where labor is trending and it might help you understand better why people are willing to contemplate strikes.
The OWS movement, as it exists now, is fulfilling a vital need. Consider what any progressive political movement is up against. Our legal system has created a policy that allows corporations complete freedom to control the outcome of any election. There is no recourse to that, other than mass outrage. The fact that the Congress of the United States is considering proposals to remove any semblance of social welfare, despite the overwhelming approval of these programs by most Americans -- that itself necessitates that people take to the streets, and make themselves heard. Perhaps there is an advantage to being leaderless. The creativity of the individual participants is more effectively utilized. No one needs to participate in activities which don't appeal to them. There is a set of rules, written or not, which are preserving what OWS is trying to accomplish. Nonviolence. Respect for the rights of the individual, without allowing bigotry or hatred. This situation needs to continue until the next election.
Steven, I'm not meaning to disagree that there are positives to the present situation, which I hope I made clear I sympathize with. I totally agree there is a 99%/1% disparity. I was thrilled to see the OWS movement pop up. I think it's great for there to be discussion. But I also think there's a risk that the discussion will not converge, that the tactics will be ones for which effective countermeasures are found, and that we get to the next election with not much changed. It's possible that being leaderless will produce something new, but it's also possible that the reasons that there are leaders in the world is that things get done with them that don't get done otherwise. I've sometimes heard it said that people shouldn't put in leaders who want to be leaders, so maybe they should draft some leaders instead. Maybe the problem is that the good leaders don't want to indulge the ego to say they could or would do it. It's a personal risk to go that route, that people will start to assume you're power-hungry and part of the problem rather than the solution. I admit it's a complex problem and I don't claim to have all the answers. I do, however, think I'm seeing insufficient attention to the possible risks of dragging out this one event. I'd feel more comfortable if the decision to drag it out was based on an acceptance of and thorough analysis of the risk scenarios rather than a dismissal of them out of hand, which is a little of what I'm sensing. I feel like the mere asking of questions like this makes people feel like I'm raining on their parade rather than saying “bring an umbrella, because someone else might be motivated to bring that rain.”
This essay was unreadable because of its bumptiousness and over-all bluster. Put a list of resources and links at the end of each section rather than providing links every two sentences. What percentage of your readers do you think actually used any of them? This “movement” is a joke and will change nothing. The premise that those holding power are concerned or even worried about people carrying signs on the street is vintage laughable liberal dreaming and yet again another example of why there has been no real progressive change since the military/industrial complex goons put the bullet in Bobby Kennedy's head in 1968.
A fine piece Kent. I think you make the issue of heroic efforts have a lifespan very clear. I am afraid of the opposition having time to analyze and eventually infiltrate this serous and effective non-violent movement.

It is still difficult to get my head around the fact that the OWS movement is only asking for accountability regarding corporate activities....using our existing laws. The Far Right does not seem able to reconcile this.
Dr. Spudman, your critique of the hyperlinks is noted, though I don't agree. I offer them because they're inconspicuous—you're the first person I've ever heard complain and I get a lot of comments from people thanking me for links and telling me that they follow them. My experience doing direct research in computer-mediated education is that people often don't want to admit what they don't know and won't ask a person a question. My hypothesis is that they are held back by what amounts to pride because after a point they get to a place where they imagine they should know and are no longer capable of asking. And so my consequent hypothesis is that if I heavily hyperlink my material, it creates an opportunity for shy but inquisitive people to visit a backgrounder page and learn something about a topic they might be unsure of. As I said, feedback on my posts from people suggests this is a good guess. Maybe only 1% of them do it. But you know, I'd put in all the hyperlinks only to find 1 such person. It's not that inconvenient. And sometimes I put them in not so people will go there, but as a way of saying “here's a seemingly random oddity, but I didn't make it up”; it means I myself can go find the link later if I need it. That alone would be worth it.

As to the other question about whether this movement will be effective, if you read some of my comments here, you'll see that while I'm sympathetic to the movement, I do indeed think it's an open question whether this will be effective. See my comment above about squandering mandate, like Obama did.
Gary, indeed, the goals would seem modest. And yet, I wonder if there's not a sense that once there's precedent for actually prosecuting white collar crimes, there could be more. I often wonder if the reason Obama won't prosecute Bush is that he fears the next administration might prosecute him. This is the flip side of the “you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours” effect—more like, “you don't scold me and I won't scold you.” So maybe the demands they're asking for are more threatening than they seem. Then again, they're not actually asking for any demands. They're just talking about how they might...
Kent, did you happen to see Barney Frank's take on OWS last night on MSNBC? He offered an interesting perspective. Enjoyed your post. I have not fully solidified my opinion on the marchers. As Frank said -- who is clearly NOT a Tea Party guy --- what made the Tea Partiers initially successful was their ability to organize voters in the '10 elections when most on the left stayed home. His point is well made, I think. What happens going forward?
I'll have to review this again later but a couple of points for now; I'm not quite so impressed with "Up With Chris Hayes" as you may be. As I recently indicated I think Fast Talking Media pundits hate scrutiny, and the people on Up with Cris Hayes do an awful lot of fast talking. Another problem that I consider insulting and manipulative is their use of what they call a "Sunday talk show pregame" as if this is a sporting event.

That doesn't mean they don't raise some legitimate points but it seems like more of the same even if it isn't as bad as the crap that is on the Fox network. We need more rational discussion and fair reviews not fast talking scam artists even if they do get it right sometimes.

Naomi Klein's book on the other hand is much better; although I was a little skeptical when she joined in on the fast talking. Both Naomi and Jeremy Scahill do better in their books than they do on their TV appearances.
Bernadine, indeed. What affects and focuses votes can make a difference. Let's suppose that all this does is get half of Obama's voters to go out and vote for a new candidate. That would be disastrous because while I agree that the corruption goes to the Democratic party to some extent, I think by no stretch of the imagination are most of the woes being complained about by these people caused by Democrats. And it would elect a Republican. That would be a huge irony if that were the outcome, and I see no process in place to prevent it.

I have heard people suggest that it's OK to lose a few elections before they win. I think this also is sadly misguided. If this stretches multiple election periods, the Republicans will be tightening controls between, as they've been doing with adjusting voting rules to make it harder for Democrats to vote. Additionally, it neglects various absolutes like the global economic crisis and the global climate change problem. Both of these must be addressed now. The Republicans want to address debt by gutting the middle class, which both isn't going to work and isn't worker friendly. And the Republicans don't think we have to do anything about Climate Change.

I hear people saying we need a new party. Fine. Let them propose and create and implement a new party between now and election. Or let them say it's coming and merely train a voting majority how to do write-in votes. But doing nothing is not doing something. And in procedural terms, at least, what they're doing now is procedurally indistinguishable from doing nothing. Even just put the fear of God (or voters) into some politicians enough that they enact some of that talked-about legislation to clean up corruption. I'd count that as a win. I'm not trying to say what the win must be. They should just do something to justify the enormous cost of this event.
Zachery, I guess any show's format is going to not resonate with someone. I love the fast talking in part because it's apparent that it's not for the purpose of glossing issues but because these guys have so much legitimate stuff to say. I haven't seen anyone on who wasn't pretty darned thoughtful and certainly Chris Hayes is very literate, very informed about present politics, and not one even to fail to understand and make meta-observations about the transitions on his show when he's doing things he's just grumbled at the media for doing. I find it refreshing and I often stop and rewind just because I don't want to miss any. If they talked at normal speed they'd need a 4-hour show.
I share your fear of violence triggering an exaggerated and fascistic response from the government, but that's hard to prevent in a self-proclaimed leaderless movement. Say, for example, the violent incidents that occured in Rome this week happened in conjunction with some OWS-affiliated protest in Milwaukee or Miami. What would be the response, and how can we realistically keep it from happening?

I also agree that the movement needs to evolve. Keeping a step or two ahead of the authorities is vital. But, once again, in such a decentralized movement, how can one be sure that every local action will be beneficial to the movement as a whole?

Thanks for posting this-- excellent thoughts.
A lot of analysis here. I suggest the Atlantic for a repost.
American, I agree it's tough to control. But if one properly regards the situation as volatile, then it might make sense to talk about doing what needs to be done in the situation and then getting out of it. Battles are places where you can get hurt, too, and the Army may not say “so let's not have them” but it most surely says “let's get in, do what we need to do, and get out.” I don't see that going on. I see “We can tolerate this moment-to-moment risk indefinitely.”

I think concern about being left out is not really the core issue here. Great attention is being paid to that, but the problem isn't that there's 1% of the US being left out, it's that 99% of the US is left out. If the people left out felt they were a true minority and that the reasons for leaving them out were sound, they might fuss less. I think everyone knows that no political outcome can satisfy everyone. They just don't want an outcome in which most people are not satisfied and a few are rich. Among other things, if you just made sure most people had jobs and job security, those people could help the ones who were left out. It's when everyone is at risk that there are no strong to help the weak other than the 1% strong who don't care to help the weak. In that light, while I agree the issue of centralization is somewhat of a communication issue, I don't really think it's a barrier to consensus.

If they had even something so primitive as a citizen initiative where the larger community would work on anything for which there was some minimal threshold consensus, I think people wouldn't fear they were being left out. People are not mad to not see every issue they want passed, they're mad to see issues they care about and that they perceive many others care about not even tried because someone is manipulating the system so that even popular ideas (getting rid of corporate personhood, passing a jobs bill, de-fanging corporate lobbyists, eliminating corporate tax loopholes you can drive an ocean liner through, keeping WIC funded, ...) have no chance of even reaching a vote.
Sheila, that's kind—thank you. I've sometimes scouted various media for publication but often it's time-critical to get it out and many other publications don't want already-published stuff. Honestly, I even put out the post last night instead of this morning because I consider the threat of random violence turning the whole thing sour a dailiy risk and I didn't want to lose the timing of the piece if violence happened overnight. They could go a year without major violence or it could happen tomorrow. No one knows. I'm expecting dirty tricks of some sort, though.
Beautifully written Kent, I really don’t agree with any of it, but beautifully written, never the less. One place I can agree with you is: “The people who have the power just as passionately don't want to give it up”, that’s right and what does that tell you? Wall Street is just a preliminary, those that are there have committed themselves to stand their ground until they are violently dispersed, which contrary to what you believe is the best thing that could happen. That’s why Bloomberg backed down the other day, being as smart as I know he is, he has figured that out, even if the rest of them haven't. Blood has a way of galvanizing people. As the great poet said: “Blood is the rose of mysterious union”. Check your history books. You can start with the American revolution, work your way through to the French and Russian one, Then go see Mao Tse Tung and China. You make an assumption that these people have something to go back to, they have nothing Kent. Maybe you still have your job and your little office cubicle but we can safely say the at least one quarter of Americans don’t:

http://www.shadowstats.com/

Of those that have managed to remain employed, most have not done so gainfully. the constant threat of layoff, increased work load, and decreased pay and benefits is making existence in America a living hell. Millions have lost their homes and millions more are living under the threat of foreclosure. The American economy that just a few years ago was based on manufacturing is now based on usury, thanks to the pigs in the high rises on Wall Street.The young are living under the burden of permanent servitude to college loans that are in 6 figures. And the old are just waiting for Obama to raid their Social security and pension funds for his war chest. Fighting 6 illegal wars is costly and I strongly doubt whether even the legendarily wasteful Kings of France would have tried that one.

You want these patriots to disperse and peacefully go home to pay their college loans for the rest of their lives. It’s a good thing you weren’t at Bunker Hill. You want them to vote for the next Wall Street shill and save enough so that in 10 years they can take out another loan so that they can get themselves a shelter with maybe even enough closet space to stash their now homeless parents. You want them to spend the rest of their lives dreading the mailman and dodging phone calls. You offer as consolation the possibility's of committees and maybe even a third party (financed of course by Wall Street). More talk, endless talk, close your eyes and you will see what all the words ever spoken from the beginning of time look like. These people, and I mean the American people, want action now! That’s why they are on Wall Street. The main advantage this movement has, is it has no agenda, just an end to rule by Multi National Corporations and their Wall Street lap dogs. 99% of US can agree with that.

Interestingly enough you close your essay by quoting Shakespeare’s ode to the warrior.You will notice the name Shake Speare, that’s no accident, and personally, I would quote this:

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day
Hi, Jack. Thanks for the counterpoint. I think it's good to point out the shadow stats, not because I'm not oblivious to that but it's a point I didn't have a place to mention. In saying people should close up I wasn't saying get them out of my sight, certainly. My point was to get them out of the reach of being menaced. You make an interesting point about the level of desperation people reach and how it leads to blood. I would hope there were still avenues left, but I agree completely that as things get dire, desperate action becomes more likely. I was listening to a special on Martin Luther King in the last few days where they were saying that part of the power of peaceful marches is the understanding that the peaceful part is only by convention—I guess they effectively meant “a show of good faith.” When a show of good faith is met by bad faith, crowds do turn to mobs. The result can be quite unpredictable, though. Could it mean that the people suddenly consolidated as a voting block and went a new direction? Maybe. Could it mean martial law was imposed and there didn't end up being an election? Maybe. Many have suggested (Klein's Shock Doctrine being only one example) that a lot of modern politics is based around the creation of crisis and then the quick pulling of a fast one while the world is still in shock and unable to react coherently. As Pasteur is reputed to have said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” In the modern world, one might want to add by way of obligatory extension, “... and having a well-funded, already-prepared set of contingency plans helps a lot, too.” Anyway, thanks for rounding out the discussion.
I agree with Jan Sands comments and feel there is a very strong agenda behind this movement. If you don't see it now, I think you will very soon. We had no anti-war demonstrations for these dreadful wars we are supporting, I think, because of the lack of a draft. I am so happy to see people "Mad as Hell" over something.
Rated with love
It makes me wonder if we have all been living under a military/police coup for a long long time, and they kept up the illusion of a democracy to keep us purchasing their power. Things seems not so different from the rise of the fascist states 80 and 90 years ago in post war Europe, we forget (or never knew) that they were all over Europe- not just in Germany.
I think I will watch The Bicycle Thief soon.

First, they took the education system, and I didn't complain because I had no children and my education was complete. Then, they took away the unemployment security, and I didn't speak up because I was a private contractor and glad to have a job. Eventually, they dismantled the social services and medical systems, and I didn't mind because I worked, paid taxes and stayed healthy. Finally, they removed the open access to the internet and media, and I tried to Tweet about it but my cellphone was tapped.
Poetess, thanks for bringing in the element of the draft. You're right that was a flashpoint avoided, probably deliberately. And their sly manipulation of social security cuts to have them not take effect right now so that no one can actually claim to be affected is another example. The temperature is rising and what will cause the whistle of the boil is hard to guess, but the fact that nothing is being done to diffuse the tension seems clear.
Oryoki, thanks for adding that texture. I've got little to add but appreciated the contribution. I think you're right about the creeping nature of it there in your modified poem.
While some observations are timeless, others are antiquated ... when we self describe as technologists there is a built in requisite to always keep learning and evolving ...

All this is one lens on reality, and a valid one for the moment, particularly given the importance of the next election.

That said, it takes all of a millisecond to figure out adbusters started this and their whole raison d’être is singularity and nothing less then the complete rejection of the lies and brainwashing of consumerism. Again, technologists must evolve- this is what the web hath wrought, we no longer need any of the "hallowed institutions" right wing authoritarianism's house is built on- NONE OF THEM.

And, an aside, it has become cliche for right wingers to harp that the kids use corporate computers and technology: bwhahahahahahaha!!!! True ignorance is more than bliss, it is an excuse for the violence you predict. We build our own computers, wouldn't be caught dead using corporate crap, we use OUR OWN SOFTWARE ... notice OS actually works now? Thank you communists who invented and run the WordPress community. We do not need banks, we have credit unions staffed by our own communities highly regarded leaders; we don't need IPOs, all laddered and cheated through and through by Wall Streeters since Day 1, we have our own crowdsourced financing, and so, life looks a lot like Avatar and Cameron really is a genius and the old folks who don't embrace the young are done.

Imua (Onward)
Don Rich put it simply the other day. In essence, as I recall - and maybe I'm putting a little of my own take into it, as well - this class war prairie fire is a response to the helplessness the oppressed (the 99%) are become more and more viscerally aware of and it will continue until concession are made by those who have the most to lose by continuing to fan the flames, i.e. members of the 1% and their minions in Congress. Some of the one percenters are already coming forward with itty bitty olive branches, as a piece in The New Yorker revealed in its current issue. Don Rich predicts that the plutocrats will yield a tad, probly in the venue of tax reform and namely by increasing taxes on the most vile of their numbers - corporations and their greediest CEOs. And that will stop the fire from spreading - maybe.

But to suggest that this movement can be managed is akin to firefighters in Texas last month trying to manage the wildfires that were consuming thousands and thousands of acres. Besides, those of us who are burning don't trust people who try to manage us. We've been managed to death already.

If it comes to violence it comes to violence. Those who wish to wring their hands and weep, may do so. But it took the murder of four youngsters in Ohio on May 4, 1970 to awaken this country and turn it around on our disastrous occupation of Southeast Asia.
Forgive the typos, please. My fingers are clumsy this evening.
Kent, I think the current economic climate makes OWS bigger than the sum of its many parts. If the economy substantially deteriorates next year, as I think it will, then there will be much more of a focus on taking electoral action. And this need for taking political action will be amplified by the certainty of government stalemate in DC. What role OWS will play is anybody's guess. It is all in the future. But I'm certain that some of that residual energy will be applied to the effort.
Surfer, I hear that you're frustrated but frankly your remarks were a bit difficult for me to parse, so I'm just going to let them stand without comment. I didn't want you to think I didn't see your comment.

Matt, I take no exception to what you're saying there. You make some good points. I was thinking about the question of Obama, who hasn't really expressed solidarity with the people on the street. If violence breaks out, I wonder if that will be easier for him—I'm guessing not. I see the Republicans jamming microphones in his face and asking “Mr. President, are you for or against the violence in the streets?” I don't see a response to that which is going to play well. I think he'd be better of expressing some feelings about the situation now. I hunted around for statements by him and found this interview, but I'm not sure when this was. It doesn't seem to say a whole lot, but in fairness OWS hasn't made any demands so he has nothing really to respond to. It's just badly orchestrated from an “let's actually get something done” point of view in my mind; I know some will say they're preferring to do things a different way, and if they can pull it off, great. But I'm just not seeing the plan. It most reminds me of people during the .com bubble telling us there was a new kind of economics where companies don't have to make money and can still stay in business...
Lefty, you surely know, or should know, that I have a lot of respect for your analyses. And yet, this is a big complicated situation where no one knows the answer, so don't take my response as saying you're wrong and I'm right, but rather as you seem to see this play out differently than I do, but I hope the movement is considering all the scenarios since it's hard to know which way it will go.

It seems to me that modern politics thrives on having people disagree. Because when there are two conflicting parties, politicians can do whatever the want and blame it on the fact that it was known going in that you couldn't satisfy everyone. If this group speaks with one voice, it will have great power. But if it insists on speaking with many voices, politicians will just do different things and it will be business as usual and the power will be diffused. I'm rooting for these guys—my remarks should not be taken to be somehow a negative. But I want them to go in with their eyes wide open about the risks and prepared. If there are tea partiers and non-tea partiers in there and the economy tanks, it's true that this mass will demand action, but if the noise from the crowd is mixed between the usual “fix the deficit” and “get us jobs” then it will not change the status quo. It needs to say something like “Look, enough with the claims that trickle down works. Enough with the claim that cutting will make us stronger. Use the power of government to get us some jobs, by government hiring, by incentivizing infrastructure and investment in the US, and by taxing the sending of jobs overseas and the hiding of money offshore, and so on. Give tax breaks to people who actually make jobs, etc.” If the message is not loud and clear and consistent, politicians will just again do whatever they like doing and cite that “the crowd told me” and although some will not be fooled, enough may be fooled that the crowd does not turn the election.

That, at least, is my fear. Saying that the role is unclear is exactly the problem because the election is not going to move and the closer we get to it, the harder it is to get coordinated action. If a consensus process is required for the crowd to speak in unified form, and if that may take time (which I assume it will), it would be best to start it soon.

It sounds like I'm trying to say how it should work. I'm not. What I'm saying is that no one else is saying, and I just don't believe the fairy dust that love will make it all good.
I enjoy your work and don't seek to attack Kent, per se, however, you cannot call yourself a technologist and ignore the facts: computers as we know them (not the military and math based mechanisms, the computers we use) come from the counter-culture, were inspired by the Whole Earth Catalog, as was the web, were built by hippies and communists, and, are all powered first by Linux, a very communist OS, and now by the entire Open Source movement, which matches the 99ers to the tee, and, is exactly what they use to create and communicate. I are engineer and find nothing new here, these observations, and, indeed, the historic facts themselves, have been well known for decades now. Adbusters builds on this, and is deconstructing Madison Avenue the same way Linux did to Windows and UNIX ... power to the people, for the people, and by the people. Now, what comes out of this is global understanding, harnessed political power, and a system of commerce which NEEDS WALL STREET'S PARTICIPATION LIKE IT NEEDS A STICK IN THE EYE.

So, this is technology today- and the economy tomorrow.

Cheers!
Surfer, I'd be so reassured if I thought the hardware could be built in the US at all, whether by hippies or corporations. I think it's a matter of national security that we be able to source our entire computer culture (or counterculture) from within the US. As to the question of software, well, I agree that there's a complex dynamic between the open software movements and conventional ones. I have some pretty complex positions on this that are not easily summarized. I'll just leave you your say for today and I'll write a post some day that you can really get playful with. I appreciate the clarification in any case.

(And don't worry about being critical—that's fine. Though please just don't make it personal. Focusing on my or anyone's identity/description is borderline ad hominem and pushing into somewhere I'd ask you not to go. It sounds like you have enough points of substance you can make your remarks without nipping randomly at my bio. I want people here to feel like this is a safe forum in which to disagree, but it can only be that if people are not going to try to invalidate each other as people rather than just discuss the pluses and minuses of their positions.)
Are you saying Cognitive Computer Chips will be built in Taiwan or Shenzhen? Really? I say they will be manufactured here, in fact, I will bet the farm on it.
Surfer, it's plain there's no useful overlap between what I'm talking about and what you're talking about. Even just to establish a common set of premises to have any useful discussion would take more bandwidth than I'm willing to allocate here. I'm going to ask you to suspend the discussion as it is now in my judgment this is drifting off-topic, and I expect further discussion to yield more heat than light.
"If this is a legitimate political movement, it will survive closing down the event because the people and the concerns will survive. People have met some new friends. Networks have been built and can be leveraged. A true grassroots organization can start to form. New tactics can be employed that continue to surprise. What tactics? I don't know—surprise me. Non-violently, please.

"For now people know now that they are not alone. That is the victory and it's already achieved."

I think you have it just right. There are plenty of victories already. I hear Jan Sand's warning about Fear, though, and hope we can pull ourselves above the fray before it takes over. Rated!!!
By definition, they are not going to get "organized" politically in the manner you suggest, and certainly not in the manner of the T-Party, and the impending reaction is waiting to happen--polls be damned.

It's been this way since the Spanish Civil War when the basic "left/right" agenda was established, which is more accurately called the "anarchist/authoritarian" split.

Their movement is more cultural than political. They eschew loyalty, which is the hallmark of the right. In a short length of time, they will be as disillusioned as the kids who voted for Obama, and the radicals of the 60's, who, as Tom Brokaw said so well: "Got into their VW busses with the "MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR" stickers and were never seen or heard from again."

The short term gains are much more likely to be on the right, since they align and vote, but the long term belongs to the so-called "left" because after all is said and done: they represent what is best for the greatest number. It takes the ignorant awhile to get it, sometimes generations, but they do fall--or the form of government has failed and it is time for a new one.
I tried to write a simple comment, but alas, there's much more to it than that. But at least I can thank you for providing the impetus for this dissertation:

Takin' it to the Streets
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dragonlady, thanks for visiting and weighing in. Yes, let's hope.

Ben, thanks for the analysis. It won't surprise you that I agree. A mistake I think Obama made was that he not only wanted to do a certain set of things but he wanted to be liked for the way he did it. Another lesson I think the Republicans know is that the people are often very Machiavellian and if you get them what you want, they forgive a lot of sins. Now they're not serving a lot of people, but it's still their theory. Obama didn't want to just win, he wanted to win in a way that looked good, so he didn't use his mandate. And that's what's happening here. These guys could just say “Look, we have a lot of people, let's just harness the power and push forward.” For as much as they're having great fun showing that there are other political options, it's an indulgence to try to make that point. It might also have worked to do the same thing conventionally. And faster. It's unclear whether this has worked. So far the only claim they can make is that people are having a good time and liking each other. That smile may fade if nothing comes of all this.

Tom, your post is quite a read. I recommend it to others. Thanks!
Obama is now moving in their direction as never before, since he has taken to lambasting the Repugs, but I doubt the fringe will get it, and they won't have the sense to vote for him no matter what since he is really their only choice. I think Obama has known this all along--they can't be counted on.

The resurgence of the "silent majority" becomes more real as the days go by. Just look at a few lefty blogs on OS. They've been "deceived" and won't grow up. Take 'em on and you're the enemy too.
It was a very informative read. The real test will arrive soon, when the (very) cold weather will start creeping in up North. At that point, there will probably be fewer people in Liberty Park (not caused by the items you listed in the section about what can go wrong). Hopefully, by then, things will start to get moving on the political end to reduce the disparity in wealth.
Ben, dealing with the disaffected is tough. I'm in that set. I'm sad/angry at Obama for abandoning the progressives and I got to the point where I had to think of how constructively to deal with that. I'm quite sure I'd vote for another viable Democratic candidate in a primary if one ran; I've been disappointed that the Dems did not run a primary challenger to force Obama back on the straight and narrow. But with primaries over, if Obama won, there's no way I'd be foolish enough to vote for a Republican as a protest vote. And I'd gladly vote for an independent or third-party person if I thought polls said they could win (so that's still a possibility, I guess), but absent solid polling that said people were coalescing around a single candidate, that's the same again as voting Republican, so I wouldn't protest that way capriciously.

But I think you're right that many have expressed a self-indulgent sense that they would vote against their own interest just to make a point about their disappointment that Obama didn't fight harder for progressive issues. So tactically I disagree with them, but emotionally I know where they are coming from. I don't begrudge him trying to involve the Republicans. But I do fault him for being fool enough to keep trying to involve them after they made it clear they were just teasing and were going to seek to make him look foolish. He should have taken a hard-line stance and said “Fine, if you don't want to compromise, we'll show you what a failure to compromise looks like by making our own rules.” That would have preserved his right to still re-involve them later without looking like a fool. Recently, he has behaved better, and he now suffers criticism (some fair, some not) that it's just for campaigning's sake.

We'll see, I guess. He should be less wishy-washy about his involvement with Occupy Wall Street. These are the citizens speaking. If he wants to be purple and inclusive, that's the place to find the inclusion. A daily lottery to find out who from the band will get to visit him and discuss their woes instead of having him all the time listen to lobbyists would a good thing. These are real grass-roots town meetings. Let him visit them, not the organized/orchestrated ones with the nice banners.

Some, like myself, do see a bit of hope returning in how he's proceeding, but he's on probation of a sort...
Kanuk, thanks for getting me back to winter. Part of what triggered me to write this was discussion of the plans to stay for the winter. It was probably a TV news report I heard and although it wasn't expressed quite this way, it sounded like they were going to squat on the land for the purpose of creating their own permanent town within a town. And it's now that I doubt the viability of winterizing so they can hang out through the winter. It's probably technically achievable. In some places, it will not be financially viable, in others it might. But it's an issue not of pragmatic tactics but political tactics. Is this where the energy of this movement should go? I don't know. Time will tell. I'm not offering answers, just questions and peceptions. I think Tom Cordle's post (which is long, but thoughtful) is right that the anger and disillusionment won't go away and so it may somehow make the opposition smile if this dwindles in winter, but that they should still concern themselves with the spring, because the time leading up to the election is warmer and all the people now at the protests will have had a long, unhappy winter in which to plan their next action. Tom says it better, so read his piece.

My focus in the article here was different, but is compatible. I'm not saying people should disband because it's over, but in fact I'm saying the persistence makes it a too-easy target, not just physically (though even that) but conceptually. It's seems to me it's tactical creativity and adaptability that continues to hold in wars; not repeating the same thing over and over again until the opposition learns how to counter it.
I think the thing to underscore now is that Obama is the only viable choice in a real world rather than the fantasy world many so-called "liberals" live in.

Obama made a committment to be "bi-partisan" right from the beginning, and he kept that promise despite the odds and took teriffic abuse for it. That makes him something very odd, and almost unique in our political system i.e. a man of conviction, and he needs to be recognized for that fact. We know now it doesn't work.

I also am among that tired lot who believe race had a lot to do with it, (Not a problem for protestors who have no constituency to attend to) if not on an conscious at least an unconscious level. It isn't a "card" it's a fact. The right never thought he'd be elected in a million years, but now they do and that's a problem.

The 60's assumption that politics is somehow evil and voting is always a choice between evils was naive, cynical, ignorant and basically led to the continued domination by the right. They withdrew, and if they continue to withdraw or vote for non-viable candidates that domination will continue.
Ben, I agree that some have withdrawn from a system thinking somehow that would make it better and they have to get to where they see that what can make it better is their participation or, as you say, it will continue as it is.

I think it's more than race (though I think race is a big factor, of course). The other piece is that Obama is really cozy with Wall Street and is perceived, independent of race, as tainted by the money they're eschewing. I think he could do a lot by getting rid of Geithner or at least reducing his voice in how to plan the administration's posture toward Wall Street. What he needs is to get Krugman and Stiglitz on the economic team. Those people offer not just a greater sensitivity to the populist voice but also, frankly, a willingness to consider ideas other than the status quo. And if Stiglitz were there he'd be preaching responsibility, which is what would lead to prosecutions. And that would show Obama was not bought but merely diverted. It can be done without fear of filibuster, and yet it would be a tremendous signal he was ready to listen. People capable of generating the kinds of critical thinking that Krugman, Stiglitz, and Reich so routinely present are conspicuously absent, and it leads one to wonder if what Obama is doing is because he is oblivious to the problem, because he is oblivious to the options, because he has sold out, or what... I don't personally subscribe to the sold out theory, but I have friends who do, and over time I've given up trying to defend my position because there's not a lot of good evidence that I am. I'm clinging to a hope. But Obama could show me right by bringing in someone who I and others trust would daily harangue him if he strayed from the straight and narrow or failed to consider very real alternatives to the kinds of junk we've seen going on.
Are you aware there has only been four months of his presidency when he didn't face a Republican super majority?

Do you see what is happening now when he has finally taken off the gloves and is fighting them? The faux liberals still won't get it and I bet most of the kids on the street now will sit the election out, but you sure can trust that won't happen with the racists this time. Is there any wonder he went for the middle?

The guys he brought in were mostly non-ideologues--like himself. The "Krugmans" are able to do and say what they do because are not part of the administration. That's how the game works, and it will always be how the game works. It's called POLITICS.

The real problems begin when the ideologues take control. You remember the "neo-cons" don't you? Most these puppy dogs who have confused ideology and politics need to be called on it. They are the problem.
Basically, the guy spent the last ounce of his political capital on the Health Care bill, ( which he did not have to push when he did) had to settle for giving a bene to the insurance companies, but still it's not enough, and he gets as much flack on it from the faux liberals as he does the poor right wing dummies who'd rather die than vote for a black man who is trying to give them a break so they can stay alive longer to hate him.

Now watch--the jobs bill, which is definitely headed in the right direction will go down and there will be no outcry from the "left" because he's "disappointed" them. What a bunch of shit.
occupy

don't reflect
Dare this newbie say we are overthinking this? OWS is the "Telltale Heart". A manifestation of crimes committed. In Poe's classic, the heart needed to be neither articulate nor organized; just present. I hope OWS continues: diffuse, inarticulate and persistent. It is inspiring increasingly suspicious jabber from its opposition, just like the robbers in a 1950's Western, under the sheriff's silent stare.
In some places, the movement has evolved. I wrote about how Occupy San Diego has a platform now.

http://open.salon.com/blog/tony_wang/2011/10/18/a_platform_for_occupy_san_diego

Also, the tea party attended the open assembly last night.

The tea party and the OWS protestors may not agree on much, but one thing they have in common is that they were both pissed off by the bailouts in the fall of 2008. They were necessary, and yes, the government made money on them.

But we never should have gotten to that point in the first place.
I feel like I just earned three free credits in more than one subject - I mean that as a very sincere compliment. Thanks to everyone who made this an amazing discussion - and to Kent P. for moderating his blog so brilliantly.
Ben, I'm not asking to put the ideologues in control. It wouldn't last anyway. I'm asking to consider some of their ideas. I would ask the same of the Republican ideas. Ideas are not dangerous. You examine them and if they work, you use them. People from different backgrounds and with different world views will propose different things because they perceive the world differently and they focus on different problems. Then you take the best guesses of each of these and examine them on the basis of the merits. That's where the pragmatists should come in. But Obama had not been doing that. I know this because the Krugmans and Stiglitz's are not at the table able to answer. There is a difference between being at the table and getting an ultimate vote. The people at the table steer what will be voted on--that's 90% of the effort. And if there is not someone there at the table in real-time able to counter the Republican plans, the Republicans will indulge the tendency they have had to ask for more and paper over it with ever-more-suspect rationales. We need Stiglitz and Krugman there at the table as much for their ability to cry foul at bogus justifications for what is getting proposed as for their actual plans. And calling my request to have them at the table at all “ideologues taking control,” as you were doing, paints a wrong picture of the request.

ume, we each use our respective talents in different ways. If I could think of no way to affect the world from where I am, I might indeed be out on the streets right now with the crowd as a way of expressing my discomfort at the world's present state. But I have another mechanism for doing that, one that I judge that, for me, is more focused and reaches more people.
araz, nice to see you here—thanks for visiting. It's a great metaphor you bring with you about interpreting these concrete actions. Even Adam Smith suggested that capitalism would not work without a conscience, by which I think he meant the proactive kind that amounts really to ethical blocks against doing bad things in the first place. This kind of conscience we're experiencing now is primitive in that it's working somewhat retroactively to repair wrongs that perhaps should have been long ago avoided by better voting at the ballot box. But one has to start somewhere. The old admonition that constant vigilance is the price of liberty is one that has been ignored too often, to our now collective regret.

Tony, thanks for your article with the San Diego platform. It's very heartening to see specific requests.
aim, I always get a lot out of these discussions, too. We're lucky as a community to have a lot of well-informed people willing to work through things in a way that beats the odds as far as how internet discussions often go. Thanks for visiting.
And in today's news, Oakland Police Use Rubber Bullets, Flash Grenades, and Smoke Bombs To Evict Occupy Oakland. These kinds of events will have unpredictable effects that could backfire on someone, but it's too early to see who or how.