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Marion On October - 7 - 2011

When the London (and other English cities)riots rampaged earlier this year, I read with droll amusement, the armchair activist quarterbacks’ wistful comments in Huffington Post and elsewhere, basking in admiration and awe of what they thought they were seeing.

Viewed from a closer range … like here in the UK … these occurances weren’t demonstrations against Cameron’s austerity programs. They were anything but. They were willful acts of vandalism initiated by a youth so spoiled and entitled that they reckoned they could initiate acts of violence like this, simply because they could.

The police, after all in the UK, are unarmed; and somehow, I don’t think scantily clad, spiked-heeled dolly birds out for a night on the tiles at the local nightclub, tripping over broken glass to stock up on booze just lifted from trashed off licences, made any sort of real social statement – except to illustrate the fact that Britain’s youth suffer from a problem with incipient alcoholism.

Ditto the riots that occurred earlier in the spring in response to Cameron’s government raising tuition fees at English universities. The students who rioted in central London were the sorts whose parents viewed a £9000 fee for a term at a leading university (the equivalent of roughly $15,000) as pocket money. Example: Charlie Gilmour, the collegeboy son of Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour, an extremely well-spoken multi-millionaire rock musician who happens to be a personal friend and polo-playing buddy of Prince Charles, was arrested for running riot and vandalising a particularly important British memorial and also for banging on the window of a limousine which just happened to contain Daddy Dave’s royal BFF and his wife out for an evening jaunt.

Charlie Gilmour’s doing porridge (Cockney slang for sitting his ass in prison), and Daddy Dave, needless to say, didn’t get the knighthood he was up for in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

More’s the pity.

As a child of the Sixties, myself, who was too young to participate in the activism incipient in that decade, but who, nonetheless, watched with great interest and sympathy, I’ve been somewhat bemused at the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, which is getting zilch coverage from the BBC.

I was raised in the tradition of the worker’s movement with the unions. My father believed in agitating for better conditions in the workplace and for the working classes. Both my parents were more than sympathetic to the Civil Rights’ Movement – and they were Southerners.

The spontaneity of OWS interested me. Spontaneity can be good, sometime, but I wanted these people protesting to have a goal or a concrete aim or at least a leader who could articulate one and the same – otherwise, they risked getting taken advantage of by people who had their own spurious agenda to promote.

I’m a great believer in history. I honestly do believe that those who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it, so I took comfort in seeking the words of an old hero of mine from the Sixties, who knows a thing or two about protests and protesting.

Mark Rudd (remember him?) writes:-

In discussions with young people, they often tell me, “Nothing anyone does can ever make a difference.”

The words still sound strange: it’s a phrase I never once heard forty years ago, a sentiment obviously false on its surface. Growing up in the fifties and sixties, I and the rest of the country knew about the civil rights movement in the South, and what was most evident was that individuals, joining with others, actually were making a difference. The labor movement of the thirties to the sixties had improved the lives of millions; the anti-war movement had brought down a sitting president—LBJ, March, 1968—and was actively engaged in stopping the Vietnam war. In the forty years since, the women’s, gay rights, disability rights, animal rights, and environmental movements have all registered enormous social and political gains. To old new lefties, such as myself, this is all self-evident.

So why the defeatism? In the absence of knowledge of how these historical movements were built, young people assume that they arose spontaneously, or, perhaps, charismatic leaders suddenly called them into existence. On the third Monday of every January we celebrate Martin Luther King having had a dream; knowledge of the movement itself is lost.

 

The last sentence rings so true. What does it say about the movement Dr King spurred, when someone like Glenn Beck can appropriate that and lead a congregation of Teabaggers onto the Mall on the same date and in the same place where Dr King gave his immortal Dream speech? What does it then say when Beck and his motley crew can announce that this gathering reflects another Civil Rights’ movement?

Rudd goes on to explain how, in the early part of the decade, many anti-war protesters were quickly demoralised, even though they actually had strength in numbers, that their actions, aimed at what was actually a blatantly immoral and illegal war effort, simply fizzled out. Rudd blames the spontaneity of the action on its defeat, saying that ” very success of the spontaneous early mobilization seems to have contributed to the anti-war movement’s long-term weakness.”

I don’t want to see OWS go the way of this, and that’s what worries me.

Rudd cites Andy Cornell, one of the contributors to Letters from Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out, and goes on to elaborate:-

He writes, “activists are individuals who dedicate their time and energy to various efforts they hope will contribute to social, political, or economic change. Organizers are activists who, in addition to their own participation, work to move other people to take action and help them develop skills, political analysis and confidence within the context of organizations. Organizing is a process—creating long-term campaigns that mobilize a certain constituency to press for specific demands from a particular target, using a defined strategy and escalating tactics.” In other words, it’s not enough for punks to continually express their contempt for mainstream values through their alternate identity; they’ve got to move toward “organizing masses of people.”

Aha! Activism = self-expression; organizing = movement-building.

Until recently I’d rarely heard young people call themselves “organizers.” The common term for years has been “activists.” Organizing was reduced to the behind-the scenes nuts-and-bolts work needed to pull off a specific event, such as a concert or demonstration. But forty years ago, we only used the word “activist” to mock our enemies’ view of us, as when a university administrator or newspaper editorial writer would call us “mindless activists.” We were organizers, our work was building a mass movement, and that took constant discussion of goals, strategy, and tactics (and later, contributing to our downfall, ideology).

Thinking back over my own experience, I realized that I had inherited this organizer’s identity from the red diaper babies I fell in with at the Columbia chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, SDS. Raised by parents in the labor and civil rights and communist or socialist movements, they had naturally learned the organizing method as other kids learned how to throw footballs or bake pineapple upside-down cakes. ”Build the base!” was the constant strategy of Columbia SDS for years.

Yet young activists I met were surprised to learn that major events such as the Columbia rebellion of April, 1968, did not happen spontaneously, that they took years of prior education, relationship building, reconsideration on the part of individuals of their role in the institution. I.e., organizing. It seemed to me that they believed that movements happen as a sort of dramatic or spectator sport: after a small group of people express themselves, large numbers of by-standers see the truth in what they’re saying and join in.

So this is it. It all comes down to organising, which means planning, hard work, detail-sorting, simple hard graft which takes time. As an example of such organising which saw success, he cites how the SNCC targeted and achieved success through voters’ rights campaigns amongst rural African American communities in the Deep South of the 1960s.

The Mississippi Delta region was one of the most benighted areas of the South, with conditions for black cotton sharecroppers and plantation workers not much above the level of slavery. Despite the fact that illiteracy and economic dependency were the norm among black people in the Delta, and that they were the target of years of violent terror tactics, including murder, SNCC miraculously organized these same people to take the steps toward their own freedom, through attaining voting rights and education. How did they do it?

Black churches usually had charismatic male ministers, who, as a consequence of their positions, led in an authoritarian manner. The work of the congregations themselves, however, the social events and education and mutual aid, were organized at the base-level by women, who were democratic and relational in style. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Council, SCLC, used the ministerial model in their mobilizing for events, while the young people of SNCC—informed by the teaching and examples of freedom movement veterans Ella Baker and Septima Clark–concentrated on building relationships with local people and helping them develop into leaders within democratic structures. SNCC’s central organizing principle,”participatory democracy,” was a direct inheritance from Ella Baker.

SNCC preached a gospel of individual efficacy. What you do matters. In order to move politically, people had to believe that. In Greenwood the movement was able to exploit communal and familial traditions that encouraged people to believe in their own light.

Does this sound familiar? If it doesn’t, cop this: It’s the same method employed by Republican Party operatives when they approached the disenfranchised remnants of the old Democratic Party base, who’d been rejected by the new Progressives, some forty years ago.

Such tactics created the Reagan Democrats a decade later. Such tactics resulted in the revolt of the Soccer Moms and Religious Right in the wake of the rise of Dubya Bush. Such tactics resulted in the Tea Party we know know and abhor.

However, with the wisdom of age, Mark Rudd offers admonition, in telling how the movement he and the Sixties’ students built, singularly failed.

However, my clique’s downfall came post-1968, when, under the spell of the illusion of revolution, we abandoned organizing, first for militant confrontation (Weatherman and the Days of Rage, Oct. 1969) and then armed urban guerilla warfare (the Weather Underground, 1970-1976). We had, in effect, moved backwards from organizing to self-expression, believing, ridiculously, that that would build the movement. At the moment when more organizing was needed, in order to build a permanent anti-imperialist mass movement, we abandoned organizing.

 

Think about how different our society would have and could have been!

Now fast-forward to today and Occupy Wall Street.

A prescient young person, of the same age as many who seeem to be taking part in the movement which is now expanding to various other American cities, Ezra Klein writes in the Washington Post:-

There is not, in other words, all that much you can say with confidence about what Occupy Wall Street is or isn’t. At the moment, it’s different things to different people. And, depending on your perspective, that may be the nascent movement’s biggest strength or its fatal weakness.

Right now, the protests are at a tipping point. The unions and MoveOn.org are mounting a sympathy march this afternoon. Van Jones’s Rebuild the Dream and Russ Feingold’s Progressives United are blasting messages of support. Prominent elected Democrats such as Rep. John Larson, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus; Rep. Louise Slaughter, ranking member on the House Rules Committee; and Sen. Jeff Merkley have all applauded the movement.

What these Democrats and liberal-activist groups are looking for is something similar to what conservatives found in the tea party: an opportunity to recharge and rebrand. Governance exhausts a movement. The compromises sap it of its purity; the institutional ties rob it of its authenticity; and in times when the American people are unhappy, the consequences undermine its agenda. In 2009, that’s where the Republicans were. The Bush administration had left them identified with an unpopular president, yoked to a terrible economy and discredited as a governing force. So they stopped being Bush Republicans and became Tea Party Republicans.

In 2011, elected Democrats and activist groups affiliated with the Democratic Party are in a similar situation. They’ve compromised on their agenda. They’re yoked to a terrible economy and an unpopular president. They’ve watched the grass-roots energy migrate to the tea party right. They no longer hold the mantle of change. And here, all of a sudden, comes Occupy Wall Street, which seems to have tapped into the zeitgeist, and the slogan “We are the 99 percent,” which is something every liberal message man in town wishes he had come up with. You can see the appeal.

That isn’t to say these groups are trying to co-opt Occupy Wall Street. They’re not. Or, at least, they don’t think they are. They just want some of that grass-roots magic, too. They see a space opening up for aggressive, populist organizing, and they want in on it.

That’s not what Occupy Wall Street was founded to offer. Its roots are more radical and anarchist than that.

(snip)

The effort to create “the sort of society you want to have in miniature” makes it hard to turn your attention to changing the society that’s all around you — and that ultimately limits your appeal. The number of people who want to sleep in the park and overthrow the system is not large. The number of people who want to express their frustration with the system and fight for a better deal might be.

The leaderless, decentralized, consensus-driven nature of the protest will make that process of evolution and adaptation easier. After all, there’s no one in particular who can say, “That’s not what this movement is about.” If MoveOn.org begins organizing under the “We Are The 99 Percent” banner, who will stop them?

One very possible future for the movementat it splits in two: The Occupy Wall Street effort, with its more radical aimds and means, continues, and the “We Are the 99 Percent” movement becomes something broader and more directly engaged with the political process. Another is that it fizzles: The radical protest in Zucotti Park peters out, and the effort to create a more mainstream version fails. Another possibility is that it fractures: Just as there are hundreds of distinct tea party groups organized under separate and competing national coalitions, you could imagine a lot of different efforts organized under one name but representing diverse and contradicting ideas.

Such is the hybrid nature of a movement today, and by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. That doesn’t mean Occupy Wall Street, itself, is wicked – far from it. I’m a purist on this one, and I want a viable movement to emanate from this that will result in our realising the ability to choose legislators with a more Progressive outlook, who will begin to move our Executive Branch in a more Leftward direction.

I’m not disappointed in the President. He does the best he can with the bad hand that was dealt him. Could he do better? Of course. But he’s constricted by the Constitution as much as by the Senate Democrats who, as we speak, are already picking apart the jobs bill he’s desperately trying to push.

And let’s not even begin to discuss the Republicans.

What’s happening on Wall Street and what’s burgeoning in cities across the country could be something good, or it could just as easily be something rancid. It really just depends on who shows up to assume the mantle of leadership in this and how that person defines the goals.

Just remember that there are a lot of opportunists about.

58 Responses so far.

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  1. Sabreen60 says:

    I thought I would bring this over from the comment section of the “The Obama Diary”.

    “Several thousand kilometres from the heart of the growing anti-Wall Street protests in New York, Kalle Lasn says he is astounded that an idea he and a few others hatched in Vancouver is now expanding across North America and beyond.

    “Of course, we had some hopes and dreams, but we had no idea it would turn into a movement in the United States, then into Canada, and become global,” said Mr. Lasn, co-editor of the influential, Vancouver-based, anti-consumer publication Adbusters, which first called for a people’s occupation of Wall Street.

    We just felt America was ripe for a Tahrir moment of its own,” said Mr. Lasn,

    The group conceived a centre spread in the magazine’s July edition, depicting a ballerina delicately balancing on the iconic Wall Street bull, with the words: “What is our one demand?….#OCCUPYWALLSTREET, September 17, Bring tent.”
    “We just did this thing and watched as it started to grow and grow,” Mr. Lasn marvelled. “Then some groups in New York got behind it. The buzz grew, and suddenly it took off, and now it’s a real movement.”

    The Occupy Wall Street movement will have a homecoming of sorts with protests scheduled for Oct. 15 in Toronto’s financial district, as well as other major Canadian cities, including Vancouver.

    Meanwhile, Lasn is relishing Adbusters’ role in sparking the movement.

    “This was all cooked up right here at Adbusters,” he said. “It’s a Canadian adventure.”

  2. lynettema says:

    If all we do is air our grievances, can we call ourselves activists? The term “activists” suggests we are doing something to better current circumstances.

  3. agrippa says:

    I liked the piece by Borosage; it made a lot of sense.

    OWS is not neat and tidy; this is not a tightly controlled revolution like the one run by Lenin. It is more like the ‘Arab Spring’.
    It has a lot of ptential to do ssome real good, if it builds to a critical mass ; I do not know if it has the momentum to do that.

    I cannot tell from where I live, which is Texas. Texas is very comfortable and very passive; most people here will tolerate just about anything.

    OWS has already do a fair amount of good.

  4. ADONAI says:

    They had leaders in the 60’s. They were killed.

    Revolution is an illusion. Pointless and counterproductive. This isn’t 1776. We aren’t being led by aristocrats who were shamed by being asked to pay taxes. Just faux revolutionaries who have never been asked to sacrifice a day in their fucking lives.

    Revolution didn’t give us America. A long, bloody war with a little help from France gave us America. Without that the revolution is a bunch of fops in powdered wigs arguing about how many slaves they should have.

    Now the people who built and fed the corporate machine want to call it out? Go fuck yourself. Why don’t you Facebook some meeting spots? Stop at Wal-Mart and get your protest kit ready. Don’t forget your sweater from Abercrombie and Fitch. And bring some drums. We all know how much everyone loves a groovy jam.

    We made this. Now swallow it. So tired of a democracy that blames everyone else but themselves. Yo know what I did? I fucked up. Bad. I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Never once stopped to think about how my life impacts the world.

    Never stopped to think that to have my lifestyle someone, somewhere had to give up theirs. And it kills me. Kills me every time I think about it. Every time I punch a key on my box store computer, wondering how many people had to die so I could have it.

    But still I go on. Fall into the same routines. Try to do what is best for my family and myself. Does it make me a bad person? Often times I think it does. SO happy to be born in this country, while thinking that my birth probably means hundreds had to die somewhere to accommodate me.

    The fight for equality has been gong on since man first left the tribes and 10,000 years later we ain’t a goddamn inch closer. Just graveyards full of revolutionaries. Too blinded by their own anger to see that they were part of the problem. They were part of the status quo.

    What’s happening to America right now, this is called karma. This is payment for a legacy of sins, I deserve it. You deserve it. Most of us deserve it. Reap what has been sewn. Then Facebook it.

    • Kalima says:

      I really don’t understand all this anger and the constant blame game. Yes it was way overdue, but at least they are doing it now, at least they are tying to make a difference.

      Maybe you could channel all this anger you so often display here into something more constructive, like volunteering to help the underprivileged or doing something positive to help your fellow Americans in some way. If you are already doing that, then good for you.

      At least these people are taking a stand to protest and try to affect change, many of them have no jobs or future, and no, they are not all running around in designer t-shirts waving signs. I think they need our support rather than our unnecessary wrath for finally starting something that many have talked about for years, and getting together to organize on Twitter or Facebook is hardly something to be snarky about when you are trying to bring people together in a country that is as vast as the U.S. is.

      It’s the defeatist attitude that nothing can change that holds many people back, if you are not prepared to fight for change, how are you supposed to see any?

      Isn’t this exactly what your President said in 08, to start change we must work from the bottom up, brick by brick, and that he couldn’t do it alone?

      He asked for your/America’s help, it’s about time that he got some.

      • ADONAI says:

        Change? What has changed? What has changed since the first day man put up a fence around a piece of land and called it his? Democrats and Republicans are just the modern Assyrians and Akkadians. A ruling class that decides FOR you.

        People don’t want change. They want happy fucking promises and no commitments. Everyone’s America depends on where and when they were born and what color their skin is. To deny that is to deny the reality you wake up to everyday.

        America has never prospered. Those words always sounded so hollow when I said them. Everyone’s surplus was someone else’s deficit.

        When this country was “booming” in the 50’s and 60’s, you know who wasn’t doing too damn good? Same people who never do any good, the poor and minorities. Preach prosperity to the black men being hung for walking down the street.

        Preach equality to the Mexican Americans being dragged out of their homes so we could build a fucking baseball stadium. This country is full of fucking white people problems and colorblind solutions.

        I don’t wanna fight for this America. I don’t wanna fight for a country that has such a narrow view of success. Life is too short for me to die trying to make things better, temporarily, for 10% of the country. Over and over and over and over and over again.

        What progress? When has it EVER not been this way? That’s what I mean. That’s what Albert Camus meant. You aren’t fighting for change. You’re fighting for the status quo. Whose change? Yours? Mine? That’s kinda shitty.

        • bito says:

          Exactly what change would you “fight” for then or is it your choice to be but a chronicler, a bystander? If so that is fine, have at it but make a choice between a that or just a critic of others that do work for change whether the changes be small. Helping to improve your community or becoming a member of a world-wide NGO, a giver, a taker, a bystander or a critic.

          • bito says:

            AD, a koan is given to one unexplained.

          • ADONAI says:

            How are these people helping?

            • ADONAI says:

              bito, I don’t get the “blind beggar” metaphor. Could you explain it? Steal from blind people?

            • ADONAI says:

              KT, All I’ve ever done is try to live. As far as helping, I’ve donated money, volunteered time at the employment center.

              During the day I work and try not to become homeless and at night I just try to relax.

              But I’ve already admitted I’m a fuck up. Way back in the original comment. I’m just saying that this is the difference between me and most of the people protesting. I admit it. I don’t blame my lot in life on politicians and the guy from Monopoly.

              We went to war with England cause the rich didn’t want to pay taxes. How noble. We would have stayed in Vietnam and went to Cambodia if one man hadn’t lucked into a detailed list of our sins.

              When will a woman make us much as a man for the same work? They’re a majority of the population but a minority in our government and workforce.

              We are still buying and selling people. Many, many people have to die for us to enjoy the life we do. I am not and never will be proud of that.

              America doesn’t think. If it did we wouldn’t be where we’re at right now. In this country’s whole history there has been one constant: the people.

              We have failed. Not wall Street, not Obama, not Congress. Us.

              What’s the end goal here? Wall Street gonna surrender? Politicians gonna all tha sudden realize they’re wrong?

              No. Shit will just even out as it always does. The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, and enough of the middle will be content. That is the real history of this country.

              How many miles? How far do they have to go? Falling back into the same patterns over and over again isn’t progress.

            • Adonai? What have you ever done to help change things? With that sort of attitude, we would still be ruled by the king of England. We’d still be in Vietnam. Women wouldn’t be able to vote, we would still be buying and selling people in the South….etc.
              I am very glad that millions in America Don’t think like that!

            • ADONAI says:

              We’ve needed help. No one helped us. Still know people who do. Many, many people. Nobody helping.

              So they can stick that up their ass. You wanna guilt me? Where I’m from and what I’ve seen and had to endure you want to guilt ME?

              THAT is why we fail.

            • bito says:

              We’ve needed help. No one helped us. Still know people who do. Many, many people. Nobody helping.

              How could I possibly “guilt you” as you put it. From what you have written, you have made your choice, so be it.
              You have chosen to steal the blind beggars bowl and that is your decision, now I know your choice without any thought of guilt or innocence but with the knowledge of your beliefs.

            • bito says:

              If you have no conception of how people help others than there is no use to even discuss the issue. I can only wish you a long life for you and your loved one of never having a day when they need any help from others.
              Posed: ” A person in full control of his consciousness will steal a beggar’s bowl from a blind man.”

        • So, there have been no good social or governmental changes since the Assyrians? Are you kidding me? Believe what you want, but will always disagree with that one.

          • ADONAI says:

            What changes KT? No more public beheadings?

            Still a ruling class deciding for the rest of us. Over 200 years in the “land of freedom” and we still aren’t all free. Laughable.

            • Who is “we?”

            • SueInCa says:

              Adonai real quick before I sign off. The Giants were playing STL in STL. Will Clark got to second base and Ozzzie said something smart to him. Clark answered back and then Ozzie waited until he turned around then clocked him from behind. Of course a fight started. I was burning Smith’s rookie card when my daughter’s friends father came in to pick her up. He later told his daughter and mine that I was his hero. To give up that card over principle LOL. It was anger not principle but that’s ok too. Of course we are both big Giants fans.

            • ADONAI says:

              KT,So it went from undeniable rights, to giving up rights, to anarchy.

              No. I just want people to realize the truth. We are not a solution. We are a problem.

            • The social contract implies that we give up certain rights for the benefit to society as a whole. How much freedom do you want? No laws at all? Complete anarchy?
              Is slavery still legal? Is discrimination still legal? Are you not free to vote? Are you not free to own property? Are you not free to pursue a higher education?

        • Kalima says:

          Ok ADONAI, stay angry and see what good that will do for you and everyone else. If you don’t think that your country and it’s people are worth fighting for, don’t criticize those who do.

          As you say, people have been fighting inequality since our human race began, is that any reason to just give up trying?

          As I said, I believe that a defeatist attitude is the very reason that things never change, not only in America, but the world over, and I see only positive things when people get together to protest about what they believe is the problem. Doing nothing is the status quo.

          If the President had given up on HCR like those around him had suggested, where would those millions of uninsured Americans be in the future when the changes are all implemented, or how about DADT, and the many other legislations that have been passed, should everyone just stop trying to change things for the good of the people who are suffering the most?

          I have to go now now, Saturday is my busiest day, have a good evening.

          • ADONAI says:

            Why won’t Obama just say “I support gay marriage. I support equality for all our citizens”. But he won’t.

            Now they can go die in the desert for a lie? Whoop-de-do.

            We’ve never ever begun to fight for equality or freedom. Real freedom. There’s nothign to give up. Nothing has begun.

            The problems in this country, this world, are bigger than our feeble solutions. Our temporary “gains”.

            The human race is dying. People are being slaughtered, children are starving, and we’re arguing about oil subsidies.

            Raising corporate tax rates gonna fix that? Fuck no. Small solutions for giant problems. Karma.

            • Adonai, people, societies and events in this world are like the bending of a bow. The top gets pulled down and the bottom gets raised. This bending action is constantly changing. Sometimes the bottom has to stay where it is, while the top of the bow stays where it is. Then a change comes and the top is lowered once again and the bottom is once again raised. The bow is always contracting and releasing and all the while, there is tension on the string. The world is in a constant state of flux. Change happens all the time, sometimes good and sometimes bad.

            • Kalima says:

              Do you want him to lie about supporting same sex marriage even if he doesn’t for whatever reason?

              He is the President of the United States, not a gay rights activist, and besides what does this have to do with the OWS protests, nothing.

              He got DADT overturned, supports civil unions, their rights and equality, I think it was enough. Expecting him to voice a private opinion in public about this, is expecting too much.

    • UncleB says:

      “We made this. Now swallow it.”
      +++++

      We may have helped create “the Beast”; but now it’s time to put a leash on it (to some degree)..!

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Ouch! That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?

  5. UncleB says:

    “Seminal moment?

    Why, this is, um, obscene! How dare you refer to semen!”
    — signed, S. Palin

    : )

  6. Emerald1943 says:

    Bito, thanks for your great Twitter feed! I have picked up another article that bears reading.

    http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2011104007/whose-side-are-you-moral-clarity-occupy-wall-street

    This was written by Robert Borosage and poses the question,”Whose side are you on?” There are a lot of people who are going to have to answer this question before the elections.

    • bito says:

      Thanks Em, I try to put up ones that I think are good and of interest to us but since I usually only get a chance to skim the longer ones, you’ve made me want to go back and read that one. :-)

      • Emerald1943 says:

        Bito, it is something of an affirmation of the reasons for the OWS. I liked it. I know that some here don’t particularly like Borosage, but I do think he hit the nail on the head with this one.

  7. SallyT says:

    I don’t know if OWS will last or not but I find the action of these people refreshing and exciting whether it is a week long or months. Yes, us old timers can tell them how we did it or should have done it, however, we did not have the social media that these people have. Even if the MSM ignores them, they still get attention on the Net and keep the strength focused among themselves. We never had that. The Net travels way faster than flyers being passed out. Everyone has an opinion and some are even helpful but this movement is its own. Remember even one person on a corner with a sign makes their own impact. Right now many think it won’t last, however, did they even know it would start? Corporate media ignoring them only strengthen their points. I don’t want to be one of those that say “It’s a good try but it won’t get anywhere. It will fizzle out.” No not me. I say, “It has already gone where no one else has tried. These are smart young, middle aged and even older people out to bring attention to the 99% that haven’t gotten any and are ready to react. I am with you today, tomorrow, next month and however long it takes. I want to see how the new generation of protesters do it and how it goes and will be happy to say I saw it happen.” And, I pray that I will be able to add that they did it so much better than we did.

    • cyrano1 says:

      Three cheers! Spot on and Thanks!! And better it gets traction now rather than wait until desperate thugs with pitchforks hit the bricks!!

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Amen, Sally! Daily we see the movement growing and this is a good sign! We need that “critical mass” to bring about any change. As CL has written, no protest can be truly successful unless it results in LEGAL changes. We need so much reform in our government and I am hoping, beyond hope, that the movement will do what we need it to do. Maybe the American sleeping giant is waking up! :-)

  8. AdLib says:

    I see this perspective as old fashioned thinking that misses what’s really going on and what the prospects are.

    There are many on the Left whose first reaction to the protest was to ignore it, then marginalize it then once that could no longer be sustained, pontificate self-importantly about how “these disorganized kids” are doing it all wrong.

    IMO, such egocentricity reveals ignorance and older, closed minds which have only proven to have failed the public time and time again.

    Instead of being married to a narrow way of thinking, trying to shoehorn every protest into a decades old, specific box, such folks should learn from recent history such as the Arab Spring.

    What has happened in this era when there is a popular rising against oppression? The first step is for people to come together. Not be organized in complex detail, not have a specific list of demands, etc.. First, they have to gather together.

    The OWS has clearly explained that their protest is modeled on the Arab Spring. They wanted to start an occupying protest in the corporate financial center of America and hoped it would grow. Is that really radically different than how the protest in Egypt began to grow?

    Across the nation there are a majority of Americans who have been and are being oppressed by the corporate domination and destruction of our economy, society and democracy.

    They are not sitting around thinking of specific demands or goals, they are trying to find ways to pay their rent or mortgage, feed their kids and buy the necessities while looking for a job that can pay them a decent wage.

    They are isolated in their struggles. What is attracting people to OWS is that it is a big and welcoming tent for all those who are upset at corporate dominance and how it has been hurting them.

    That includes those who have lost their homes and jobs, want better wages, want Climate Change addressed, support election finance reform, oppose nuclear power subsidies and on and on.

    Millions of people can come together under a general umbrella of, “Americans First, not corporations!” as opposed to “We want public funding of elections!”, noble as that sentiment is.

    The know-it-alls who time and again have proven that they’re just echo chambers for what the past and the status quo has to say are mostly wrong (they actually believed Sarah Palin might have run for President???”) and simply don’t get OWS. Their minds seem too petrified.

    This is not your father’s movement. It’s an info age movement. This is not the last stage of a movement, it is the first stage.

    And the first stage is all about attracting and interconnecting those who are fed up with corporate dominance and want to reverse it. If thousands and possibly millions could be interconnected over this universal concept, then they can support many aspects of anti-corporate sentiment within that movement.

    As allegory, if you want to play a game of basketball at the park against another team, the first thing you need to do is get enough players to come out so you have a team that is sufficient in size and could viably win.

    Then, once the amount of people required to accomplish that are together, rules and positions can be agreed to and a competitive game can begin.

    I simply don’t understand the dilettantes with comfortable incomes wagging their fingers and criticizing how OWS is doing it all wrong when prior to this, they railed for some kind of popular protest against corporate control.

    I would instead suggest that they point their liberally wagging finger back at themselves for sitting on their behinds and doing nothing to change corporate oppression other than complain about it and look down on those trying to do something.

    So far, all of those who think they know better about OWS have been proven wrong. Maybe their dire warnings of its doom will prove correct but it is also very possible that these folks will continue to be proven wrong. The need of some to feel superior or smarter than others more often limits their objectivity and instead usually results in ignorance.

    Some things start the way they start and happen the way they happen. Everything that ends up working out doesn’t conform to a specific game book. If that was true, we would have a President McCain right now.

    If it is more important to some to wring their hands because they think a certain convention needs to be obeyed and they invest their energy in hand wringing instead of concretely supporting a people’s movement that charts its own course, they make themselves more and more irrelevant with each passing day that the movement continues.

    • cyrano1 says:

      Love both your comment and Killgore’s. As a product of the 40’s and an extreme activist of the 60’s, I’m of the view that if we see something growing that shows promise, we just have to jump in and be a part of it instead of overly parsing its potential future value. The “Arab Spring” reference is perfect! It’s only through OVERWHELMING support (really HUGE numbers) that change is forced -- and change always lags due to the opposing forces Killgore Trout refers to. (It always looks really, really bad before the opposition collapses enough for it to get better.

      What these Asshats in control don’t seem to grasp is that the current movement is pretty tame and civilized. If this fails, and given that our bought and paid for corporate government is still in control, it’s only a matter of time before the well-armed, less informed and leaderless pitchfork crowd takes to the streets.

      I just submitted my contribution to the growing “We are the 99%” blog. The stories there are absolutely heart-breaking!!

      http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/submit

    • Some very good points AdLib, some I didn’t consider before reading your comment. But I am skeptical, not about OWS having any real impact, but about those who may and probably will, do everything they can to discredit the movement and put an end to it. I’m not talking about just the ragged media coverage, but those who serve their corporate masters in government and the higher ups in law enforcement. The ones that don’t need a union. Maybe I am still a little “shell shocked,” from the events of the 60s. But don’t kid yourself, there are plenty of people in this country that do not want this movement to succeed, people who have power and influence.
      We need to stay vigilant and not be lulled into a false sense of security.

  9. Gordonskene says:

    Thanks for posting this. It’s a matter of concern on the parts of many involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement that the message not get hijacked or muddled.

    The more attention this movement gets, the more likely there will be for the presence of malcontents, agents provocateurs and opportunists; it’s just what happens with any movement of more than two people. One of the points you bring up, and one I certainly remember very well, is how many movements, beginning as honest protest of corrupt institutions, became somehow derailed by people with agendas bent on anarchy rather than foment real change. I can’t really speak on the recent riots in the UK -- I don’t live there. I do know that my first reaction was to be reminded of the riots in Brixton in the 1980’s and thinking perhaps this was a dramatic social upheaval going on in Britain. But I also remember the Anti-War Movement in the 1960’s and, what started off one way certainly ended up being something else.

    But as was pointed out in your article, and by the comments, it appears the dissent, starting off as a legitimate reaction to terrible conditions, got derailed by people just looking to stir up shit for its own sake and not for any higher motives. I think you run that risk, no matter what you do. How you counter it is the big question. How do you not allow self-serving ego based distractions to kill legitimate dissent in any protest movement? I think that’s been a point of contention ever since the concept of protest began. There will always be factions -- those pledged to protest one way and those of another. The recent events in New York involving the Police beatings and use of Mace also beg another question -- just as there are elements to incite and inflame on the side of the protesters, there are no doubt just as many wishing to incite and inflame on the side of law enforcement. One of the fortunate elements in our current state of dissent is the introduction of instant media -- the fact that we can now identify the Bologna’s and Connolly’s as perpetrators of incitement on the side of law enforcement is a huge difference from the 1960’s. I do believe, from what I’ve seen here in Los Angeles, that there are many in law enforcement who are on the side of the protesters and that the actions of the malcontents don’t reflect the majority. Let’s face it -- the Police are in unions too. They have (as we’ve seen in Ohio and Wisconsin) just as much to lose as anyone. This time the protest is all-inclusive and that’s a point of departure from the Anti-War and Civil Rights Movements of the 60’s.

    But it’s that thing about history and the point you make about its importance that is so crucial, and I’m glad you pointed that out. Much as history may seem irrelevant to many, the fact that there are precedents to learn from, is essential to any movement. To drag out the cliche about insanity -- you just can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Ain’t never gonna happen.

    BTW -- People think our current state of political climate is based on 8 years of the previous administration. The systematic dismantling of our government has been taking place slowly and surely since 1970. Snapping fingers and magical thinking aren’t going to fix something that’s been in place for forty years. It is a slow arduous process. Perhaps the American people are really looking for the next Hugo Chavez? Just a thought.

    Many thanks and keep up the good work,

    Gordon Skene
    Newstalgia.CrooksandLiars.com

    • AdLib says:

      Gordon, nice to see you here!

      True, when a movement begins gathering size, publicity and momentum, it becomes an ideal tool for others to exploit, sometimes those with bad intentions.

      And a leaderless, popular movement is especially vulnerable.

      However, perhaps the fact that it has been well publicized as leaderless would disqualify anyone who acts out negatively. After all, no one is giving orders and everyone’s responsible for themselves.

      The Baggers continue to get away with racism, hatred, religious intolerance, death threats, etc. If there are negative incidents, whether by infiltrators or zealots, we should push back hard on any double standard of the MSM to disqualify OWS for that while embracing the Baggers despite their worst deeds.

    • cyrano1 says:

      All great points! Yet I continue to look at the bottom line: The anti-war protests got us out of Vietnam, and the Civil Rights Movement got us civil rights legislation. Any movement has a disparate membership working at cross purposes and is always riddled with clashing egos. In the end, we just need it to be cohesive enough to get the job done, don’t we?

    • Welcome Gordon. As far as those who stirred up trouble from within the movements of the 60s, keep in mind that many, many of them were paid government operatives whose job it was to stir up trouble within the different movements. One in ten college students worked for the FBI. We have been led to believe, quite successfully, that these movements fell apart from within. But the reality of why they fell apart has been kept as deep dark secret by the powers that be. The counter culture of the sixties scared the bejesus out of the majority of those in power. The events and slanders and lies about those times still exist today and cause many to believe that the failure of the counter culture was caused by those in the counter
      culture.

      • Gordonskene says:

        I remember the FBI infiltrators very well. The two purposes they managed to serve was a: make people very paranoid (imagine going off to a concert with some of your friends and a cop comes up to one of your friends and says “thanks for the tip, we got him” and walks away -- they did that a lot)and b: frustrate people into just giving up. I’m wondering if much was learned from that -- that’s the thing I’m concerned about. I’m also concerned about the lack of cohesion in the blogosphere. The egos need to take backseat for a while and join forces.

        I will say though, that there’s a vibe about this movement this time that’s different from the way it was 40 years ago. Can’t put my finger on it -- the concept of a leaderless movement is intriguing -- with no leader there is no target.

        Maybe, just maybe, they got it right this time. Who knows?

        We’ll all see soon enough.

        • cyrano1 says:

          Young people (as I was in the 60’s) don’t intimidate very well. We were all on J Edgar Hoover’s list, and a couple of my friends were actually wire-tapped! Laughable now, A bit scary at the time, but we’re all retired old farts now, having spent our lives as responsible citizens in respectable careers without having broken any laws in the process.

          Massive movements DO work! We just need enough members to make it happen!

  10. Itchybiscuit says:

    Well from my perspective as a British citizen, you’re wrong. The Press concentrated on Charlie Gilmour because they were lazy. Students up and down the country are raging because they voted for the Lib Dems and their pledge of no tuition fees but were then let down when the Libs went into coalition with the Tories. To say it was only children of the rich who demonstrated is just plain false.

    As for the ensuing riots over one week in the summer, they were started up because the police shot dead an innocent man then completely messed up the parental notification and refused to speak with the family about the killing. The family weren’t involved in the riots but a lot of disaffected people were. The real trouble started when the police stepped back and allowed the rioters free rein. News quickly spread via social media and a free for all ensued with the police making zero arrests of the troublemakers. Sure, British youngsters have a drinking problem but to characterise the rioters as ‘dollies in high heels snatching booze from looted off licences’ is pure hyperbole.

    Thanks awfully for relaying your ‘experience’ however misguided it actually is.

    • AdLib says:

      Appreciate your perspective and nice to see you here, Itchybiscuit!

      I did find it curious that this article doesn’t even mention the incident that sparked the protests and by doing so, leaves an inaccurate impression about the whole affair. Your recounting is far more accurate in portraying the protests as a complicated evolution stemming from a police killing with more complex social and political threads than the simplistic proposition that this was just some spoiled rich kids misbehaving.

      One can’t arrive at the truth by circumventing facts that undermine one’s predetermined conclusion.

      • Itchybiscuit says:

        Yeah, tell me about it. It’s nice to see you too AdLib -- haven’t seen you in another place for a long time pal. I don’t often comment on this site because I’m in Scotland and don’t have a grasp of the underlying causes of what ails America. I know all the headline stuff but I haven’t walked a day in the shoes. The only reason I did reply was because I couldn’t allow the impression that was given to linger. It reminded me too much of the simplistic reporting on the Sky News network. I’m glad that I brought a different perspective and apologise for going in with all guns blazing. Now, to quote MacArthur: ‘I shall return’. 😉

        • Kalima says:

          Itchtyb, as the only other Brit here, although only naturalised, and at times pasteurised, I thank you for your comment. My sister who has lived forever in London after we left, and my father in the Midlands, tell a different story. The criminal element did take control in the end though.

          • Itchybiscuit says:

            Different people will have different perspectives. I tried very hard to understand what went on during that time and voraciously devoured any and all news/documentaries/panel discussions on the subject. I avoided the tabloids and Sky News (one and the same thing) as they were selling exactly the same viewpoints as the original poster. I mentioned why the criminal element took over. Now that I’ve revealed I’m in ‘another country’ the argument seems to be that I know less than someone living there. I too have friends and family in London, the Midlands, the North East and Wales. As I mentioned, this is a really small country and both the BBC and Channel4 News covers it from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

            • Kalima says:

              Itchybiscuit, your opinion is valued here any time, please do drop by again soon. It makes no difference where you live, even if it were somewhere in the North Pole, your perceptions add to the conversation here at The Planet. Thanks for stopping by. Oh, and I’m in Tokyo.

          • Marion says:

            Yes, they did. In London, some of the looters included a social worker, and engineering student, a music student, a ballerina and a law student. Also up North, three young men ere killed in the riots.

            The tuition demonstrations were limited, mainly to London, and most of the kids protesting were affluent and WHITE. Amongst the crowds were several private high school students.

            As Itchybiscuit is in Scotland, he knows even less about a country from whom his ilk would like independence. Scottish university students pay no tuition as Scotland is devolved from England. And as lazy as most media are these days worldwide, of course they would concentrate on Charlie Gilmour’s fate, as much as they concentrated on Prince Harry’s swastika and Euan Blair’s night in the gutter.

            And of course, you WOULD deny there’s a drinking problem and a bad one in the UK. BTW, I’ve lived here for 30 years and it’s FAR FAR worse than anything I’ve seen in any part of the US.

            • AdLib says:

              I would suggest that facts and reason are the best way to support one’s POV as opposed to provincialism.

              The proposition that the opinions of people living outside an arbitrary distance from a location should be automatically invalidated or devalued is simply ridiculous.

              I’m sure you would feel similarly if someone was to claim that your opinions on US politics and the US media were invalid because you live thousands of miles away from the US.

              Sometimes, the most insightful and objective POVs can come from those who are at least a step back from a situation, those closest involved may be too subjective because they are too close. Not always but sometimes that is the case.

              We absolutely encourage and support differences of opinion here but only in the course of meaningful discussion and debate, there is nothing of substance in one member asserting that another’s opinion is less legitimate than theirs due to race, sex, religion, nationality, etc.

            • Kalima says:

              The student tuition protests were for the most part peaceful, at least until it was hijacked by a group of “anarchists” who joined in looking for trouble, which is the case in many protests around the world. I covered both the protests and the riots in Morning Blog every day from the beginning to the end, and unless you were actually there taking part, know about as much as you do from online newspapers and the BBC.

              I have no idea what you mean by this “And of course, you WOULD deny there’s a drinking problem and a bad one in the UK”, but I find it a bit offense. You don’t know me from Eve, please remember that, and if that was some kind of wild accusation, you can stop with that already, I’m not your friend from next door. Btw, I didn’t deny anything, I didn’t even mention it. Neither the student tuition protests, nor the week long riots, started because there is a drinking problem in the U.K. I fail to see where you make that connection because not all of the ones being violent were drunk, they were just out looking for trouble, there is a difference. The mowing down and murder of the three young Muslim men in Birmingham was racist in nature. The looting and consequent arson of the Sony warehouse in London was done by professional thieves taking advantage of the situation. The opportunist looting and vandalism has not been proven to have had anything to to with alcohol intake, and some were actually gangs of minor thieves with prior arrest records. Just because some 11 year old was arrested carrying a bottle of stolen wine, doesn’t mean that it was the same for the majority of violent crimes taking place during that week. I find that the connection is at best disingenuous, because this is obviously what some of the media seemed to focus on most. If you turned off the tv and actually read about it from many different sources, you would see that even a known Russian mafia group was spotted in the middle of the Birmingham riot, as I say, most of them were just small time crooks and opportunists. So blaming it on the U.K’s problem with drink, just doesn’t wash with me.

              The drinking problem among the young is nothing new Marion, it was a problem when I lived there, what do they expect when the pubs were open from all hours, and age identification was pretty lax. Claiming that the U.S. doesn’t have this drinking problem, is like burying your head in the sand, you do, and a drug problem which is much worse than in the U.K. Maybe it’s you who is out of touch with things happening in your own country, I read about cases all the time.

              You keep making a point of telling me that you have have been living there for 30 years as if I know nothing anymore about the country that was my home. I do, I make it a point to keep in touch with what is happening there every day because of my family and friends. Btw, I’ve lived in Tokyo for 30 years, that doesn’t mean that I know everything that goes on here, or in Japan.

            • Remember the Watts riots, South Central riots? The Chicago Convention in 1968?

            • Itchybiscuit says:

              Brilliant. Britain is approx 800 miles from top to bottom and approx 300 across at its widest point yet coming from Scotland, you characterise me as having no valid opinion. Yet, you then go on to say you’ve not seen young people drinking like ours in ANY part of the USA -- a huge country by comparison. Given that disparity, what makes your comments any more valid than mine? I watched all of the documentaries dealing with the riots and the special panel discussions too. I came by my conclusions honestly. As for having no tuition fees up in Scotland, does that disqualify me from knowing the situation a mere 70 miles away across the border?


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