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Emerald1943 On October - 2 - 2011
Anarchist and anthropologist David Graeber

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A most interesting article from Alternet, looking at the reasons for numbers of young people taking to the streets and risking arrest and possible police brutality to make their voices heard.

By David Graeber
With No Future Visible, Young Activists Have Few Options but to “Occupy Wall Street”
Is it really surprising that young protesters on Wall Street and around the world would like to have a word with the financial magnates who stole their future?

September 26, 2011

Why are people occupying Wall Street? Why has the occupation – despite the latest police crackdown – sent out sparks across America, within days, inspiring hundreds of people to send pizzas, money, equipment and, now, to start their own movements called OccupyChicago, OccupyFlorida, in OccupyDenver or OccupyLA?

There are obvious reasons. We are watching the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans, a generation who are looking forward to finishing their education with no jobs, no future, but still saddled with enormous and unforgivable debt. Most, I found, were of working-class or otherwise modest backgrounds, kids who did exactly what they were told they should: studied, got into college, and are now not just being punished for it, but humiliated – faced with a life of being treated as deadbeats, moral reprobates.

Is it really surprising they would like to have a word with the financial magnates who stole their future?

Just as in Europe, we are seeing the results of colossal social failure. The occupiers are the very sort of people, brimming with ideas, whose energies a healthy society would be marshaling to improve life for everyone. Instead, they are using it to envision ways to bring the whole system down.

But the ultimate failure here is of imagination. What we are witnessing can also be seen as a demand to finally have a conversation we were all supposed to have back in 2008. There was a moment, after the near-collapse of the world’s financial architecture, when anything seemed possible.

Everything we’d been told for the last decade turned out to be a lie. Markets did not run themselves; creators of financial instruments were not infallible geniuses; and debts did not really need to be repaid – in fact, money itself was revealed to be a political instrument, trillions of dollars of which could be whisked in or out of existence overnight if governments or central banks required it. Even the Economist was running headlines like “Capitalism: Was it a Good Idea?”

It seemed the time had come to rethink everything: the very nature of markets, money, debt; to ask what an “economy” is actually for. This lasted perhaps two weeks. Then, in one of the most colossal failures of nerve in history, we all collectively clapped our hands over our ears and tried to put things back as close as possible to the way they’d been before.

Perhaps, it’s not surprising. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the real priority of those running the world for the last few decades has not been creating a viable form of capitalism, but rather, convincing us all that the current form of capitalism is the only conceivable economic system, so its flaws are irrelevant. As a result, we’re all sitting around dumbfounded as the whole apparatus falls apart.

What we’ve learned now is that the economic crisis of the 1970s never really went away. It was fobbed off by cheap credit at home and massive plunder abroad – the latter, in the name of the “third world debt crisis”. But the global south fought back. The “alter-globalisation movement”, was in the end, successful: the IMF has been driven out of East Asia and Latin America, just as it is now being driven from the Middle East. As a result, the debt crisis has come home to Europe and North America, replete with the exact same approach: declare a financial crisis, appoint supposedly neutral technocrats to manage it, and then engage in an orgy of plunder in the name of “austerity”.

The form of resistance that has emerged looks remarkably similar to the old global justice movement, too: we see the rejection of old-fashioned party politics, the same embrace of radical diversity, the same emphasis on inventing new forms of democracy from below. What’s different is largely the target: where in 2000, it was directed at the power of unprecedented new planetary bureaucracies (the WTO, IMF, World Bank, Nafta), institutions with no democratic accountability, which existed only to serve the interests of transnational capital; now, it is at the entire political classes of countries like Greece, Spain and, now, the US – for exactly the same reason. This is why protesters are often hesitant even to issue formal demands, since that might imply recognising the legitimacy of the politicians against whom they are ranged.

As the protesters approach two weeks in the streets, we have seen virtually NO media coverage of the events unfolding there. The police in New York City have shown brutal tactics, the only violence so far. Citizens and journalists have had their equipment confiscated and destroyed. Women have been man-handled and sprayed with mace and pepper spray without provocation. Many have been arrested on charges as ridiculous as “disrupting pedestrian traffic”.

What the police department has not realized yet is that their draconian crackdown on the protesters is only fueling the movement. Every arrest seems to make others more determined.

I am pleased to see this article by David Graeber that provides some analysis of the reasons for the protests. It’s for sure that we cannot depend on the mainstream media to do the same. The reason for the blackout of media coverage would probably be discussed better in another article. Perhaps Mr. Graeber will provide that also.

Written by Emerald1943

Born and bred a Southern lady. Degree in nursing and 20 years of classical piano. Two grown children and two gorgeous grandkids. Also two Shih Tzu doggies, the light of my life! Buddhist. A life-long card-carrying, flaming, hard-core, opinionated, liberal/progressive Democrat...and proud of it! Favorite quotation: "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." Sinclair Lewis

30 Responses so far.

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  1. cyrano1 says:

    Wall Street demonstrator crushes Fox News: U-tube:

    It’ll be a cold day in hell before Fox airs it though, right?

    Meanwhile the movement is gaining in numbers and gaining steam!

  2. audadvnc says:

    Did anybody catch the connection between police overreach and bank “donations”?


    “JPMorgan Chase recently donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation. The gift was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple. “

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Audadvnc, I did see that…how interesting! It must be nice to have enough money to buy Congressmen and now the police to do your bidding! I wonder if the banksters think their little machinations are not transparent! Thanks so much for the link.

  3. Kalima says:

    Thought this might be of interest Emerald.


    Occupy Wall St. Draws Labor Support

    “The Occupy Wall St. protests may have a new lifeline, as they have begun to draw support from organized labor. On Monday, the health-care workers’ union, 1199SEIU, issued a supportive statement and pledged to help feed the protesters camped out in lower Manhattan, send nurses to assist with first-aid, and brainstorm other ways to help. Other unions, including the Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents 38,000 Metropolitan Transit Authority employees, have also pledged support. The unions bring money, manpower, organization, and mainstream support to the protests”.

    From “The Daily Beast”.


  4. cyrano1 says:

    This morning I watched CNN’s Erica Hill delivering belated coverage of the Wall Street demonstrations -- generally described as an assemblage of angry people milling around holding a variety of opinions without any clear idea as to why they were there. Of course no interviews of any demonstrators were conducted.

    Hill made two particularly irritating comments: “What do you think their message is, if any?”, and “Well, we’d all love a four day work week, wouldn’t we?

    I’ve already submitted my comment to CNN. Maybe everyone else out there can join me?


    • audadvnc says:

      Sending comments to CNN is spitting in the wind … unless you’re feeding them the next (3 day old) LOLCat YouTube viral video.

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Hi cyrano!

      I’d be most pleased to submit a comment to CNN! It would not be the first time…nor will it be the last, I’m sure!

      • cyrano1 says:

        Thanks Emerald 1943! I think all of us feel confident in posting these links here since everyone who posts is articulate, well informed, and wouldn’t discredit the Wall Street protests with pointless flaming off-topic rhetoric.

        Fairness in Media (FAIR) also had us contacting CNN regarding CNN’s partnership with the Tea Party in conducting the “debates”, and ALL of the comments were stellar!

        • Emerald1943 says:

          Cyranol, thanks! I am happy to say that you won’t find off-topic flaming at the Planet! It just simply won’t be allowed here. In the couple of years that I’ve been a member, I can only think of one instance of a troll attack that was taken down immediately. There is no excuse for that kind of thing. It serves no purpose at all!

          That’s not to say that we don’t have some spirited debates on the issues! 🙂 I learn from these folks every day and value their friendship.

  5. Emerald1943 says:

    Over at our friends’ place, “Crooks and Liars”, there was an article about an “Occupy” protest that we never heard about. Apparently, at the end of the summer, a large protest happened in Tel Aviv, Israel over many of the same issues that we protest here…jobs, affordable housing and health care, education, and the wars that sap our government of money. Perhaps I missed it during our debt ceiling debacle, but we can not take total credit for this movement that involves Israel as well as the Arab countries. We are definitely not alone!


    “So what can we learn from this? The Powers That Be don’t seem to want us to know that even in countries that aren’t run by dictators, citizens everywhere are unhappy with huge economic inequalities and lack of opportunity, nor are they willing to support the huge military expenditures that suck up money away from everything else.

    We also learn that whether by design or circumstances, if the people are too restless, the establishment will look for ways to divert us.”

    Divert? I believe we can see more than a few examples of that! According to MSNBC, since taking over the House of Representatives last January, Speaker Boehner has put up ZERO jobs bills, but has instead put forth NINE bills concerning abortion! Until we come together and DEMAND action from our Congress, they will drag their feet and stall as long as possible on the President’s American Jobs Act. But I digress…

  6. cyrano1 says:

    Terrific Article Emerald 1943!! Graeber and your own follow-up comments are spot on! We can only hope that the scheduled march on Wall Street this Wednesday is so huge the media CAN’T ignore it!! Also wish I wasn’t so old and trapped on the west coast!

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Hi Cyrano! I feel your pain! LOL

      I’m old and trapped in the South! But I checked out the “Occupy Together” website and found out that there are lots of marches in all areas of the country. You might want to check it out.

      Sorry I don’t have that link handy, but I’ll try to find it!

      • bito says:

        Emerald and Cyrano here is the link to “Occupy Together” http://www.occupytogether.org/ There is probably gathering within 25/30 miles to most people interested. The site has a ton of information and it’s being updated as best they can. Check out the posters/handbills! They now blocking the sun on one of my front windows 🙂

        • Emerald1943 says:

          Bito, thanks for your help! I thought I remembered that address as being correct, but my brain has not been functioning for the past couple of days..still have that stupid migraine. I appreciate your looking out for me. 🙂

  7. Great article Em. Mr. Graeber was absolutely correct in this paragraph;

    “What’s different is largely the target: where in 2000, it was directed at the power of unprecedented new planetary bureaucracies (the WTO, IMF, World Bank, Nafta), institutions with no democratic accountability, which existed only to serve the interests of transnational capital; now, it is at the entire political classes of countries like Greece, Spain and, now, the US – for exactly the same reason. This is why protesters are often hesitant even to issue formal demands, since that might imply recognising the legitimacy of the politicians against whom they are ranged.”

    New campaign finance regulations are needed now, more than ever before. We have to get big money out of the equation. The longer we allow big corporations to rig the game in their favor, with mountains of cash, things will only get worse. We should start with getting rid of the Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Court. It is one of the most anti-democratic ideas to ever exist in America. In no way should a qualified candidate have to spend millions and millions of dollars to get elected. Some of our brightest and most qualified just can’t compete in a game that runs on money like a muscle car runs on gasoline.

    “Many even of those who desire to form aristocratic governments make a mistake, not only in giving too much power to the rich, but in attempting to overreach the people. There comes a time when out of a false good, there arises a true evil, since the encroachments of the rich are more destructive to the constitution than those of the people.” Aristotle

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Thanks KT! The Citizens United case was one of the worst things that ever happened to the democracy. In fact, I think the piece I wrote about it was the very first one that I put up on PPOV. It’s long been a thorn in my side.

      I agree with you about the campaign finance reform, but how do you get those who benefit from the corruption to give up the corruption??

      It’s always amazed me at how quickly the representatives that we send to Washington get corrupted by the power. Maybe they were always that way, but I’m sure the long lines of lobbyists outside their offices don’t help.

      Thanks for the Aristotle quotation…very appropriate!

  8. jjgravitas says:

    This is what happens when you rob from the poor to give to the rich, which is exactly what happened during Bush II with his tax cuts and his so-called “tax refund checks”, and then proceeding to run the government, and two wars, all on borrowed cash. The few people who complained then were paid very little attention. The war against terrorism was fought on behalf of the rich, but was not paid for by the rich. And everyone knew it. In fact, many of the rich got even richer because of the war — the guys who run Haliburton and the other contractors used in the war, not to mention the weapons manuracturers. Meanwhile, the rich have been walling themselves up in their gold-encrusted bunkers to shield themselves from the chaos that will be faced by everyone else.
    I heard recently that there are so many loopholes and exceptions in the tax code that tax revenue is virtually nil. And the GOP still insists that we should solve the debt crisis by cutting jobs, not raising taxes.
    Is it really any surprise that people are taking to the streets? Where else can they go? I fear that the resulting chaos may make the student protests of the 60’s look like playtime.
    And in the midst of all this, we have Rick “Niggerhead” Perry running for president. Imagine what would happen if he were elected.

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Thanks, jj! If Perry somehow manages to get himself elected, I don’t think this country can survive. Think of the problems we have now…and multiply them by 100! The repubs will wipe out everything that could possibly pull us out of this depression, with only more tax cuts. They have said they want to “drown” the government, and they seem to be making good progress. Tax revenues are certainly not “nil” but are the lowest they have been in many years. The repubs are trying to make the government as ineffective as possible…then they can blame the President.

      It’s all about the power! They will do whatever they have to do in order to win back the White House.

      • jjgravitas says:

        Yes. And kudos for referring to this as a ‘depression’ and not simply a ‘recession.’ The MSM won’t admit it, the politicians won’t admit it, but our economic situation is already as bad, if not worse, than the mess of the thirties and all evidence points to more problems. Our economy isn’t just stagnating. It’s putrefying.

        • Emerald1943 says:

          JJ, I’m afraid you are right about the direction of the economy. It ain’t getting any better, that’s for sure.

          Now the rethugs have refused to bring the American Jobs Act to the House for a vote. I personally think that they are going to pay a heavy price for that obstruction at the polls next year.

          The President can, at least, run on his efforts to get something done and point out what the thugs in Congress have NOT done! I just hope that he will not allow them to chop up the bill and try to disassemble it to the point where it really will do very little good.

          It IS a depression, whether they call it that or not. Ask the chronically unemployed in this country what they would call it! Ask the millions of people who have lost their homes. I’ll bet I can tell you what they would say.

  9. Mightywoof says:

    Great observations by Mr. Graeber, Em …… back when NAFTA was rolled out (yes -- it’s despised up here as it is down there) I had a premonition that it would be a race to the bottom and so it has proved. If Charles Dickens was alive today he’d be totally gobsmacked and wearing a T-Shirt that says ‘Been there, Done that’ ………. those who don’t learn from history ……. slums, poorhouses and workhouses anyone??

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Thanks MW! I really do like the way this guy thinks and writes. We had a discussion about this yesterday on the other thread about Wall Street. Choicelady made some very good comments on the subject.

      CL’s point, well taken, was that the movement needs to be followed by legal action. The emotion of the protesters will amount to nothing if it is not translated into action in the courts. So far, in spite of the fact that cases are “in the works”, no one from the Wall Street banks and corporate CEOs have been jailed for their obvious crimes. CL made the point that their actions were, in fact, legal.

      I am certainly not an attorney, nor do I understand many of the laws concerning banking, but it would seem that when the actions of a few are so blatantly immoral (if not illegal), then change must come through the courts. Only by taking to the streets will we be able to start the process to bring about this change. Sad that it has come to this!

      I wrote a comment about slums and the poor yesterday too. I believe it is on the same thread. We are quickly moving in that direction if the repubs have their way! If you have time, check out the website for “We Are the 99%”. It is quite eye-opening! Here is the link:


      • choicelady says:

        Em -- it also needs to begin with changes in legislation that re-regulate markets, remove subsidies for closing corporations and fleeing overseas. Laws that once were on the books need to be thoughtfully restored. The cries of “bring back Glass-Steagall” which separated commercial banking from investment banking may today not be useful when many of us -- even at our credit unions -- have investments inside where we bank. But that does not mean we cannot restore firewalls between the FUNDS (that’s not what G-S did) or hold the banks responsible by imposing a fee on investments that goes into a fund rather than have us bail them out with tax money. LOTS of changes that need to be made must go back into legislation.

        Which is WHY we need to regain the House and keep the Senate and find ways around the influence of money in congressional campaigns.

        It took 40 years to get here (it all really started in 1973) and won’t change overnight, but it CAN change if we keep up the pressure outside on the streets AND make big changes inside the capitol. The two have to ride together. And oh yeah -- we need a dependable, people-friendly SCOTUS again. THAT maybe most of all.

        • Emerald1943 says:

          CL, about that friendly SCOTUS…just how do we make that happen???

          I am personally hoping that Clarence Thomas gets his just rewards. Maybe that could open up a spot. Otherwise, unless one of them dies or decides to retire, we don’t have a chance. It won’t do us much good for Ruth Bader-Ginsburg to retire, just to be replaced with another liberal justice.

          With the Citizens United ruling, I am very worried about the upcoming elections. Take Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaign. She is up against Scott Brown’s giant campaign war chest of over $10 MILLION! And he can always get more if he needs it. We only have to lose four seats to lose control of the Senate. It’s a little scary for sure.

          As far as those changes in the laws are concerned, I have to leave them to people who are much smarter than I will ever be. I didn’t study too much banking and economics in nursing school, but I can write you a book on trauma! 🙂

  10. Emerald1943 says:

    An addendum to this piece: I actually wrote it a few days ago but somehow failed to get it submitted. Still technologically challenged! Sorry…this is a little out-of-date, but I still think Mr. Graeber has a good handle on the protests. Thanks for reading! 🙂

    • AdLib says:

      It’s just as potent today, Emerald! And certainly hits the target for many of us. The 700 arrested in the march yesterday brought things up another notch and the companion protests around the country sure seem reflective of a movement gaining momentum.

      The status quo, such as the MSM, never recognize authentic populism at the outset. These “kids” were ignored by most of the MSM at the beginning then ridiculed. Now…it’s front page news and getting bigger and stronger.

      I’m sure the Baggers and GOP are still ignoring it as meaningless or at least rooting for it to fade away soon. But I don’t know about that…it’s the REAL message that 99% of us can relate to as opposed to the bogus bagger message that destroying government is the answer.

      Progressives out there should really take advantage of this moment, there is a Progressive and populist sentiment being promoted right now and with our support, it can only grow bigger and possibly become the movement we’ve been hoping and working for.

      Remember Obama’s quote from the 2008 campaign? “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Could have been a bit prescient though in our gridlocked government, it is the only pragmatic way for the American People to have their will followed…we have to stop waiting for politicians to help us and come together to make it happen ourselves.

      OCCUPY TOGETHER http://www.occupytogether.org/

      • Emerald1943 says:

        Adlib, thank you! This movement has struck a chord with the American people. I understand that plans are in the works for Washington DC. That should be huge!

        If progressives don’t now take full advantage of this, they will deserve defeat in the next election. I was always taught that this government was supposed to reflect the wishes of the populace, something that has been sorely missing in the past 10 years. Unless our elected representatives begin to pass laws to protect our rights and give the “average Joe” some help, the incumbents are going to find themselves in the unemployment line! The mood of the American people is surly!

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