Monday, October 03, 2011

The War at Home

I've been putting this off for a while, mostly because I've had so much preoccupying me lately, but it's probably time I at least went on the record about the burgeoning protest movement that's captured the attention of the country and -- finally -- the country's media.

When "Occupy Wall Street" first started, it bugged the hell out of me. Anyone who's read this site long enough should immediately understand what my issues might be with a bunch of kids who seem pissed that they missed out on the 60s -- and to a lesser degree, that the summer Phish tour wrapped up -- storming Lower Manhattan to unleash a metric ton of inchoate, incoherent rage through drum circles and a whole lot of Guy Fawkes masks. For years now I've very publicly decried the old school model of left-wing protest for the simple reason that the rules have changed drastically and to pretend that they haven't will quickly render any form of push-back activism moot.

The fact is that while at one time in our nation's history individualism was seen as a serious threat to the status quo, now not only is it not dangerous, it's an almost comical anachronism. There is no individualism these days. Nothing truly audacious can stand in our culture, not when our culture has become so monstrously adept at assimilating all forms of rebellion until they become completely meaningless and utterly impotent. Prepackaged, homogenized non-conformity is as close as your local Hot Topic. Agitation is fashion. Defiance is a slogan. Insurrection is product placement. The revolution is not only televised, it can be DVRed and enjoyed at your convenience.

So, no, hundreds of people wearing different colorful outfits, each carrying a sign emblazoned with his or her personal agenda not only constitutes an ineffective mess, it provides endless fodder for the idiots at Fox News, who get to smirk patronizingly and present it as good news from the front, as Matt Taibbi once called it, for their audience of bitter old people.

The protest itself was important -- too important to be incompetently executed to the point that it could be easily dismissed by the masses.

But admittedly, something has happened over the past week or so: A single, fundamental message of Occupy Wall Street has begun to coalesce, and a series of disorganized grievances has slowly started to dovetail into one, coherent movement. What's more, the outrage voiced by a few has lit a match to the anger felt by millions -- and the resulting fire is now spreading rapidly, with similar protests flaring up across the country. Occupy Wall Street may have started as a muddled gathering of occasionally conflicting ideas, but it was the spark that was needed to potentially create a conflagration. And it's damn well about time.

I've always believed that in order for a protest of this kind to be effective, it would have to draw the support of -- and present as a public face -- more than simply the youth, since young people can always be shrugged off as misguided or simply in need of a job to better occupy their time (the latter criticism being wonderfully ironic given the very reason for the protest in the first place). Maybe that's why the photo below -- posted by Digby and circulated by Matt Osborne -- really struck a chord with me.

It's more than just a bunch of "deluded kids" now. It's the impossible-to-deny men and women who've found themselves crushed under the heel of an unaccountable and out-of-control corporate culture -- of those consistently on the winning end of the rigged, zero-sum game that success in America has gruesomely morphed into at the beginning of the 21st century. They're part of the vanishing middle-class -- and they're fucking sick of it. We're fucking sick of it.

I'm not a fan of the Rage Against the Machine brand of social upheaval, which is the reason I was wary about Occupy Wall Street at the beginning. But the band was right about one thing, and it may provide the perfect summary of what's erupted on the streets of New York City: It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?


Scully said...


Marc McKenzie said...

"It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?"

Good point Chez.

I too am a bit cautious about the protests, but I do support them. However, will there be a positive political effect from these protests--that is, a massive turnout in 2012 to kick out the GOP and their Tea Party proxies and the election of Progressive politicians to office?

It is good to see that a coherent list of demands is appearing...but I'm a bit worried that a call for the passage of the AJA is not in there. Why not?

Still, with the involvement of unions and organizations like Move-On, things could get better. But if they degenerate into an anti-Obama screed and leave the GOP unmolested, well...

I guess the best thing to do is wait and see and also give support to the protestors. You're right about one thing--we all are fucking sick of the bullshit that's been happening thanks to a corporate culture that was wildly out of control and has only been brought to heel thanks to the current Administration and some in Congress.

CNNfan said...

The problem with putting yourself on a starvation diet is knowing when to stop it before your body starts eating its own organs.

Steve said...

The anger is certainly real and well justified, the question is whether the democrats in true namby-pamby form mange to alienate the protesters by running scared from the messier fringes of democracy. Sure the right's adoption of the tea party is complicating things a bit now, but they did win a lot of elections when the movement was still relatively fresh. It would be nice if Obama would address this movement now, before some isolated violent incident defines it as safe to dismiss in the media. It would be REALLY nice if he could do it in a way that reframes their frustration into the salient points that 75% of America can agree on.

If the right is allowed to define this too, they'll highlight stuff like the anti-factory farming part of their manifesto, and by the end of the Fox newsday the protests will be all about the coastal elites against the hardworking farmers.

Anonymous said...

Good to see, as usual, CNN gets it.

Mimi said...

Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. It did have to start sometime, but it must not turn into a Woodstock revival in order to be taken seriously.

Marc McKenzie said...

@Steve: You mean well by wishing for President Obama to address the movement....but what if he did? Imagine the hue and cry from the GOP about it. And I guaran-damn-tee you that the MSM will eagerly tout the GOP's nonsense. Remember the calls for him to address the protestors in Wisconsin? He did not, and the organizers of that action asked him not to do that.

Also...isn't Obama already "addressing" the issues of the movement by the fact that he has been traveling around the country talking about the AJA and increasing the taxes on the wealthy? And what about the fact that under his administration there has been far stronger regulations put on Wall Street?

Now, I'm not slagging away at you--you made some solid points. However, it seems that once again, there are calls for the President to do something...when he's been doing what people have called on him to do.

Just my 2-cents....

Steve said...

I agree, he doesn't have to join the march or address it directly, but certainly his campaign in tenor and focus needs to reflect an understanding of the issues raised here. I think there is a way he can align with the principles pretty clearly without giving the right wing ammo.

And even if he did, I'd say it's more important to shore up his own base a year out, than worry about how the opposition characterizes him.