Casaubon's Book

A number of readers have asked me what I think about the Wall Street protests. In general I think public protest is usually a good thing, and I’m pleased to see demonstrations in favor of good things like corporate accountability and against bad things like climate change. I think there are plenty of reasons for political activism in our country, and am always pleased by it.

On the other hand, do I think that this is the beginning of something profound and important? I can’t say for sure, but I would guess not. Protesting Wall Street isn’t a bad idea – but there’s a fundamental problem in marching and demonstrating against something you are wholly dependent upon.

The college students who are admirably taking the lead depend for their educations on investments and growth – private savings invested to enable them to go to college by parents, but also government subsidies and loans that must be supported by economic growth in order to continue. The very act of taking out a loan to support your education implies a presumption of growth – the idea that your earnings will grow in order for you to pay it back with interest.

Standing against Wall Street and calling them out to justify their implication in the political process and in issues like climate change is great – except that Wall Street gets its money in large part from, well, us. An economy that depends for 70% of its worth on consumer spending is not one in which one can look entirely to the powerful abstract evil of “corporations” but to the specific evil of that fact that all of us depend for food, clothing and shelter on those institutions we claim to deplore.

This is the same problem that leads those who protest middle-eastern oil wars to drive their cars to the demonstrations, to those who protest coal plants writing their angry blog posts on grid, coal powered laptops, and any number of other hypocrisies. Now hypocrisy itself is not evil, and it is generally inevitable – none of us can live here without implication in a larger economic system – all of us are complicit.

That said, however, the disconnect between personal action and political action, carefully fostered by a society that believes that personal choice is personal choice and has little to do with your political convictions, constantly undermines real political action. Yes, deplore Wall Street. Remember when you do so that while large corporations (or polluters or whatever) would prefer, ideally that you both love them and give them great big wads of cash, given a choice, all such institutions prefer the cash to our love. It is a very good thing to remind them that they are zombie institutions, but it helps not to feed the zombies your money – and that involves a radical reinvention of lifestyle.

None of us trust a politician who depends on the campaign dollars of those who oppose their fundamental values. Why should we trust ourselves to depend for food, shelter and our basic way of life on institutions that are also destroying that way of life? While recognizing that the Thoreau-model of perfect disconnection is not open to most of us, should we not hold ourselves to at least the same standard we hold public officials to – asking that we disconnect economically from the structures that warm the world, deplete its resources, etc… and that we participate as little as we can (and that means we are critical of our own excuses) in that degradation?

None of us will ever get this perfect – we live in our interconnected, oil fueled, coal warmed, economically messy society. Perfection is not the goal – but it does not take a vast contraction of earnings to send a much more impressive message than public protest can provide alone – if you want to change the world, stop feeding the zombies.

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 thelittlepecan
    October 3, 2011

    The topic of this post gives entirely too much power to the individual. All of us, especially those of us without any real political power, are entirely dependent on a economic system that the general public really has no control over.

    You bring up coal…Appalachia would be much better off without coal, except for the fact that it provides the entire economy for many small, rural communities. It sounds like you’re saying it’s wrong to protest these huge corporations that literally raped the land, ate up the natural resources and demolished the ability of individuals to attain more social capital, simply because that same company provides the economic foundation for those communities. No, the miners don’t have to buy from the commissary anymore, but to insinuate that the damage done by 80 years of economic destruction is somehow the burden of the person wishing to protest against it is ridiculous.

    Sorry, but I’m calling BS.

    If I have no other option, due to economic factors FAR beyond my influence, but to drive a gas powered car to a protest because I WANT another option, it is not in any way hypocritical to drive that car to protest that oil fueled war. If anything, it’s a powerful statement that my individual options are clearly limited and I want OTHER options and I want the people in a position to create those options to do just that.

    This perspective completely ignores the vast amounts of sociological influence that the HAVES push down upon the HAVE NOTS.

    This is especially true when those “zombies” have acted unethically, illegally and quite honestly, immorally (and I’m not much on morality.)

    It’s not hypocrisy, it’s your back against the wall.

  2. #2 Christoph
    October 3, 2011

    “huge corporations that literally raped the land”

    With their huge penises?

  3. #3 Jarett Sanchez
    October 3, 2011

    I think the main point is sound: the fight doesn’t mean enough if we’re not going to go all the way to the production of our necessities.

    We DO want those in “power” to make better choices, but unfortunately they have a loooooong track record of not giving a shit about the “little people” simply because they were light years beyond us in influence and organization.

    BUT, if we “bring the fight home” and start engaging at the level of voting precinct with the messages of anti-corporatism, local resiliency, and citizen empowerment. . .what then? Would that not be a way to make the Wall St. protests stick? It seems to me they are the PR campaign to wake people up, but we have to do the ground work that is necessary. All those people aren’t going to last very long when winter hits in full, but the fight will continue if it’s burning inside of our homes and hearts and keeping us warm.

    I live everyday in a paradox so it’s no problem for me to drive my car to the mega chain and buy shit made from far away. . .I, like soooo many others, have no choice! IF I weren’t a father, with an ex completely lacking any interest in these bigger issues, then things would be much different. I could live like the poor, I could move in the direction Gandhi did and walk the walk. But with small children, you can’t do that. Everyone else? What is the hold up?

  4. #4 Caitlin D.
    October 3, 2011

    Ya know, I get where you’re coming from, Little Pecan, and you are completely correct in your own right. If your only option is to drive to these protests, then that’s not really hypocrisy, now is it? But me, I have the choice to ride a bike to work. I don’t, because I haven’t gotten around to buying one. So I’m one of the hypocrites that’s complicit in Big Oil’s crimes, even though I am loudly and proudly anti-consumer, anti-Corporate, anti-dirty energy. I *do* have a garden that provides some of my food, I buy used as much as I possibly can to help absorb societal waste, and I reuse/repair until things are in tatters – but the point to me is that I could always do more. Everyone can. Sharon’s post didn’t sound accusatory to me. I mean, you’ve got to agree that we’re all dependent on the system to a certain degree, and that we could all decrease that dependence in some way. How you achieve that goal will be unique to you, but I think her point was that people could start thinking about their own lives and deciding where they should draw the line. And then also participate in some good ol’ healthy protesting. :)

  5. #5 Anna
    October 3, 2011

    Sharon, you’ve made some excellent points–and I agree (though I think that the question of whether to join a protest against the tar sands by driving to it is better or worse than protesting by not driving is a vexed one . . .)

    What I’d like to offer, though, is an observation based on an experience I had this weekend.

    Preamble: like a lot of people who read this blog, I spend a good deal of my time thinking “geez. I wish I were doing more. I wonder how I can cut back on X”–either because of budget or because of ethics and values.

    I grew up Catholic, so there’s a predisposition to self-flagellation and a fair amount of guilt! (There are different kinds of Cathloic, mind you–not all of them buy into this, but mine did).

    This weekend, for the first time in about 3 years, I went to a mall. I needed one thing, from one store, that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I spent a total of about 10 minutes in the mall itself, which was 10 minutes more than I wanted to spend, but what was interesting was the distance between the culture I was seeing there, and the one in which I live my daily life. It was literally like an assault–the noise, the merchandising, even the shape of the mall (a doughnut, so you had to walk past every story to get in or out) manipulated every action I took.

    And the merchandise itself was, to me at least, shocking. I don’t think there was a single really useful thing for sale, except at the particular (oprthopedic) shoe store I was headed to.

    So while none of us are perfect, I think many of us need to give ourselves a bit of credit even if all we’ve managed to do is stay away from the malls. Just staying away from these places, it seems to me, will create an immense difference in the way we see, and live in, the world.

    That, in itself, is a protest.

  6. #6 Ewan R
    October 3, 2011

    to those who protest coal plants writing their angry blog posts on grid, coal powered laptops

    f’cking steampunks, how do they work?

    (I know… couldn’t resist though)

  7. #7 Nicole
    October 3, 2011

    “But with small children, you can’t do that. Everyone else? What is the hold up?”

    Jarrett, I hope that was sarcasm. Because if its not the parents who are most willing to make changes for the next generation, then who? Even if every single person and grandparent made the changes we need in our culture, if the next generation hasn’t learned it’s just a waste of time.

  8. #8 morrna
    October 3, 2011

    I think it’s worth noting the likelihood that most of the people involved in Occupy Wall Street have not yet grappled with the intrinsic contradictions in a growth-based economy. I’m not so sure that they’re protesting that fundamental structure of society; it seems more like they’re protesting that those at the top of the heap are hoarding the benefits of growth and keeping them from the average American. Many of them would be likely to be content to leave the growth-based fossil-fueled system in place if they could only have a say in how it was managed and reap their share of its bounty.

    I think this realization is important because it opens up an avenue for engaging with such protests. I’m picturing taking some home baked bread or kraut from the garden and feeding the protesters, and using the conversations that opened up to talk about how deep the rabbit hole of the growth gospel goes. That might be tangential to the stated purpose of the protest, but if people walk away from the protest with a better understanding of how to pursue their activism in day-to-day life, so much the better.

  9. #9 Reb Deb
    October 3, 2011

    Looking at the protesters on YouTube, it seems to me that probably some do and some don’t understand the global environmental issues. I don’t think that’s necessarily a focus, but I also don’t think that it’s only about getting their own piece of the pie. At the moment, this is not a coherent movement with united goals. What strikes me as uniting them is a sense that the ethics and values that support and provide respect for people, as individuals and as groups other than “consumer groups” and “party base” groups, are missing from multi-national corporate America. (I’d add, also in large part from political America, at least national-level political America.)

    They’re out there protesting for the value of caring for human beings. Specific proposals and platforms and actions may or may not follow.

    And while caring for human beings may seem a bit narrow, at this stage of human development, the only way to care for human beings is to care for the planetary ecosystem that sustains us. So really putting the value into practice ought to encompass quite a few other values.

  10. #10 bob
    October 3, 2011

    Oh give the victim blaming a rest for a second lady.

    Citizens’s united, the gross imbalance in taxation between the rich and everyone else, the disasters at madison and so many other analogous ones around the country, the secret allonges above the law crap, the emergency financial manager crap that consists of canning the entire democracy of a municipality or township and inserting a hired “financial manager”, blatant corruption of police (4.5 million , largest donation ever to nypd, was just given to the NYPD by goldman sachs (sp) just a few days ago soon after the protests started), blatant corruption of politicians with lobbying and campaign donations, the revolving door.

    I could go on for LONG time listing abuses just as heinous as these. NONE of these things are a result of ” our lifestyle”.

    Stop trying to shove your agenda down our throats with every excuse. The real problem is people who like yourself who fail to understand the real issues, instead prefer stepping on the coattails of people who are selflessly donating their time and putting themselves at genuine personal risk by engaging in action that really works, so you can get a podium to push your ridiculous pet theories.

  11. #11 Energycrunch
    October 3, 2011

    In general, I’m in favor of public protest too, and citizens pushing for more corporate accountability. I think the amount of inequality in our society is immoral. As for the Wall Street protests, overall I find myself supporting the protestors, but not inspired myself to participate in any significant way.

    I guess the feeling I have, and the problem I have with some leftist political agendas, is that while I’m all in favor of “spreading the wealth,” the level of lifestyle that the Earth can support long-term, even if wealth was spread equally, is way less than the average American middle class lifestyle. So yes, part of the problem is with the 1 %, but more than just the 1%, it includes the middle class, by and large too. And I might add that truly poor people in the world would include middle class Americans in their category of “rich.”

    Also, a lot of “wealth” in our society is not real wealth, and will likely evaporate in the future. Over the long-term, even the rich may not be able to hold onto their paper/digital wealth.

    So, I guess I feel the issues are deeper than the issues the “Occupy Wall Street” platform seems bring forth. But I’m not saying the effort is bad…It will be interested to see how it plays out.

  12. #12 Gary Rondeau
    October 3, 2011

    Sharon,

    I’m not sure this is true:

    “The very act of taking out a loan to support your education implies a presumption of growth – the idea that your earnings will grow in order for you to pay it back with interest.”

    There are legitimate reasons for loans, such as student loans and mortgages, the primary purpose of which is to time-shift spending and earning to take account of needs and potential during any individual’s life. Even paying interest on such a loan need not imply that the entire system has to grow. If student loans and mortgages came from our parents or a collection of parents, we would have nothing to complain about. That would be taking care of our children. The “debt problem” and our misguided responses to it is really an inequitable distribution of wealth problem.

    More… http://squashpractice.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/debt-distraction/

  13. #13 Michelle
    October 3, 2011

    One wonders why this “Bob” bothers reading your blog posts, Sharon – if he feels so strongly, why not spend his precious time on things he finds worthwhile?

    Meanwhile, Bob, hush up. If Sharon were “shoving her agenda down your throat” by holding you down and pontificating at you, I might have some sympathy. But since you voluntarily read her writing, you have nobody but yourself to blame for your wasted time. Run along back to your own sandbox, now, unless you want to engage in an actual conversation.

  14. #14 Don Stewart
    October 3, 2011

    Zero Hedge has posted links to Canadian produced videos reviewing the financial collapse of 2006 to 2009. There are three tapes. The link to the third tape is here, and you will easily find the first two:
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/meltdown-part-3-paying-price

    As I watch the reaction in Congress and in the public and in other countries, it seems to me that humans are caught between a rock and a hard place. One the one hand, we don’t want anyone telling us what to do. That is pretty much what the bankers got in London, and the AIG guy in London (in London because he could not legally do what he did in the US) brought down this behemoth institution and cost the US taxpayers a lot of money that they haven’t got back yet. As long as you are making money, you want to be left alone. As long as you get your mortgage, you want your banker and you yourself to be left alone. But then things go sour. And people bitch at the government. Where was the oversight? Why did the regulation have so many holes in it? Was anyone doing due diligence? And so we get riots in the street.

    In fact, think a little about what we expect from the government in terms of due diligence. Do we expect them to:
    1. Regulate the mortgage industry such that there is a high probability that mortgages granted can actually be repaid, are fair to both the bank and the mortgagee, and are reliable investments for insurance companies and pension funds?
    2. Do not regulate the mortgage industry at all. It is strictly caveat emptor.
    3. Government just exercises its judicial prerogatives when things go wrong. If the insurance companies can prove that the mortgage companies did not do their due diligence, then they are entitled to damages (if the mortgage companies still have any money left). This is where the attempt to settle the mortgage fraud cases with all the state attorney generals is right now. A series of lawsuits would just bankrupt the TBTF banks, would not benefit mortgagees who cannot pay, and keep the housing market in limbo and thus the national and state economies mired in recession. But both New York and California have now pulled out of those talks because they see them as egregiously in favor of the banks and against the homeowners. Other states will probably follow suit–and the Obama administration is twisting in the wind. And Bank of America is probably history.
    4. Some other alternative? If you watch the videos closely, I do not think you will see much clarity in terms of what people want. With one exception, the bank executives want their bonuses. They are the focused ones, and that is probably why they win so frequently.

  15. #15 Unadilla
    October 3, 2011

    Disappointing post (hmm, that might be a first). Part of the reason the media et al are having a hard time with this protest is exactly the inexactitude of the ‘goals’ etc. articulated(or not, as the case may be). More than anything else, this is about acknowledging and loudly, publicly proclaiming, “things are f**ked up,” and things are being done that are just plain wrong. It just happens that ‘Wall Street’ is the biggest, most obvious symbol of what is wrong. Look, it’s got to start somewhere, and I’ll bet a lot of the kids camping out down there ARE being the change they want to see. Criticizing them for being complicit in that which they are protesting against is suggesting there is no point and all is lost. We’re all complicit- we’re embedded in it. Doesn’t mean we should give up acknowledging what is f**ked up and trying to change it. Trying to make an agrarian homestead fantasy real is not going to (and shouldn’t) be everyone’s path- some have to fight in the streets against the forces that would (eventually) take your homestead away.

  16. Christoph – you complete me, man. Best comment ever.

  17. #17 P.J. Grath
    October 4, 2011

    One of the ways we unplugged a couple of years ago was by stopping our satellite TV subscription, so my news is limited to the occasional newspaper (not every day) and small doses of radio in the morning and evening. I find that not following repetitious and depressing news stories throughout the day keeps me from feeling hopeless and makes me generally more effective in whatever I’m doing. This is by way of preamble to saying that I haven’t taken in a lot of detail about the Wall Street protests. I did hear a story yesterday on NPR, however, and here’s what I liked about it:

    Although several speakers’ participation was initially motivated by self-interest, simply by being there and meeting others they were being exposed to larger social issues, and they seemed to accept readily and enthusiastically that their “movement” (perhaps it will become one, perhaps not) takes in a great diversity of goals. All of them are united—this came across—in opposing the sale of government to the highest bidder. At the same time, the recognition of others’ goals as legitimate, the not trying to mold everyone into a single, one-size-fits-all cookie cutter—all this gives me hope that a younger generation is finally getting a clue about what democracy can and should be.

    Sharon, I don’t think it’s the case that the fact of (some) Americans investing in Wall Street alone makes every American complicit in the corruption of democracy. Banking and government regulation are not contradictory entities. It has been the stripping away of regulations that has given too much power to the giant. We should be able to have banks and investment opportunities without selling our birthright for it and ending up with nothing.

  18. #18 Barbara
    October 4, 2011

    Beautiful comment Unadilla. Perfectly stated.

  19. #19 Heather
    October 4, 2011

    While I totally agree with the protests, I don’t at the same time. Sometimes I wonder if instead of these protests, people went into their own communities and set up a local economy, what would happen? Bring your talents and your passion to your own community, support local farms, support local producers, talk to your town office about what is needed in downtown areas. While I agree that there has been a lot of problems with corporations, at some point we have to look at ourselves too. Are we buying cars still? Did we sign for that mortgage knowing that it would be a complete stretch to make that payment? When I decided to major in liberal arts, did I really think that I was going to get a great job that would support my need for new electronics? :-)

  20. #20 Sharon Astyk
    October 4, 2011

    It is interesting to me what readers read into this, particularly the articulation of powerlessness. I think that’s a real and common experience – and yet, I’m inclined to be critical of it as well, precisely because people who are less powerful still than the American poor and middle class all over the world have found ways of economic resistance as well as public protest. That doesn’t make this easy, or mean that there aren’t real limits to individual power – but it strikes me as interesting that so many people want to describe themselves as powerless, while simultaneously asserting the merits of protest.

    I find any claim of absolute powerlessness uncompelling – that does not at all imply there aren’t enormous degrees of difference in ability to act, but if Wangari Maathai could move hungry Kenyan farmers, if the MST could move the landless and most impoverished people of Brazil, if the weakest and poorest people in the weakest and poorest places in the world can engage in economic resistance, so can Americans. Some can do little. Others can do much more. I do not find compelling the implication that all Americans are resisting already as much as they possibly can.

    It is absolutely the case that there are enormous social inequities in power between corporations and ordinary people, and that those corporations have purchased our government. It is also the case that the money corporations use to buy government comes from us – I think it is extraordinarily hard to deny that – while some corporations profit more indirectly through, say, government spending of tax dollars, any number of the corporations on Wall Street get their money from us – from the investments of private people, from corporate and institutional investments paid for by our daily consumerism. Arguing that the deck is stacked (which I in no way deny) in no way implies that there is no access to power.

    I find both the American liberal notion that all evils can be attributed to corporate power and the American conservative notion that all can be attributed to moral failure and lack of personal responsibility to be funny – both of them fundamentally vacate responsibility – one to “corporations” as though they spring fully formed from Zeus’s head, rich in funds, and the other from the morally inferior, who are never themselves. Acknowledging inequities in power (profound) does not in fact equate to powerlessness – but narratives that make us powerless do undermine the possibility of real and radical change.

    Sharon

  21. #21 Stephen B.
    October 4, 2011

    Excellent comment Sharon (#20 that is.)

    I find any claim of absolute powerlessness uncompelling…

    This is one of the main reasons why I will never be a full-fledged liberal. The advocacy of the position that govt. itself must make the changes for me is not realistic. It was govt. itself that got bought out and made the problem (of wildly unequal wealth distribution) worse to begin with.

  22. #22 olympia
    October 4, 2011

    I think a lot of the perceived powerlessness is born from an all or nothing mindset- “I can’t opt out of the system entirely, so why bother?” The perfect is really the enemy of the good in this case.

  23. #23 Stephen B.
    October 4, 2011

    I agree with that Olympia.

    I also think we watch too much TV and other media that basically sets us up as peons in a huge machine, fairly unable to envision much else.

  24. #24 Anna W.
    October 4, 2011

    Full disclosure: I have a soft spot for Occupy Wall Street since I was down there on the first day of the protests, and brought my 18-month old daughter down as much as I could, before it got too (wonderfully) crowded.

    I have a lot of respect for what the protesters are doing. They are taking bold action, and making the ideals of the “left” as visible as the teapartiers make the ideals of the right. They are an easy target for criticism, because they’re young, extravagantly idealistic, and in some senses immature. Yeah, sometimes they sound like they don’t know what they’re talking about — not that this is Sharon’s criticism — but it’s true that sometimes their message comes off as diffuse and vague. But they’re doing SOMETHING, and it’s getting people talking and thinking.

    As far as their individual lifestyles — well, we just don’t know how they live or how much of their “fair share” they use. How much of their money they keep in big banks, or give to multinational corporations, we also don’t know.

    But what’s easy to miss is the sense in which they absolutely ARE practicing the opposite of what they are protesting. They have set up a self-organizing, democratic, consensus based little village down there. Instead of smashing their message into a little box to satisfy the media and more mature critics of the movement, they truly are engaging in discussion and group decision making, while making sure to care for everybody in their little community down there. They are LEARNING how to do these things, which is clear to anybody who has followed the movement from its beginning.

    I think it would be great if they tried to bridge the gap between personal and political by, say, organizing a big-bank boycott and encouraging people across the nation to put their money in credit unions (in fact they are doing this, just not in a very organized way.) And yes, I certainly hope they are living their lives, and using their money, in a way that does not support the systems they are protesting.

    But at the same time, don’t we, the “99%,” owe it to each other to try to change the rule-book in this country that pretty blatantly says that the rich can steal from the poor?

  25. #25 Neil B.
    October 4, 2011

    Casaubon, you are so much off-base. The protesters are rightly attacking corporate attitudes, damaging conduct, excess political influence, need for regulation of finance, etc (even if we could rationalize some of the silly stuff that sometimes at least, does afflict business.) The overall need to have business activity, even maybe via “corporations” (which you should know, are legal artifices, the privileges of which do not have to be granted for free or without quids pro quo) do not justify either their misconduct etc, nor invalidate well targeted criticism and protest. I am disappointed that you were so up in the air, you couldn’t see any trees at all.

  26. #26 Neil B
    October 4, 2011

    Also (now putting this comment where it belongs, and toning it down): also, this practice of picking on people for every “hypocrisy” (like using partly coal-generated electricity while criticizing that source) that a cynic can cherry-pick out of what they do, is a misleading scam. Sure, we are connected to a power grid etc. and we will be partaking of some of what we criticize, sometimes. So what. It’s OK, it’s rational, it’s constructive for a person to try and make even what they use and how it works, better than it was. Trying to shut people down with that wrangle (or any ad hominem tack – even if “hypocrisy” is something to critique in general it is not supposed to be used as a diversion against debaters themselves) is bad debating, I suspect not arguing in good faith when I see that bully tactic.

  27. #27 olympia
    October 4, 2011

    I really don’t get the impression that Sharon is implying this is ALL consumers’ fault. I really don’t feel accused by her, either, when she points out that, consumer spending being such a huge part of the economy, what we do as consumers really DOES matter. That’s just fact, and I wonder why others feel so accused? Cutting your spending and protesting corporate corruption are not mutually exclusive activities!

    Stephen B- Great point about TV. I think it is actually bigger than that: the increasing complexity of our societies has allowed for the rapid growth of “experts”, resulting in a reliance on others to tell us what to do/think/buy. Too often people don’t bother thinking things through for themselves; they’ll take, for instance, their doctor’s advice as gospel, without doing any research of their own. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you start really thinking things through.

  28. #28 Russell P.
    October 4, 2011

    I guess it’s going to be a while before the totality of the Occupy Wall Street’s mission is understood. I had similar misunderstandings of it myself.
    http://coupmedia.org/occupywallstreet/occupy-wall-street-official-demands-2009
    This link offers a total of 16 reasons we protest. Not all of them having anything at all to do with Wall Street, or banks.
    It is an uprising (attempt) against many things that have found no resolution through the system currently in place. I call it refreshing, and I sincerely hope it grows to epic proportions and gets results. Please have a look at that link, it will be most enlightening.

  29. #29 Charles Soto
    October 4, 2011

    Folks, this is about what’s more likely to be effective. Voting with your wallets will get you heard better than singing songs and playing hackey sack (or however it is they protest these days – kids today, sheesh!).

  30. #30 Naumadd
    October 4, 2011

    If, as you say, the corporations depend on our dollars to survive – and, of course, they do – then it makes sense that, out of a sense of self-preservation, they would be conscious of what their actions do to they who earn the dollars to support them … and they are. All in all, these protests are by the fearful who have become or allowed themselves to be swayed by fear merchants. Too many for too long have allowed themselves to be influenced by apocalyptic religion. It is a mindset that has infected their thinking on just about everything under the sun. The corporations are not evil, the working class aren’t angels. We are simply a collection of people all with similar motivations in our lives – to stay alive and be somewhat happy in the process. We all have various ideas about how to do that, some of them good, some of them not so good. No one has a monopoly on virtue or vice. The sky isn’t falling. There is no apocalypse. Relax. Think clearly. Do as much as you’re able with as little harm to others as is possible to you. Stop listening to the fear merchants. They are insane.

  31. #31 MichelleV
    October 4, 2011

    Some of the attendees are happily tweeting away on their Mac laptops and drinking Mountain Dew while protesting about the greed of large corporations (I posted the FB link under the “URL” line. There is something to be said about the power of the dollar vs the power of your words.

  32. #32 Marc
    October 4, 2011

    If I were watching a baseball game and the umpires were incompetent and the players were cheating and flaunting the rules, I would protest. I would protest that game and those players. And my protest would be valid and useful. I wouldn’t be protesting baseball any more than the Wall St occupiers are “protesting Wall Street”. They’re protesting the people and corporations who are cheating and breaking the rules – both actual rules and the rules of common decency and community. I assume they’re protesting the “free market” where the rich and powerful just buy the laws to slant the playing field in their own favor. I assume they’re protesting jobs being shipped overseas at the same time we have high unemployment because somebody gets to make a lot of money bypassing US pollution and labor laws. And their protest is valid and useful.

  33. #33 Daen de Leon
    October 4, 2011

    It’s certainly not hypocrisy to use the means and methods which have been made available to you within a system to attempt to change that system. And when you are embedded within that system yourself, you are not just complicit – you are part of the system itself. Gandhi used that realization and every ounce of his lawyer’s education from University College in London, and later his training as a barrister at Inner Temple, to fox and baffle the British. Is it any more hypocritical of him to do that than for someone who lives in a remote village unserved by public transport to drive their car to a meeting about establishing public transport to that same village, for example?

    Your implication that, somehow, everyone reading this blog entry is “feeding the zombies” is slightly insulting. Sometimes, people do take a stand on principle. And I think you misunderstand the fundamental nature of the shift back to hard-core political Corporatism, which is a state that this nation has found itself in before, in the shape of the Robber Barons of Industrialism, like Carnegie, Astor, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. However, unlike their predecessors, the current batch are leaving nothing to chance. Where are those politicians today who support anti-trust legislation like John Sherman, or those who would legislate against Wall Street, like Carter Glass and Harry B. Steagall? Too few and far between. It’s not in their interests to rock the comfortable boat in which they find themselves.

    And you yourself, who stand in denial that the balance has perhaps irrevocably shifted beyond what is fair or just, are more complicit in accelerating and normalizing that injustice than those who would acknowledge that the democratic process in the US is now rotted within by money and malign corporate interest, and who now realize that peaceful and widespread protest has become the only legitimate means of expressing their discontent with a system which has failed them, their families, their communities and, ultimately, their country.

  34. #34 Anna W.
    October 4, 2011

    Look: it’s a huge, multifacted problem we’re facing, which requires a diversity of tactics. It’s that simple (and complex).

  35. #35 Anonymus
    October 4, 2011

    This is as stupid as claiming it’s hypocritical for slaves to revolt against their masters because they are getting food from them.

  36. #36 Michael Griffin
    October 4, 2011

    Well put Daen.

    The author says she was asked for her opinion and she gave it. Her opinion is not particularly well thought out or grounded.

    Among other things flawed, the premise that we are wholly dependent on Wall Street for a functioning economy is just wrong.

    There may have been a time when Wall Street functioned somewhat efficiently as a clearing house for productive capital but even that is is debatable. Eastern money interests have long been complicit in, among other things, slavery, pumped up land speculation and war profiteering. Whatever benefits may have been generated by well managed investment are rapidly being devoured by the failure to police Wall Street gambling. The decoupling of financial interests and main street health was complete twenty years ago.

    I can only hope that the protests endure and grow.

  37. #37 Wow
    October 5, 2011

    “An economy that depends for 70% of its worth on consumer spending is not one in which one can look entirely to the powerful abstract evil of “corporations” but to the specific evil of that fact that all of us depend for food, clothing and shelter on those institutions we claim to deplore.”

    A situation that is only a factor when there is a small upper class with the vast majority of the money.

    In that case, you have little discretionary spending and therefore you’re a slave to those needs and must therefore swallow whatever you’re given.

    However, how did this situation arise?

    That’s right: Wall Street’s manipulation of the political process with the welcoming aid of the politicians themselves.

    So Wall Street has manufactured the method by which your ability to complain about them is removed, by that very thing you’d be able to complain about.

    Why? American Fundamentalism and the histrionics of the “liberal”/”conservative” game played to manipulate you into voting for memes not substance.

    The thing Wall Street ought to realise is that if you don’t complain about them now, then the next complaint will be a revolution which will see them lose not just some of their wealth and power but all of it, probably along with their lives.

    But they’re fixated on the short term profit: let someone else carry the can, if I can only retire on a fat paycheck.

  38. #38 Sharon Astyk
    October 5, 2011

    It is perhaps not surprising that in an either/or world where everyone assumes that issues have only two sides, my call for economic protest *ALONG WITH* political protest is read as an expression that political protest shouldn’t happen. I find it funny that so many people think that you can only do one or the other, and insist so very passionately that people have no choices at all in any of their economic acts, while they have the freedom to act politically.

    Ultimately, if we expect the protests to do any good, that means we have to be prepared to make economic changes – they come either way, either due to political protest alone or economic protest along with political protest. Readers who invoke Gandhi make the case – Gandhi did indeed use all the tools at his command – including economic tools in arguing for the home manufacture of cotton cloth and the boycott of British salt.

    If one believes that political protest is anything other than empty, than a meaningful protest implies a change in a way of life. It interests me that so many of my readers seem to think that such a thing can only be achieved through political demonstrations, rather than making different economic choices now, when the precise nature of the protest is the argument that the dollar has become louder than the human voice. If that’s so, isn’t the dollar a tool to speak with?

    Sharon

  39. #39 Wow
    October 5, 2011

    “my call for economic protest *ALONG WITH* political protest is read as an expression that political protest shouldn’t happen.”

    It may be more indicative of more words than needed being used, Sharon. So that the short-term memory of what’s said is lost or colours the rest until it’s as if it never happened.

    It may be more indicative of clumsy writing. As in it could have been “Just protesting isn’t enough: they’re getting your money too, so why should they care? It’s necessary not just to Protest Wall Street but to do …”. Starting with a kvetch makes it easy to appear as if you’re against it.

    It may be more about the title.

  40. #40 Micheal
    October 5, 2011

    WTF?!

  41. #41 Clare
    October 6, 2011

    Brilliant post I found it very interesting, thanks.

  42. #42 Katherine F.
    October 12, 2011

    I think alot of people aren’t getting this movement – even from the get go of calling it a protest. This may help redefine it for you – here the “occupiers” talk about “care for the collective, demonstrating a model for a new society and holding space to make people conscious…”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwWInp75ua0

    I don’t think in the end this is about evil corporations, I think this is about getting people to wake up and start thinking about a new way to do things. As spoken by the people of occupy wall street – it’s not about protesting it’s about a shift – a movement towards collective liberation.

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