Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Further -- on Similarities and Differences, Wisconsin vs Wall Street
I've ceased calling the nationwide Occupation Actions a "protest" in part because the organizers and participants don't see their actions so much as protests as they see them as "discovery" -- ways to approach and eventually become the Future.
Ways to create the Community of the Future they want to live in.
Ways to take control of their own fate, discover and develop a better Future for all.
We are watching the formation of a vision, in other words, which some of us -- by and bye -- will be participating in. Once started, it seems to me, this becomes a very powerful, ultimately an unstoppable, movement.
Which is why, as I've noted, it's got the Powers That Be spooked. And yet, it is no direct threat to them at all.
This must seem contradictory given the premise of the whole thing: "Occupy Wall Street." How can you "occupy" Wall Street without an implicit threat to the Financial Powers so prominent there -- and so responsible for the economic misery they're imposing on everyone else?
As I see it, the vision being formulated by the activists in New York and elsewhere goes well beyond the momentary issues of threats and blame. Yes, of course, the entire economic system represented by Wall Street must be reformed, and it can't be done by those who have caused the economic calamities we face. Those who did it must experience some sense of shame, and their ability to cause further harm must be terminated. There are other issues of economic justice that must be addressed. But it can't happen in isolation. It is not solely a matter of the One Thing, Wall Street. You cannot change the One Thing, Wall Street, without some fundamental changes throughout the system.
This is a highly communitarian vision, highly participatory, not so highly organized as to become an authoritarian nightmare like we saw being played out in the streets on Saturday, but still organized enough to get some things done. Which ultimately trigger the doing and reform of more things. On and on. Self generating and self replicating.
In thinking about the failure of the Wisconsin protests to achieve their stated objectives, I can see that the focus on politicians and electoral mechanisms was misplaced. They are a problem, to be sure, but they aren't really what's in charge of the situation. We saw this in the easy camaraderie between Scott Walker and a caller purporting to be David Koch, as opposed to his extraordinary hostility to and dismissal of ordinary citizens expressing a grievance. Obviously, power was not in the hands of the citizens nor was it in the hands of Scott Walker and the State Legislature. We saw that power was actually in the hands of somewhat shadowy -- and unelected -- outsiders, or at least for the moment, those who could effectively imitate them.
In other words, in that display, the People not only had no real power, they had no presence. It was as if they did not exist at all, except perhaps occasionally as props or pawns in a game being played by others. The demonstrations and the occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol didn't matter; it was just noise. The demands of the protesters were not just being dismissed, they were completely ignored. The Peoples' response, in a sense, was to get louder. It didn't matter.
There was an effort at a general strike that was superficially a success, but ultimately it had no affect on the course of policy. And most shockingly to those who had put so much into "doing something" about the situation, the recall effort failed to flip control of the State Senate.
No matter what the People did, it seemed, the end result would be the same.
What a horrifying realization.
The political and electoral systems in essence do not -- and apparently cannot -- represent the People; people who look for a kind of salvation through them will look in vain. This is true regardless of which team you think you're playing for. The political and electoral systems serve others interests, not those of the People.
To get them back, if that's even possible, the reform movement has to start outside the political and electoral system, reforming what gives rise to it rather than focusing so much on directly attacking the thing itself.
What gives rise to a political system that ignores and dismisses the interests of the People is the ultimate problem to solve.
And that seems to be the issue the participants in the Occupation Movement are exploring -- and what the protesters in Wisconsin couldn't get to, though many seemed to know that's where they needed to be.
That's part of why I call Wisconsin a prelude. Many of the protesters knew what really needed to be done. But so long as the focus was on the politicians, politics, and the electoral process, the scut work on the ground kept getting pushed to the side.
Ultimately, the protests failed and the aftermath through the recall elections was a bust. That doesn't mean what happened in Wisconsin was worthless. It means it didn't work, and that many of those who witnessed (and participated) learned from the failure.
So now we have something else again starting in New York but looks to be going national and is showing indications of going global. It is not focused on the electoral system, on politics, or even on the brutality with which its participants were greeted by New York authorities on Saturday. It is focused instead on forming community at the most basic level and organically growing a reform movement from the ground up.
Libertarians and anarchists are included in the communitarian vision being discovered and formulated. They are a fundamental part of this communitarian experiment even though superficially they represent its opposite.
So far, at any rate, they have not been allowed to take over.
All of this, of course, harkens back to the Old Days, the liberationist demands and the communitarian experiments of the Hippie era. But what's going on now, clearly, is not the same thing at all. The motivations may be similar, but the discoveries and realizations are going to be -- must be, in fact -- quite different from those of the Old Folks.
So, all hail the General Assembly!