You know, throughout this nascent revolution -- yes, that's what it is -- there has been so much denigration and contempt for the actions -- even the presence -- of the #occupywallstreet demonstrators and all their many, many offshoots around the country and the world.
Sometimes the vehemence of it is a bit startling. But then, when you realize, as Ian Welsh among others realize, that the very existence of this action is an existential threat to the powers of the comfortable elites of every stripe, not just the Wall Street elites, you may begin to understand why it is being subjected to such full throated denunciation from... those who see their only future among the 1%.
Chris Hedges, of course, has been a rabble rouser, a polemicist, and an outstanding moralist ever since he left the New York Times and threw himself, literally, on the Gears of the Machine. I don't know how many times he has been arrested for direct actions at the White House, in New York, and wherever else he finds himself in conflict with the Powers That Be -- which is usually.
The screed linked above is just brilliant, one of his finest, if not his finest, efforts to date:
There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.
Yes, well. One of the filler videos used by the #occupywallstreet activists when their Livestream is down -- which is more and more often these days, and I'll have more to say about that in a while -- starts out with a disembodied mouth saying, "Greetings, runaway slaves." It's terrific. I like it.
It's really come to this. You are a rebel or a slave. There is no room for apathy any more, no time for the flat screen and the take and bake, no relevance to the Game. No point to the endless political maneuvering. All that, for now at least, is Over.
To be declared innocent in a country where the rule of law means nothing, where we have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no longer exists, where you, as a citizen, are nothing more than a commodity to corporate systems of power, one to be used and discarded, is to be complicit in this radical evil. To stand on the sidelines and say “I am innocent” is to bear the mark of Cain; it is to do nothing to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet. To be innocent in times like these is to be a criminal. Ask Tim DeChristopher.
This is what it is about. We are the 99% who the 1% just can't help themselves screwing over, exploiting, destroying, ignoring. You cannot see what is happening and stand quietly on the sidelines for then you are complicit. Silence = Complicity. I and others have said it many, many times.
Choose. But choose fast. The state and corporate forces are determined to crush this. They are not going to wait for you. They are terrified this will spread. They have their long phalanxes of police on motorcycles, their rows of white paddy wagons, their foot soldiers hunting for you on the streets with pepper spray and orange plastic nets. They have their metal barricades set up on every single street leading into the New York financial district, where the mandarins in Brooks Brothers suits use your money, money they stole from you, to gamble and speculate and gorge themselves while one in four children outside those barricades depend on food stamps to eat. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged. Today they run the state and the financial markets. They disseminate the lies that pollute our airwaves. They know, even better than you, how pervasive the corruption and theft have become, how gamed the system is against you, how corporations have cemented into place a thin oligarchic class and an obsequious cadre of politicians, judges and journalists who live in their little gated Versailles while 6 million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a number soon to rise to 10 million, where a million people a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills and 45,000 die from lack of proper care, where real joblessness is spiraling to over 20 percent, where the citizens, including students, spend lives toiling in debt peonage, working dead-end jobs, when they have jobs, a world devoid of hope, a world of masters and serfs.
That orange netting used by the NYPD to "kettle" the activists (and whoever else happens by) is turning into a real symbol of the frustrations of the Power Elite in controlling this nationwide, indeed global, uprising. The mesh itself should be seen for what it is -- a symbol of authority. It has no power of its own except that which the demonstrators themselves agree to. It's like the rope line at affairs at the Palace. Your Rulers, by convention, stand on this side, you, the proles stand on that side in groveling admiration, and that's how it is. Always was. Will forever be.
In Albuquerque yesterday, there was a solidarity march down Central Avenue that's gotten some attention for... the boldness, I'd say, of the activists. They took to the street, they took over the street, one of the busiest in town, on the opening day of the Balloon Fiesta, one of the biggest public events in the Southwest. They defied authority quite openly, with no qualm at all. "Whose streets? Our streets!"
I contrast that with what happened here in Sacramento. There's hardly any comparison. There may have been about the same number of people involved in solidarity both cities, a hundred to two hundred, but the contrast in their behavior could not be more acute, and one of the reasons why, perhaps, is that there are so many lawyers in Sacramento, so many legislative staffers, so many lobbyists, so many... bureaucratic types.
There were a few people at yesterday's gathering in Fremont Park in Sacramento who stood on the street corners holding big signs, "Stop Police Brutality!" "End the Wars, Tax the Rich!", etc, getting quite a lot of support from drivers passing by if the honking of horns was any indication, but the vast majority of those in attendance were holding a meeting. That's the industrial product of any Capital City after all, and it sure as hell is the product here!
So. The Meeting, which lasted altogether about 3 hours, and was dominated by the legal types (though not overdominated) came up with a... plan... to meet again next week, Thursday morning, for some trainings. "Leadership." "Legal Affairs." In solidarity, of course, with the October2011 events planned in Washington DC. There was no march, not even a guarantee that there would be one in the by and bye, though of course it is being considered. There was no occupation. There was merely an agreement to meet again, in solidarity, which is basically how things work here. You don't actually do anything, especially if it might negatively affect your business or public sector career. Priorities.
In Albuquerque, on the opening day of the Balloon Fiesta, a couple of hundred activists (according to news reports) took over the main street of the city, in solidarity with the demonstrators in New York who were at that moment preparing to get on the Brooklyn Bridge, if they weren't already marching.
I kind of doubt that is going to happen in Sacramento. At all. Ever. Of course, I could be wrong. I helped to organize a march a number of years ago that turned out 25,000 demonstrators (who symbolically "crossed the bridge" by the way). But we had permits to use the space, and traffic was controlled by police during the period of the march and the rally, all very proper and dignified, and then everybody went home. I have seen even larger events, involving a hundred thousand or more in the streets locally, but again, all very dignified and with the proper permits in hand. I've been to I don't know how many demonstrations and rallies at the Capitol, a seemingly endless number, and I have organized some of them, filling out all the paperwork for the permits and liaisoning with the state police and on and on and on, all very proper and dignified, the way nearly everything is here.
Doing something "improper" or "forbidden" is almost unheard of around here. It's not polite, and so it is just not (usually) done. Even at the height of the anti-Iraq War protests here, the participants would not break the law by, for example, interfering with traffic. Even so, some were arrested or cited for doing just that, even though they hadn't. Drivers who expressed sympathy by blowing their horns were cited as well!
The point of this digression is the contrast between a city like Albuquerque that is full of activists on all kinds of issues (oh, my yes) and a place like Sacramento where that kind of action is simply not done.
I think we'll see the contrast on a much bigger scale in this coming week when the October2011 activities get under way in Washington, while a nascent occupation action is also being contemplated there. I will predict that every effort will be made by the October2011 coalition to... let's say "tame"... any "occupation" action in DC, while the activists in New York and elsewhere ratchet up the action a notch.
It's a structural difference in approach and intent that is built in to our society, and as this revolutionary process continues, we'll see the contrast more and more. Hopefully, we'll think long and hard about it, too.
Back to Chris Hedges:
The only word these corporations know is more. They are disemboweling every last social service program funded by the taxpayers, from education to Social Security, because they want that money themselves. Let the sick die. Let the poor go hungry. Let families be tossed in the street. Let the unemployed rot. Let children in the inner city or rural wastelands learn nothing and live in misery and fear. Let the students finish school with no jobs and no prospects of jobs. Let the prison system, the largest in the industrial world, expand to swallow up all potential dissenters. Let torture continue. Let teachers, police, firefighters, postal employees and social workers join the ranks of the unemployed. Let the roads, bridges, dams, levees, power grids, rail lines, subways, bus services, schools and libraries crumble or close. Let the rising temperatures of the planet, the freak weather patterns, the hurricanes, the droughts, the flooding, the tornadoes, the melting polar ice caps, the poisoned water systems, the polluted air increase until the species dies.
Exactly. Given the assault we're under from the 1% -- for that's what it is, an assault -- it is no longer sufficient to be polite about it. Hedges is articulate but rarely polite.
Who the hell cares? If the stocks of ExxonMobil or the coal industry or Goldman Sachs are high, life is good. Profit. Profit. Profit. That is what they chant behind those metal barricades. They have their fangs deep into your necks. If you do not shake them off very, very soon they will kill you. And they will kill the ecosystem, dooming your children and your children’s children. They are too stupid and too blind to see that they will perish with the rest of us. So either you rise up and supplant them, either you dismantle the corporate state, for a world of sanity, a world where we no longer kneel before the absurd idea that the demands of financial markets should govern human behavior, or we are frog-marched toward self-annihilation.
Here we see the Bourbon parallel again: "They are too stupid and too blind to see that they will perish with the rest of us" (and I would add, too greedy, smug and self-satisfied.) Rising up should be a natural response to such bone stupidity, but the United States always comes late to that party, believing that the American Revolution hundreds of years ago somehow settled that matter. Huh. Not quite.
Those on the streets around Wall Street are the physical embodiment of hope. They know that hope has a cost, that it is not easy or comfortable, that it requires self-sacrifice and discomfort and finally faith. They sleep on concrete every night. Their clothes are soiled. They have eaten more bagels and peanut butter than they ever thought possible. They have tasted fear, been beaten, gone to jail, been blinded by pepper spray, cried, hugged each other, laughed, sung, talked too long in general assemblies, seen their chants drift upward to the office towers above them, wondered if it is worth it, if anyone cares, if they will win. But as long as they remain steadfast they point the way out of the corporate labyrinth. This is what it means to be alive. They are the best among us.
Indeed. They are the best among us. That's what the naysayers and the swells hate about them. It's the source of their contempt.
I haven't posted links to the kind of vitriol and venom that's been spewing from the supposed "left" in opposition to the #occupyeverything movement, though I've been assembling some of the examples proliferating on the web. Some of it is intended to be a provocation, but most is just unfocused fury that somebody is doing something without the approval of those who know what's best. In that regard, this is ultimately a moral contest between the comfortable and the indignant.
Chris Hedges clarifies the matter.
I will close this post with an old Union fight song: "Which Side Are You On?"
[How many times have I sung that at the Capitol? Jeeze. The Wisconsin action has been an objective failure, but it had to happen, in my view, along with all the other actions around the country and around the world, to get to the point where this Occupation action could have any hope for success.
To repeat Hedges here:
Those on the streets around Wall Street are the physical embodiment of hope. They know that hope has a cost, that it is not easy or comfortable, that it requires self-sacrifice and discomfort and finally faith.
Faith and Solidarity!