Sunday, January 22, 2012

Toward Critical Spirit

Via Yves Smith and Naked Capitalism:

I've been saying "Watch Europe and North Africa" -- and Spain in particular -- for some time because it is from Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and from North Africa that the bases of the American and Global Occupy Movement come.

This was understood in the Occupy Wall Street development process because so many of the M15 Movement participants were activists within or advising the OWS participants. And of course the precursor American Rebellion and Occupation in Wisconsin was openly and directly derived from the Egyptian and Tunisian models.

Little information was widely distributed about these aspects of the Movement in the United States, so it was easy enough for some Zeitgeisters and RonPauliacs to assert predominance early on in many of the Occupations around the country and not face a lot of opposition.

Because their political, social and moral ideas have long been excluded from the "mainstream," many people who participated early on in the Occupy Movement were simply unfamiliar with them; the more they learned, the more most rejected them.

Zeitgeist and RonPaulism, for example, function little differently than religious cults, and even though many people are drawn to religion and can be susceptible to cults, there is ultimately no "there there" for most people in either the Zeitgeist or the RonPauliac cults. These cults are focused on esoterica of monetary policy, for example, obsessed with the Fed and all its many perverse ways, but they fail to develop any kind of practical social/political or functional economic alternative. So, they get nowhere. But then, to my jaundiced eye, they aren't meant to get anywhere as political/social or economic alternatives. They are meant solely to perpetuate themselves and to keep their founders and leaders in the public eye and in comfort.

But ultimately, their interests are irrelevant to the Revolution, though, who knows, there may be some elements of Zeitgeistism or even RonPaulism that winds up in the programs and policies of the Better Future we're all so busy envisioning and some are so busy building.

The energy of the Movement and the Revolution is not in Zeitgeistism or RonPaulism. It looks to me like both sap energy at the local level, and they simply have no relevance at the national and international levels. Their relevance to the Movement as a whole remains to be seen.

In the video above, Miguel Yarza of Democracia Real Ya explains it all for you, what is really going on and what is really important in for the future of the Movement and the Revolution: Dignity, Justice, Community and Peace is the way I synthesize these values. Yarza describes what is actually going on in Spain and Europe and elsewhere as a result of the diffusion of M15 and Democracia Real Ya ideas and ideals throughout the Occupy Movement.

Democracial Real Ya is a Dignity and (social/economic) Justice movement, as were the uprisings and revolutions in North Africa, though in North Africa, legal justice became a focus of the movements after the state crackdowns on the demonstrations and protests.

In this country, we're still figuring out some of the Dignity and Justice aspects of the uprisings, but there has been a very gratifying focus at many Occupations on the plight of the homeless and homeless mentally ill in particular, and on the necessity to keep people in their homes if they have them. The fight against foreclosures in this county mirrors what's going on in Spain. Also, more and more American Occupations are taking cues from Europe and liberating vacant buildings, even if only briefly at this point. On Friday, for example, the former Jack Tarr/Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco that was closed and abandoned a few years ago was liberated for a few hours with the intention of making it into living quarters for some of the thousands of homeless in San Francisco and the Bay Area. This action was modeled on the Traveler's Aid building liberation in Oakland last November and that action in turn was modeled on the many abandoned building liberations in Spain and elsewhere in Europe that have been going on for many years. Squatting has a long history in Europe and is legally protected, whereas in the United States, it is strictly against the law and sometimes brutally suppressed if it occurs; thus, those who are doing it in this country -- and it is happening more widely than most of us realize -- are very courageous. While it is not unprecedented in this country, the current energy behind it, drawing mostly on the anarchist community, is new.

Real Democracy continues to be a goal through all the various aspects of the Movements, Uprisings, and Revolutions, most especially in Europe and North Africa where the betrayal of the People by their Rulers is so stark and profound. What they have been "given" is not at all what they thought they were getting. Bait and switch is too kind a word, and it goes back to the triumph of Neo-Liberal economic theory (another form of cultic belief) that essentially strip mines wealth from the public and hands it to oligarchs and plutocrats who, for whatever reason, have no sense of social responsibility whatsoever.

"Democracy" was supposed to prevent that outcome, but in its current form of representative/parliamentary/managed democracy, it is actually enabling it. Peoples in Europe and North Africa see that stark reality and they revolt. The notion is gaining traction in the United States as even the Rs understand that the Plutocrats who own our government have no sense of social responsibility at all, any more than their European counterparts do, and this is wrong.

One may disagree with the Gingrich response to the issue of social responsibility -- please do! -- but at least he has some idea what it is. Romney, for whatever reason, and Paul, for selfish reasons, do not.

As for the current White House and Congress, it's hard to say. If it were not for the social benefit programs currently in place, almost all of them dating back decades, it is doubtful that the current political class would be doing anything on behalf of the masses, for in general they seem to lack conscience or any ability to act on conscience if they have it.

Most institutions that proclaim a social conscience or responsibility have failed, in my view because they are more concerned with their organizational survival than they are with serving their clients. Why that's so is a whole other discussion.

It's therefore up to the People to voice their interests and to demonstrate how to act on those interests.

It's difficult -- especially under conditions of brutal repression -- but it is taking place just the same. And every time there is another fierce crack down by Authority (the UC Riverside confrontation the other day was certainly typical) the opposition to oppression grows. It takes time to figure out what to do about it. Notably, the Authorities are more flexible in their repressive tactics than I would have thought -- which gives us some idea of the extent of the training they have received in suppressing popular unrest. Obviously this factor of "law enforcement" has been emphasized heavily since 1999, even though they still make unforced errors routinely in dealing with the public.

Yarza is talking about building a "critical spirit," which we can think about as a critical mass, that will tip the balance away from the Neo-Liberal catastrophist cult that has captured governments everywhere. And you never know when the tipping point will come. Nor can you necessarily predict just how the cookie will crumble.

But the pressure must be maintained, and the image of the future must be prepared.

When we do our part, the critical spirit takes care of itself.

And there is no sign that the People are tiring.

[Occupy Oakland's Unstoppable Bus cruising San Francisco's Financial District.]


John Spritzler and David Stratman, "Thinking about Revolution."

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