Tag Archives: OWS

Class Warfare

We take our democracy for granted as much as those in power take their privileges for granted. One of the greatest achievements of the protest movement sweeping the world is that it is exposing the lies and half truths peddled by the power elites and our willingness to lap it all up. It reminds us that rights are never given, but taken. It reminds them that they rule by our assent, which will eventually be rescinded when that privilege is abused. It exposes the lengths that they will go to hold on to power and the means by which they hope to achieve this.

Mitt Romney describes Occupy Wall Street as class warfare. He is not wrong, just that it isn’t the recent protest that started the conflict. It started with Ronald Reagan’s 1981 campaign to destroy organized labor, with further shots being fired by partner Margaret Thatcher during the coal miners’ strike of 1984-85. All of this being just the start of a campaign by conservatives, neo-liberals, free-marketeers and corporate interests to bring back the Gilded Age and the Roaring 20’s.

This campaign has been going on for a very long time, with much success. While we have been busy shopping, expressing ourselves with Nikes, Diesel jeans, gold and platinum credit cards, the right usurped the left. It was on Bill Clinton’s watch that Glass-Steagall was repealed. It was Tony Blair, with his New Labour, who implemented privatization that Thatcher could only have dreamed of. Most of the rest of the developed world followed suit, with the IMF and WTO often encouraging similar moves to free market capitalism amongst those developing nations that came to seek relief.

With the cooption of the entire political machine now exposed, it becomes clear that our Democracy has devolved into little more than a farce. We snicker at despots that claim to receive 98.76% of the popular vote in what they call democratic elections. At the same time we freely choose between candidates that all essentially implement the same policy. Where is the Democracy in that?

Each time the establishment lashes out, whether in New York, California, Egypt or Tel Aviv  it assists in more clearly contrasting the choices we are faced with. It is this conflict that is exposing what is at stake. It is the disobedience of the governed and the establishment’s reaction that is making the scam so blatantly clear. Is it a coincidence that Mayor Bloomberg held a news conference to reveal a foiled terror plot that had been under control for two years, complete with a video of what the plot’s success would have looked like, only days after realizing that he was loosing the public relations battle? Was there no connection between the incessant chatter about the Iranian threat by the Israeli government over the last couple of weeks and the passing of new anti-libel laws, laws against financing of NGO’s, laws on giving politicians more control over the selection of Supreme court justices?

What emboldens those in power to continue using excessive force to deal with these annoying protests is the knowledge the majority will look at these transgressions and believe that they will never be perpetrated against them. But they always are. What starts with Jews will end with anyone opposing the regime, by way of Homosexuals, Communists and Gypsies. What starts with Muslims will end with privileged white college kids speaking in opposition to the establishment by way of Arabs, Mexicans and the unemployed. As Matt Taibbi so aptly puts it, what is hardest is the transgressing against the first liberty, trampling the rest becomes increasingly easy.

Armed with this knowledge, that we are next; that if we are not now unemployed to allow for greater profitability, we soon may be; that if we are not nowbeing poisoned by yet more exploitation of our natural resources, we soon will be; that when we sympathize with others that have had their freedom curtailed, we know ours are soon to follow. How can we continue to sit at home and wait for someone else to bring change.? Get you down to Zuccotti Park, to Tahrir, to Rothchild boulevard and put your body on the line before they have your soul.

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The Power of Inclusion

With each additional reporter bleating “but what are your demands?!” at the protesters at occupy Wall Street, I better understand the genius in not having demands. You only have to go down to Zucotti Park to realize that these people are not a homogenous group. From Anarchists to Pacifists, from Libertarians to Socialists, from Atheists to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists, from the homeless to the privileged college students, from the professional lifetime protesters to the first time participants these people agree about very little except that the current system can not and must not continue lest it destroys us all. By not publishing a clear set of demands this movement is allowing the widest possible audience to feel included in it and represented by it. By not publishing a clear set of demands this movement is refusing to play by the rules of those in power, against whom they are protesting. It has pushed the 1% off balance and has them scared.

Anyone that has been involved in any kind of protest over the last 10-15 years more likely than not has walked away disappointed. Rallies were held where stirring speeches were made. The written and electronic media, possibly sympathetic to the cause, gave some coverage. Leaders emerged who expressed the frustrations and demands of those upset enough to stop just sitting at home and complaining at the television. Those same leaders eventually fell in love with the attention and their access to power so that the political class easily absorbed and co-opted them while making minimal concessions. Soon enough the protests petered out, the working groups dispersed and everyone went home trying not to feel disappointed.

The genius of not having a clear set of demands is that, in essence, it allows you to answer the question of “what do you want?” with “everything”. It is this answer, this all inclusiveness, which differentiates the current protests, whether they are in NYC, Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Athens or Cairo from what has come before. When what you are demanding is justice it is easy to gloss over the nuances of political differences or even significant differences in understanding of what justice is. When there is no clear leadership, there is no place for the usual jealousy or concerns about a small group making the wrong decisions for the majority. There is only a common understanding that the reign of the plutocratic minority must end, that their power over our politics and lives must be broken. It is the growing understanding by many that the current protest movements are the real deal, that with enough effort and dedication and perseverance real change can be effected that is causing people to forsake their cynicism. The kind of change people believed that the election of Obama would bring and left so many so bitterly disappointed.

It is the task of these protests, of this movement, to effect change. The same people that will change the status quo will not necessarily be the ones the build the new reality. It is enough for now to say that the way things work at the moment can no longer continue without having to answer exactly what will take it’s place.

It is the growing understanding by the plutocrats, the 1%, that what the protesters are demanding is everything that has got them scared. It is the realization that this might not be a passing fad that is causing more than a few sleepless nights. They are starting to realize that the rest of us have figured out their game and are refusing to play by their rules. As this becomes clearer to them, as the stark reality dawns on them that there is no way that they can both placate the crowds and maintain their current lifestyle, we can expect their resistance to become more concentrated and violent. As the violence in New York and Sydney and Oakland has shown so far, this will only work towards causing more and more people to feel included in this movement.

-Bram Spiero