In Praise of the ‘Mob’: Occupy Wall Street
The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement has weathered a slow start, and an all-too-predictable hazing from the NYPD, to find itself growing in numbers, spreading across the country, and becoming noticed by mainstream journalists and top politicians. President Obama himself, and several Democratic leaders, have rather cautiously praised the spirit of the protests, while obviously holding back a bit to see what it finally morphs into (though I think they need not worry about blood on their hands). More interestingly, we know that the movement has ‘arrived’ because of the universal condemnation it has garnered from Republican officials across the board. Democrats hope that it can become a tenacious and energetic grass-roots, left-wing version of the Tea Party (only with youth and education, not ignorance and latent racism). On the other hand, we have Republican examples such as House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who provides his own shamelessly twisted version of the events. According to Cantor, the protests are a mere “mob” (with all the pejorative connotations that word implies), reacting to “the [Obama] administrations’ failed policies.” Everything that is bad begins and ends with Obama according to hyper-partisan mandarins like Cantor. Let’s just ignore the fact that the standard dictionary definition of “administrations’ failed policies” always shows a mugshot of George W. Bush– the Republican president supported for years by Republican legislators such as Cantor and John Boehner, especially in regards to increasing the deficit as much and as quickly as possible with unpaid-for gambits such as starting and mismanaging elective wars whilst inexplicably lowering taxes for the top income bracket (isn’t it typical to raise taxes, rather than cut them, in order to fight wars? I think even French king Louis XIV could tell you the answer to that one.).
Cantor goes on to say that the protests are “pitting Americans against Americans.” First of all, have Americans ever agreed on anything? There are over 300 million Americans, which means that there will always certain issues in which there are “Americans against Americans”. That is how it is supposed to work in a (Representative) Democracy. There are many ways to analyze the absurdity of this quote, so I will just touch briefly on its hypocrisy. As we all know, Republicans couldn’t be happier to have the Tea Party Movement giving them a certain unmeasurable ‘enthusiasm’ factor, which manifested itself in Republican victories in the 2010 mid-term elections. People like then-Minority Leader Boehner were more than happy to disavow all knowledge of the sideshow “birther” conspiracies, as well as the racist elements of the most right-wing extremists, while at the same time explaining it all away by saying things like “I can’t tell other people what to think. If people think Obama wasn’t born in America, then I can’t tell them they’re wrong. If Obama says he’s a Christian [and, thus, not a Muslim], I have to take him at his word.” This must be the only time on record when the leader of a political party can’t tell people what to think about an issue, trusting that they can just figure it out on their own in this case. Anyway, the whole idea behind the Tea Party movement, different political parties, and even politics in general, is that there are, and will always be, “Americans against Americans” on every single issue. We’re not re-fighting the Civil War again; we are trying to improve public policy to benefit as many “Americans” as possible. The Tea Party, which is a disparate group of Americans strongly against another group of Americans, was not sowing discord, but “fighting for democracy” according to Cantor in 2009. Now that there is a rival, left-leaning, populist uprising, suddenly Cantor wants them to be crushed with all the oppressive power of the ruling (financial) elites that he faithfully serves.
Similarly, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, has arguably gone a step further– he has accused the protesters of “trying to take away jobs of people working in this city.” Forget the fact that it is not just New York City anymore, but now an ever-growing list of cities across the country– Bloomberg knows the secret truth that jobs are to be protected more than even the life of worker itself. I think the rhetorical dichotomy of “job creator vs. job killer” must have become the new “terrorist vs. not a terrorist.” Ones sees Manichean echoes of G.W. Bush’s “you’re either with us, or you’re against us.” There is no middle ground. If you are not creating a job, you must, by definition, be destroying a job. Mayor Bloomberg is the 8th richest man in America. He is worth $17,500,000,000. In addition to his media company (which is decidedly pro-Big Finance), I think it’s safe to assume a lot of that money is tied up in… you guessed it: Wall Street. Bloomberg might not exactly be the biggest friend of the “little guy”, but he knows how to protect jobs in New York City: by condemning poor and unemployed college students protesting against the systemic corruption and abuse of our national financial system by morally-bankrupt, mostly psychopathic (really! I recently read an article that said that corporate CEOs have a greater than normal probability of being clinically ‘psychopathic’) bankers and gamblers of the financial casinos that are Wall Street banks.
What do these protesters want, anyway, that is so offensive to the ‘conservative establishment’. They want a lot of different things it seems; but first and foremost, they do not want to ‘conserve the establishment’. There are obvious systemic problems with the political and economic state of America, and these problems can be reformed. But if no one tells the politicians to do something then they will, almost by definition, do nothing, and the status quo will continue. Is there such a problem with angry and motivated activists learning that, in 2011 in America, they do have a voice, and they can organize and make the voice heard. Maybe they will never achieve their diverse goals, but I think there is no question that they can help to shape the debate. We have all put up with the Tea Party long enough, without ever denying them the ability to organize, make their voices heard, and even get some people elected. I don’t think they will go away anytime soon, and that is a good thing because it is good for a country to have more, not less, people being involved in politics. I don’t think I misunderstand the concept of democracy when I say that it is a system that not only encourages people (‘demos‘) to make their voices heard and influence collective decisions, but it actually fails and evolves into something different when this does not happen. Let the debate begin.