This is an eye-opener, although parts of it may disturb you. But Americans can not operate a democratic republic with heads in the sand.
Whether you”re with them or against them, the Occupyers are now fanning out a spectrum of ideological strategies, and our nation will be changed as a result. The societal inequalities they protest will not be easily disposed of. We must consider and analyze their complaints if our nation is to get over the polarizing hurdles that now obstruct our governing urgencies.
Although law enforcement agencies in cities throughout our nation have undertaken, for the most part appropriately, some restrictive measures to contain the Occupy campers, these people are not going away. They live among us, as does the Tea Party whose signs were raised before them.
To glean some understanding of where this thing is headed, I recommend a listen to this one-hour panel discussion:
The New School/New York City meeting of minds was sponsored by The Nation magazine, and recorded at the above link for Democracy Now!. Michael Moore and Naomi Klein are positioned, as it were, at the two bookends of the discussion, with three other well-spoken panelists between them. The troublesome film-maker’s controversial presence is appropriately seated on the left. Naomi’s seasoned optimism later provides a constructive balance on the other end of the table.
Compare Michael’s grudge to Naomi’s hope.
On one end of unfolding Occupy Wherever drama, Michael Moore says, with an odd excitement in his voice, he’d like to overhear the fearful trepidations now being uttered nightly in the bedrooms of the 1%.
On the other end, Naomi Klein admonishes the Occupyers to move beyond the “outrage phase” to a new phase of hope.
Which way will the Occupy movement move?
The way of the American revolution, or the way of the French revolution?
The way of constructive democracy, or the way of a vindictive reign of terror?
Michael Moore is a genius of video programming, and he certainly expresses in his work a powerful advocacy for underpriveleged people, but he does have some problems, mostly that he presents everything in good vs evil terms. But ourmaterial world, including capitalism, is constituted in shades of gray everywhere you look, whether you’re facing left or facing right. Here are just a few of the key phrases that indicate his judgemental attitude:
~ the “beginning of the end of an evil system”
~ deficit/debt ceiling as a “distraction”, as if fiscal responsibility were not a real issue
~ “they (the 1%) created this…all the pain and suffering,” as if pain and suffering had not existed before corporatocracy
Michael Moore prefaces his caustic assessments somewhat with a hopeful observation that the Occupy movement has “aleviated despair in this country” and “killed apathy.” This is true. But here is what’s worrisome about Michael Moore:
Toward the end of the program, he mentions the inspiration that he imbibes when contemplating that a mere two people, Marx and Engels, occupied unbroken ideological ground over a century ago. Unfortunately for the world at large, what Marx and Engels could not foresee was the onslaught of oppressive state power, through the cruel manipulations of Stalin, Mao and others, that would later be perpetrated in the name of their theoretical wealth and power redistributions. Someone should remind Michael Moore and his comrades just how the Stalin and Mao movements turned out after their early revolutionary phases. Contemporary protesters would do well to remember the words of one of their patron saints, John Lennon, who sang, “…but if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.” While that Beatlish warning may be politically incorrect in China, it surely applies here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
In contrast to Michael Moore’s hyper-critical inputs, Naomi Klein got her turn, later, at the other end of the 5-member panel. Her well-prepared spiel included a listing of positive changes, “a track record of developing alternatives” that have manifested in practical applications since the Seattle WTO protests in 1999:
~ solutions to the ecological crisis becoming solutions to the economic crisis
~ green co-ops, as in Cleveland
~ farmers’ markets
~ community-supported agriculture
~ community renewable energy
~ localizing economies
~ devolving power to community levels, decentralization
These last two or three are the ironically dubious components of an evolving Occupy agenda, insofar as this: the federal/statist interventions required for implementing egalitarian measures are inherently contrary to decentralizing reforms, unless the federal actions are at some point withdrawn or minimized. How likely is that?
The happiest item on Naomi Klein’s constructive list was her mention of the 14 bicycle-powered generators being used to fulfill electrical needs at Occupy Wall Street. This happened after the police had removed their gas-powered generators, which was a blessing in disguise since the campers needed some incentives to overcome their own fossil-fuel dependencies. I’ll commend them for investing some innovative sweat equity to capitalize their dream of green energy.
At moderator Richard Kim’s direction, Naomi Klein addressed directly the issue of federal/state involvement. (I know for a fact, this is the biggest objection that arises from our conservative factions, especially since government programs are funded by taxes.) Naomi tempers the session’s wonky explorations with an appropriate admonition: “State power can be just as alienating, as corrupt as corporate power.”
And there’s the rub, America. As a wise creature of the forest once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”