Posts Tagged ‘Occupy Wall Street’

Michael’s trouble, Naomi’s hope

November 26, 2011

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.”

Glass half-Full


Judah and Israel

October 22, 2011

Settling back into the Appalachian homing crib now, after a west coast week turnaround, I’m puzzling about the few days I spent observing the Occupyers at Seattle and Vancouver.

Yesterday I get an RSS email from Phyllis Chesler pronouncing the Occupy movement antisemitic.Whoa!

She presents some convincing evidence in her 5-page posting, with video quips of two Occupy LA  protesters whose statements about bankers reveal some authentically deliberate Jew-bashing, and there’s a lengthy, detailed sign about the old bogey Illuminati/Freemason conspiracy, whch was a dark strain of allegedly hidden connections that I had investigated briefly about 33 years ago.

So I get to hypertexting around on the net, and sure’nuff, there’s more to this Occupy movement than meets the all-seeing eye. More evidence shows up on Jeff Dunetz’ yidwithlid blog:
Yid with Lid wrote:
“The MSM (mainstream media) worked very hard to brand the Tea Party Movement as Racist, but it wasn’t. They are working just as hard to ignore the blatant Antisemitism and libelous demonization of Israel coming out of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and they are. It is not just a few nuts within the Occupy Wall Street Movement who are bashing Israel and Jews, it is the leadership and founders.”
A few more clicks mouses us around to a different point of view, the other side of the shekel, from Dave Weigel at Slate:
Weigel wrote:
“There is a problem: The movement isn’t anti-Semitic. It started in New York. Its ideological hero is Naomi Klein. This is a movement studded with liberal Jews! Here’s one video that’s gotten less play than the one of the irate anti-Semitic dipshit with the “Nazi bankers” sign: The Kol Nidre in New York, at the Occupy camp.”

If Naomi Klein is such a formidable player in this Occupying wave, and she is Jewish, then how can the movement itself be antisemitic? Furthermore, If you view the 3-minute video (Kol Nidre, above) that Weigel posted, in which a large group of obviously Jewish dancers joyously stepped into Yom Kippur, it is obvious that the Hebraic delegation is untimidated about putting their best feet forward in the Occupy WallStreet festivities.

So we see one group of Jews who are out to change the world with their involvement in, among many other leftist movements, Occupy WallStreet etc; its the J-Street apologist contingent, the old socialist/labor cadre, the Yid liberal strain whose purpose is to confront the slings and arrows of world injustice and equality, and by opposing end those evils.

And we see another group of Jewish people,  including the grand old man of anti-defamation exposé Elie Wiesel, who have detected (accurately) within that same broad Occupy movement, an insidious strain of nascent nazis nestled nefariously in the shadows of  the sign-wielding rabble. Yes, the Jew-haters are in there; they lurk among thousands of protesters.

So is the Occupy WallStreet movement antisemitic? Yes and no.That makes it like just about any other political movement  in this melting-pot that we call America.
The Judah-apologist school of Judaism and the Israel-defensive school are strange bedfellows nestled within the same religious/ethnic heritage; one is reformative and communitarian, the other is orthodox and conservative. Oy vey. What else is new? It’s been this way since Rehoboam and Jeroboam.

The tension that exists between these two camps of Judaism, as represented by the activist Golda Meir strain and the prosperous Alan Greenspan strain, is as old as the Judean hills, and they have lived with it long enough to convince the world that they are here to stay.  Either way, they’re not going away. Thank G_d.

The contemporary quarrel between liberal and conservative branches of political Judaism is reconcilable when surveyed through this proverbial wisdom  from Yid with Lid:

“Jewish tradition respects economic success, so long as it is obtained honestly, and proper respect is shown for the social responsibility that comes with it. That social responsibility is a personal duty and a job for the community led by its religious leaders, but not for the government.”

Last link. Over two millenia ago, the prophet Zechariah posted this on his website:

“…I took for myself two staffs, the one I called Favor and the other I called Union…I took my staff Favor and cut it in pieces, to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples…then I cut in pieces my second staff Union, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”

And its been that way ever since. But hey! Mazel tov and L’chaim!.
But if you want to see what occupation really looks like in the here and now, look at this pic I snapped at Occupy Jerusalem six years ago:

Wailing Wall

Glass half-Full

Organizing the 9%

October 18, 2011

As much as the Occupy movement would aspire to represent  99% of the  people, they can claim to persuasively echo the opinions and active strategies of…maybe 9%.

Although far more than nine percent of people have become disgruntled because Congress bails out the corporate cronies, and although far more than nine percent of folks are frustrated with ecological disasters and abuses that have been mismanaged through gov/corp collusion, and although far more than 9.1% of the people feel as if their labor and resources are  being jerked around by the soulless machinations of greedy, outsourcing corporations, there are really only about nine percent of  We the People who are willing to be associated with and directed by Occupation activists.

However, if the Occupyers could manage somehow to effectively represent, say, a mere 9% of the people, that is nine times as many  as the 1% whose bank accounts they are trying to siphon. But their first major hurdle in that wealth redistribution quasi-socialist quest would be to get organized. That is no simple task, as I recently witnessed firsthand. In fact this whole movement will be a marathon of dedicated organizing if it is ever going to amount to anything besides a series of sign-wielding collective walks in the park.

At the stone staircase of the Vancouver Art Museum on Saturday and Sunday, I watched as a core group of intense activists initiated in their city what has become the Occupy movement’s “achieving consensus” process. It is a tedious sequence of speaker/crowd interactivity that appears, from my observer perspective, laboious and perhaps somewhat self-defeating.

Nevertheless,  the agenda-writing nucleus of organizers seemed quite intent on building consensus from their small activist cadre outward amongst the gathering legion of discontents. They wanted it done a certain way, at the risk of appearing, to an instant-breakfast world, disorganized.

The use of amplified sound through use of a microphone was a point of subtle contention among two factions of the the leader group. It took a few hours on Saturday morning as well as Sunday to work out the kinks. A speaker-call / crowd-repeat procedure that must have originated with the wallstreet cadre had already become dogma for some of the agenda-setting core, while other initiators among them obviously preferred the pragmatically loud use of the microphone. Technological enhancement uncovers undesirable bourgeois luxuries. Such subtle concessions to capitalist convenience can easily lead to domination of the gathered crowd by gifted orators, or “showboaters” as one humble speaker referred to them. Amplified rhetoric can enable, theoretically, opportunitstic demogogs to  manipulate the assembled masses. Thus can the ideal of egalitarian democracy be undermined by silver-tongued soapboxers. Not good.

I observed with interest as a purist group within the agenda-setting core labored tediously to lay a foundation of simple unamplified call/response democratic consensus building. It was, let’s face it, primitive, although I could surmise the solid ideologic basis for it. Over the course of two disjointed hours, however, the pragmatic faction was able to procedurally insert selective use of the microphone into the nascent consensus process. This distant listener thought the microphone use lent a definite improvement to their presentations.

By and by, the Vancouver Occupy agenda-setters were able to establish a sequence of procedures by which  their two-hundred-or-so core of gathered faithful (while hundreds more of curious bystanders watched) could voice some procedural decisions about where this thing was headed.  Past mid-afternoon on Sunday, I don’t know what Occupy Vancouver did, but their inception was fascination for this detached observer.

I departed the scene several hours later, thinking it would be a long time before this movement accomplishes anything substantial. Leaderless democracy, which appears to be the gold standard among this movement’s initiators,  initially produces apparent chaos. At least that’s the way it seemed to me as I witnessed the Occupy Vancouver public inception. What fundamental organization may have been established beneath that irresolute exterior, only time will tell.

After a dusky train ride with wife and son back to Seattle, I returned on nippy Monday morning, with journalistic curiosity, to the Occupy site in Westlake Park, downtown. Previously, I had witnessed parts of the Wednesday and Thursday daytime sessions there. The Seattle crowd seemed, to me, much scruffier and streetish than the intense Vancouverites. A rag-tag band of pierced, tattood occupyers hung out where the podium had been last week. They were  meagerly holding on to this public square, insofar as it was possible amidst the gently ominous peripheral police presence. While most lingerers were milling around in apparent aimless expectation, an ameobic bundle of them languished near the low stone platform that had been the focal site of last week’s rallying excitement. A pervasive attitude of don’t let this magic moment slip away hung in the air like contraband smoke.

A plethora of handmade signs was constant, hundreds of them, in both Vancouver and Seattle, many of them quite clever. By mid-afternoon on Monday, I saw from my Starbucks perch a bearded Seattle protester  with a large, neatly lettered green on white that read: PROSECUTE BANKSTERS. It was a distilled message that indicated what might become an actual judgemental plank of the emerging Occupy platform. This was the goal that I had heard a week or two ago, spoken by Michael Moore in an NPR interview.

Such an indictment would materialize only through a very long, drawn out campaign by the Occupyers.

Canadian columnist Conrad Black wrote insightfully in last Saturday’s National Post:
“Assessing blame is complicated. This (the wallstreet meltdown of ’08 and its economic fallout) was not a case where an easily identifiable group committed monstrously illegal acts in the manner of Bernard Madoff….financiers cannot be prosecuted for mere acts of stupidity. There have been prosecutions, most of them unsuccessful, and the whole retrubitive effort has been mired in the name-calling between the financial and political communities.”

My present uptake from all this observation is that the derivatives-wielding wallstreet 1% better clean up their act before the radical rabble 9%, claiming to speak for the 99, decides to ditch the consensus process and take matters into their own revolutionary hands.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress