Occupy Everywhere

Posted on November 27th, 2011 in Climage Change,Culture,Economy,Education,Politics by Robert Miller

OWS Transition?

For an update on the status of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and perhaps learn something about where it is going, you can visit last Friday’s  Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, where excerpts from a panel discussion can be viewed. The panel discussion was sponsored by The Nation and held in the New School University in New York City, with the title “”Occupy Everywhere: On the New Politics and Possibilities of the Movement Against Corporate Power.” The participants include film maker Michael Moore, author Rinki Sen, Patrick Bruner (“veteran” OWS organizer), economic journalist William Greider and author Naomi Klein, with moderator Richard Kim. The video consists of excerpts from the discussion of what the movement has accomplished, where it is headed, what it needs to do for future growth and what needs it must fulfill if the bright promise they have aroused, that of changing the world, can gain any more traction. To begin with of course, the latter issue is not trivial and no one comes close to seriously expressing the magnitude of the problem. But so far, the incremental  steps that have been taken, such as the “99 percent” deeply resonate with all ages, and have created thirst for action that is more than just “occupy.”   Historians often express the view that the historical record of public arousal and activism against social injustice are not directly related to hard times per se, but emerge when the narrative that kept people down runs out of explanatory power. When hard times first come, people think they have to double down and work harder to get by (or maybe in the case of many Americans, they align themselves more clearly with God and religion–it’s their fault for not being a better provider–their faith hasn’t been strong enough to be rewarded by God) and finally, when multiple iterations of this strategy have failed, groups are formed that begin to articulate a better vision of tomorrow and coalesce into a more nationally identifiable  movement. That is what the OWS movement has brought to our door–they articulate the long-standing grievances we have with how our civil society has been structured and run in the last several decades.  And, they emphasize that the richest country in the world can afford to do better, can afford to do the things that they are talking about. The most boring among us have become the most rich and powerful and they have their boot on our neck. They want to establish an aristocracy so they can pass on their wealth to their offspring (no more inheritance taxes for one thing). The OWS movement is addressing issues that, economically, began in the 1970s, if not earlier. Let’s face it, at the moment, OWS is the only game in town;  after a little more than two months, the movement seems safely launched: it will surely oscillate a bit with the seasons, but one expects to see a process of growth and continued renewal and the “99 percent” is already a permanent member of our national lexicon. It’s a beautiful cutoff. The movement has already had detectable success in the November elections, particularly in Ohio. Patrick Bruner emphasized that by following Google Trends, the words used by the OWS movement have been sharply on the rise.

Other than recommend viewing the video, reading the transcript, or downloading the podcast,  I will emphasize one point from Naomi Klein’s contribution: it is one that I have been emphasizing for some time as many of you know from previous postings. Klein’s point is that the OWS movement must find a way to integrate into their language and template, the environmental movement while emphasizing the fragile condition of our planet, including the fact that we are at the beginning of a new mass species extinction (I added that last point). For this one, we have no doubt who is responsible.  The Republican party is into denial on these concepts, because, according to Klein, the business model they have for our future cannot exist if substantial effort is going to be put into saving the planet and reducing greenhouse gases; that would be giving up too much control, make us too socialized for their comfort. Furthermore, and perhaps more critically for them, they fear it would reduce their profit margin. Yet, for the OWS movement, fusing their anti-corporate, anti-neoliberal message with a “save the planet” motif will be the only source through which millions of new jobs can be generated to help create a badly needed new economy. A labor shortage needs to be created in America, such that wages will be driven upwards. To do that you need a scale of jobs that only a newly empowered movement can demand–one in which saving the planet generates new kinds of jobs through new investments, if necessary forced onto Wall Street.

Corporatists see the current crisis in some ways as a success, because it has created a labor surplus and a decrease in wage demands.  America needs to start making things again and applying our most creative instincts into this new mode of production. It’s all about infrastructure and the green economy. We cannot export the infrastructure needs of this new economy. The cities and suburbs we built after WW II were put together with long paved roads and big interconnecting highways, but this expansionary  lifestyle was based on oil at $20 a barrel or thereabouts. We should have known this would have to end once we reached our own “peak oil” condition in the 1970s. This suburban sprawl we currently have does not work when oil goes to $150 a barrel and yet, at the moment, it seems you have to practically be a visionary to see the magnitude of this looming failure. Most  believe they can still get by using automobiles and airplanes. With the explosion of the Asian and Indian economies, it is hard to see how gas prices are going to get any cheaper.  In rebuilding our urban and suburban living, we will need much better public transportation, including high speed rail and more electric cars, with electric power coming from sources that do not add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and we will need local markets, including food that do not require massive transportation. Some of these attributes of change, such as local farm markets are already being developed and increasingly available through local “farmers marlets.” Of course, by adopting an environmentalist strategy, the OWS movement will lose all possibility of any corporatist Republican support–but they don’t have that anyway. To convert the Tea Party members to the OWS movement, you have to convince them that government is not the source of the problem, that there is no such thing as a trickle down economy, and that government can actually serve to solve some of the major problems we face. This of course is just the reverse of what they believe now, but the “99 percent” is a catchy phrase. The advantage of the OWS movement over that of the Tea Party, is that the former promotes longitudinal thinking or long-range planning, engaging the frontal lobes of our brains. Repetition may be the best way to reach the frontal lobes of Tea Party persons and eventually things like the threat of global climate change coupled to a closer examination of their children’s future,  may become part of a newly refreshed Tea Party Engram. At the moment, expectations like this seem like a pipe dream, but the Tea Party began in harmony with the OWS movement–it’s just that they then blamed the government for the problem, not the corporations, though for a while, they were in their gunsights until they got co-opted by the Koch brothers.

You might also be interested in reading Michael Moore’s ten suggestions for where the OWS movement should go in terms of being more specific in their demands. When your through reading that, look down at the comments to see a whole bunch of additional suggestions made by readers. Perhaps you have one or two of your own. There’s probably room for something about neoliberalism.


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