03 October 2011

Mainstream criticisms of Occupation movement are empty

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—There has been a lot of chatter in the mainstream news media that the Occupation movement that began Sept. 17 on Wall Street and has since spread to scores of other U.S. cities, including Albuquerque, lacks specific goals and objectives. What do NPR and Fox News expect, an electoral campaign platform that will be adopted and co-opted by the Democratic Party and then ignored?

What is unclear about the largely spontaneous explosion of demand for economic justice? What is confusing about what the signs and demonstrators say? The wealthiest 1% of Americans dictate the fortunes of the other 99%, or some variation of that sentiment. How many young people have explained to reporters that they have a mountain of school debt, no health insurance and no prospect for employment? How much unemployment, poverty and inaccessible healthcare does it take to be recognized as a national crisis? What is morally ambiguous about these inequalities existing alongside staggering increases in wealth, income and capital accumulation for the privileged few? How much more evidence does it take to show that the electoral process and conventional two-party politics are blatantly subservient to corporate and other elite interests? Didn’t the site of the mother action—Wall Street, the symbolic epicenter of global capitalism—provide a clue to what these demonstrations seek?

Feigning confusion about goals and objectives is a weak attempt to discredit the movement. It is also a stark admission about the shameful lack of insight exhibited by most mainstream news reporting and analysis. And the charge that these largely spontaneous demonstrations are not well organized and lack clear leadership (i.e., hierarchically organized) is groundless because it only acknowledges the self-evident.

An emerging national movement unaffiliated with the powerbrokers of the status quo will soon face pressure from its critics to designate leaders in the name of clarity and efficiency—a temptation that should be vigorously resisted. Hierarchical decision structures can be more easily corrupted and decapitated than structures that are more horizontal and decentralized. Liberal political careerists can also be expected to try to steal the insurrectionary spirit of this movement and tame it into a program of modest and ultimately meaningless reforms. Also to be resisted at all costs. In fact, the loudest criticisms seem to me to be the greatest strengths of this groundswell of democratic desire.

Clarity of vision, what we want and defining what is better than what we have, strikes me as far more important at this stage of the process than any piece of legislation or any choice of spokesperson. So I cringed this afternoon when I listened to an interview with a student on NPR who said the movement should not been seen as a wholesale indictment of capitalism. Please, someone show his ass to the door. This inspiring effort will be on death’s door the minute it believes it can make peace with the same rapacious capitalism that is destroying our nation.

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