A short analysis of the global protest movement with a special focus on Wall Street
Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.
They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.
“Our parents are grateful because they’re voting,” said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards’ decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. “We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.”
Economics have been one driving force, with growing income inequality, high unemployment and recession-driven cuts in social spending breeding widespread malaise. Alienation runs especially deep in Europe, with boycotts and strikes that, in London and Athens, erupted into violence.
But even in India and Israel, where growth remains robust, protesters say they so distrust their country’s political class and its pandering to established interest groups that they feel only an assault on the system itself can bring about real change.
Young Israeli organizers repeatedly turned out gigantic crowds insisting that their political leaders, regardless of party, had been so thoroughly captured by security concerns, ultra-Orthodox groups and other special interests that they could no longer respond to the country’s middle class.
Increasingly, citizens of all ages, but particularly the young, are rejecting conventional structures like parties and trade unions in favor of a less hierarchical, more participatory system modeled in many ways on the culture of the Web.
In that sense, the protest movements in democracies are not altogether unlike those that have rocked authoritarian governments this year, toppling longtime leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Protesters have created their own political space online that is chilly, sometimes openly hostile, toward traditional institutions of the elite.
The critical mass of wiki and mapping tools, video and social networking sites, the communal news wire of Twitter and the ease of donations afforded by sites like PayPal makes coalitions of like-minded individuals instantly viable.
the money quote, imho, is what i've highlighted in bold above - "We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless"... that statement perfectly captures my own feelings... it's also nice to see the reference to "citizens of all ages"... i turn 64 in december and there's no question in my mind that i feel a great deal more affinity with those, young or old, who seek "a less hierarchical, more participatory system"...
turning to what's happening on wall street (and seems to be spreading across the country), glenn, as always, offers trenchant commentary on the "condescending, dismissive and scornful" coverage reflected in the news media some of which, not surprisingly, comes from our so-called "liberals," "progressives," and "democrats"...
A significant aspect of this progressive disdain is grounded in the belief that the only valid form of political activism is support for Democratic Party candidates, and a corresponding desire to undermine anything that distracts from that goal. Indeed, the loyalists of both parties have an interest in marginalizing anything that might serve as a vehicle for activism outside of fealty to one of the two parties (Fox News' firing of Glenn Beck was almost certainly motivated by his frequent deviation from the GOP party-line orthodoxy which Fox exists to foster.
The very idea that the one can effectively battle Wall Street's corruption and control by working for the Democratic Party is absurd on its face: Wall Street's favorite candidate in 2008 was Barack Obama, whose administration -- led by a Wall Street White House Chief of Staff and Wall-Street-subservient Treasury Secretary and filled to the brim with Goldman Sachs officials -- is now working hard to protect bankers from meaningful accountability (and though he's behind Wall Street's own Mitt Romney in the Wall Street cash sweepstakes this year, Obama is still doing well); one of Wall Street's most faithful servants is Chuck Schumer, the money man of the Democratic Party; and the second-ranking Senate Democrat acknowledged -- when Democrats controlled the Congress -- that the owners of Congress are bankers. There are individuals who impressively rail against the crony capitalism and corporatism that sustains Wall Street's power, but they're no match for the party apparatus that remains fully owned and controlled by it.
But much of this progressive criticism consists of relatively (ostensibly) well-intentioned tactical and organizational critiques of the protests: there wasn't a clear unified message; it lacked a coherent media strategy; the neo-hippie participants were too off-putting to Middle America; the resulting police brutality overwhelmed the message, etc. etc. That's the high-minded form which most progressive scorn for the protests took: it's just not professionally organized or effective.Some of these critiques are ludicrous. Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest: that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality and its unrestrained political power -- in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions -- is destroying financial security for everyone else? Beyond that, criticizing protesters for the prominence of police brutality stories is pure victim-blaming (and, independently, having police brutality highlighted is its own benefit).
[T]here is a sprawling apparatus of federal and local militarized police forces and private corporate security designed to send this message: if you participate in protests or other forms of dissent outside of harmless approved channels, you're going to be harmed in numerous ways. As Yves Smith put it this week:
This is all designed to deter any meaningful challenges to the government and corporate institutions which are suffocating them, to bully those who consider such challenges into accepting its futility. And it works.
I’m beginning to wonder whether the right to assemble is effectively dead in the US. No one who is a wage slave (which is the overwhelming majority of the population) can afford to have an arrest record, even a misdemeanor, in this age of short job tenures and rising use of background checks.
Given the costs and risks one incurs from participating in protests like this -- to say nothing of the widespread mockery one receives -- it's natural that most of the participants will be young and not yet desperate to cling to institutional stability. It's also natural that this cohort won't be well-versed (or even interested) in the high arts of media messaging and leadership structures. Democratic Party precinct captains, MBA students in management theory and corporate communications, and campaign media strategists aren't the ones who will fuel protests like this; it takes a mindset of passionate dissent and a willingness to remove oneself from the safe confines of institutional respectability.
with that last thought of glenn's in mind, here's an excerpt from today's alternet, calling for the rest of us to join in...
It's astonishing that this self-organized festival of democracy has sprouted on the turf of the masters of the universe, the men who play the tune that both political parties and the media dance to. The New York Police Department, which has deployed hundreds of officers at a time to surround and intimidate protesters, is capable of arresting everyone and clearing Liberty Plaza in minutes. But they haven't, which is also astonishing.
Yet while many people support the occupation, they hesitate to fully join in and are quick to offer criticism. It's clear that the biggest obstacles to building a powerful movement are not the police or capital -- it's our own cynicism and despair.
Now, there are endless objections one can make. But if we focus on the possibilities, and shed our despair, our hesitancy and our cynicism, and collectively come to Wall Street with critical thinking, ideas and solidarity we can change the world.
How many times in your life do you get a chance to watch history unfold, to actively participate in building a better society, to come together with thousands of people where genuine democracy is the reality and not a fantasy?
For too long our minds have been chained by fear, by division, by impotence. The one thing the elite fear most is a great awakening. That day is here. Together we can seize it.
i've been cheerleading for this kind of thing for many, many years, and, yes, i know i've quietly been waiting for the apocalypse... maybe, just maybe, my waiting is coming to an end... Submit To Propeller