Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Intermission, Entry 27

Intermission Entry 27, November 16th, 2011, 12:56am (GMT +0)

Two events of note have occurred recently. First, the Occupy Wall Street camp in New York City was cleared by riot police in the middle of the night two days ago. I'll get to that in a minute. Second, there was a violent police crackdown on peaceful protesters on the UC Berkley campus.

Read this article. I don't want to turn this blog into just another list of links, but this is one of the best articles that I've read about power, non-violent protests, and recent events. I hope someday to be able to write this well. Read this, read this, read this:


Alright. On to Occupy Wall Street.

In a way, the breakup of the OWS camp is a good thing for the movement. Instead of petering out over a period of months as cold winter weather wore down the protesters, it has been squashed with brute force. Bloomberg has practically guaranteed that the movement will survive for at least another year. His talk of the “rule of law” is laughable considering the large scale theft that continues to occur in the financial industry . . .


. . . and while the “we need to clear the park so it can be cleaned,” excuse that he's drummed up may just be a flimsy rationale, or it may signal the beginning of a “we're clean and they're dirty,” mindset that is one of the primary ways of dehumanizing an enemy.

Also worrying: there is emerging evidence that several American cities coordinated their assaults on OWS compounds with the main New York raid. I'm usually skeptical of the “evil empire” conspiracy theory alarmists, but an organized nation-wide crackdown on a peaceful (if smelly) protest movement against the excesses of the elite worries me.

I think that there is a false equivalence being drawn here between the OWS movement and the tea party. Even in Wilkinson's piece (from a few entries ago) he uses it as a way to frame his larger analysis of conservative and liberal attitudes towards personal responsibility . . . in his case, he's making a bigger point, and so I don't mind, but a direct comparison is misleading.

The Tea Party has a very clear set of goals, considerable financial resources, and is working through the existing political system to effect what changes that it desires (hence the fact that we now have “Tea Party” candidates). OWS, on the other hand, is united only by a general sense of disgust with the current way of things. This is why I have not been able to bring myself to support them – I share their disgust, but until they have a clear goal I don't see the point. Maybe a goal will emerge; maybe someone will step forward and do the intellectual leg work that is still needed to transform what is a genuine grass-roots movement into something that can actually change our political and social systems for the better. If that happens, I'll be buying a tent . . . but until then I am not comfortable doing anything but supporting from the sidelines.

In other words, give me an MLK, Jr. and I'll be there.

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