From the Chronicle of Higher Education blog (http://chronicle.com/blogs) Laurie Essing recounts her youth when she was young and “all radical” and in her post she positions herself as “all grown up” and postulates that occupiers may be missing the “personal face” aspect of that which they are railing against. I think she underestimates the protesters. (http://chronicle.com/blogs /brainstorm/eat-the-old) Here’s my reply:
Many want to “simplify” the whole occupy movement by making it “only” about economic issues. I say “simplify” because the economic issue is a beast in and of itself. Occupiers hate all that came before which contributed to the mess that we’re currently in… …the entire complacent culture which fostered our current reality. Why do you think people are trying to set up their own encampments with different stations, etc… and are experimenting with direct democracy? They want SYSTEMIC change. They don’t want any part of the bullshit which includes ideas like, “every generation has it tough, blah, blah,” and “go along, get along, stop making a fuss.”
Will this movement grow tired and eventually conform and go away? …or will they take a mallet to the system and pound out a place so that they can exist? Only time will tell.
And yes, I’m sure occupiers are aware of “personal faces…” The fact of the matter is that they are probably too aware of the personal side of the movement. Many have had their lives and the lives of those they know not only touched but destroyed by current economic relations and the effects they produce. I’ve personally seen (witnessed and experienced) so much poverty and hardship in the last few years… of which I thought that I could avoid or ignore but couldn’t; and NOW I know that I’m not alone.
In The New Inquiry, Michael Thomsen reviewed Ian’s Bogost’s How to Do Things with Videogames (http://thenewinquiry.com/post/11657340668/the-missing-medium).
A question came up concerning the general idea that video games are being stifled from reaching their highest potential: “How does one change an industry (video game) that is forced to cater to consumers who want so little?” I decided to have fun and replied. The basis of what I was trying to get at was the willful conformity, often to regimes that go against one’s own interests, that see I individuals pursuing in order to maintain or gain an illusory sense of emotional or intellectual well being contrary to the material aspects of their reality. This required loose subjectivity which essentially prevents one from adhering to something (or anything for that matter) then gets translated into an increasingly dominate passivity in regards to the acceptance of the existence, promotion, and the increasing prevalence of empty art (i.e. “everything’s already been done, what’s the point of striving for something new” and “artists have to make money! whaaa, whaaa!”). Which is what it is; but, when you’re ready to talk about the root issues related to all of this nonsense then I’ll listen.
I Can’t Get No! (Mediated) Satisfaction!
Why do you feel that you have a right to change the industry in the first place? Or change anything for that matter? The only thing you can change is yourself- so learn to enjoy killing those 1000s of AI enemies… It’s a process called socialization. You change and conform to your social environment; not the other way around.
That’s the problem with the OWS protesters… They’re refusing to conform and submit to the social environment in which they were born and as a result they’re facing general discontentment and adverse reactions from the larger population; all of which come from their choice not to become socialized.
Could video games offer more? (Think of Marv Albert) Yes. Could visual art, music, theater, literature, and film actually become interesting again? Maybe; but, not with the smelly, ugly beast known as capitalism sitting in the room, taking up all of the space, breathing in all of the air, and generally stinking up everything.
Anymore its seems that within this country people want to maintain and hide the ways in which they are privileged and rail against all the ways in which they are discriminated against. The thing is that we are all privileged in different ways and we are all employed as full time privilege hiders and convenient deniers. Likewise, we are all railing against the same different things simultaneously. Its exhausting and ends up producing things like fast fashion, Justin Timerlake(s), and social media.
(and I try, and I try, and I try, and I try)
On his blog (http://unemployednegativity.blogspot.com/) Jason Read points out the contradictory nature of the OWS “movement”. In response, I largely agree with his assessment.
American Dreaming can only last so long; then you realize its all wrong.
To the original poster: In regards to the latter part of your post, I see where you’re coming from and I’m right there with you. Basically, it seems you’re a proponent of Gramsci’s cultural hegemony theory and imply that its in practice within the United States. I’ll tell you this… if the current “middle class, American Dream, etc…” ideology dies, I won’t complain. It’s a necessary ingredient for systemic change.
Moreover, you’re right; this movement is currently a curious hodgepodge of societal problems of the last several decades. As a product of the 90s cultural wars, right now the movement is trying to be more than politically correct, its attempting to be politically perfect. Its almost laughable. I can’t attend an occupation event without laughing because its truly a spectacle. And for the record, the values being promoted by this movement are historically liberal. Why can’t this be articulated? Its just further testament to how tarnished the terms liberal and left have become. Anyway, I laugh not because I’m not sympathetic… I am liberal/progressive and I’m hopeful concerning the latest developments of the OWS movement. …I’m a fixture at the occupation in Philadelphia. I suppose its just funny to see this whole thing play out. The social justice aspects of this movement present huge hurdles that will need to be jumped successfully or they will become large obstructing mountains that the movement will try to hilariously go around without confronting…
Sarah Leonard wrote an account based on her experience at Occupy Wall Street and it was published online at Dissent’s blog (http://dissentmagazine.org/atw.php?id=571) and The New Inquiry (http://thenewinquiry.com/post/11573891823/occupy-a-bank). Its tone was generally positive and enthusiastic and it was titled Occupy A Bank. Her account raised some issues for me; primarily, her claim that the movement was growing ideologically. A large basis of my argument against her claim is due to the troublesome ideological contradictions that readily abound within the movement. Additionally, the movement’s “leaderless,” “goal-less” anarchic foundations raise my concerns and render me less than optimistic. The following is my reply:
I’ve been making myself a fixture of Occupy Philadelphia when I’m not at work. I’ve been to Occupy Wall St. (OWS) a handful of times since September. I’ve been a participant rather than a pure observer and will continue to be… I may not be “hopeful” that anything will result from these actions but I’m supportive. Judging from her report (http://dissentmagazine.org/atw.php?id=571) ) if Sarah Leonard’s optimism and enthusiasm were able to be bottled; I’d drink a case. However, her qualities and subjectivity can’t and all I have are my own.
My point of contention is that this movement is not growing, “ideologically” or any other way outside of attracting brief media attention and new curious onlookers’ bodies. Looking back, at some point, out of curiosity, I passingly read some of David Graeber’s work concerning social anthropology and anarchy before all of these occupations started. I understand consensus decision-making processes, their history and their costs and benefits; however… I have questions.
How will this movement produce anything other than a spectacle and a “change in the national discourse?” One minute the nation could be talking about Don Imus, then the next Jon and Kate plus Eight, then Bill Clinton’s sex life, then Death Panels, then election fraud in Florida, then Michael Jackson, then Occupy Wall St., then Steve Jobs, then the GOP and whatever stupid thing Rick Perry Bachmann Cain said lately, etc… ad nauseam. If the goal is to solely change the national discourse then much is left to be desired. The issues at hand impact real lives and I don’t think that should ever be forgotten.
My concern about this movement’s inability to produce or affect change is rooted in the movement’s origins in anarchism and its adherence to a direct democratic consensus decision-making process, its “politically perfect” all-inclusiveness, and its fetishism of being self-sustaining and working “outside” of the system- which is illusory and escapist at best. Anarchism is weak in its theoretical foundations. Tell me, what is anarchism exactly? Anarchism really doesn’t provide any prescription for moving from the status quo. Isn’t that what’s always said about Marx’s communism in regards to its prescribed (violent) clash between workers and exploiters, proletariat and bourgeoisie and its subsequent move to a system that’s controlled by workers- that its too vague?
It could also be argued that the OWS movement isn’t really working outside of the system; on the contrary, its very much a functional part of the system, and its job is to act as an temporary escape valve for the maddening negative energy produced as a byproduct of a highly visible system of exploitation. In other words, vent now for a little while then get back to work and embrace life’s constructed precariousness with entrepreneurial flair. Just don’t make too much of a scene or disturb the lives of regular folks. Only time will tell how long these occupations will last and what effect they will have. The economic inequalities and political conflicts of interests that OWS protesters highlight have been around for years. Stratification and inequality social science researchers have made careers out of documenting such trends which largely indicate that the quality of life for most people within this country have been on a downward trend for a long time. What made people want to act now? I suppose the 2008 financial crisis was the straw that broke the “lazy, entitled, welfare queen-like” camel’s back and forced people out into the streets to try to set up an alternative system in which to exist- even if the alternative “working outside of the system” system that they are constructing is reliant upon donations from people working for and within “the system.”
One last point that I wanted to broach was that all-inclusive, “organized” anarchy seems like a perfect vehicle for adverse political energy or ambition in an oligarchic capitalistic system. All oppositional forces get channeled into a baseless vacuum to be diffused, marginalized and essentially castrated while the elites stand by, watch and wait; which reminds me of a video that went viral of a group on a balcony on Wall Street, drinking champagne, looking down, pointing, and laughing at protesters one afternoon during the first week of the occupation. I may be skeptical; but, I’ll be at the next direct action probably positioned in proximity to a Sarah Leonard type, trying to find answers to my questions.
OCCUPY EVERYTHING. That’s what a woman said while giving a speech to a crowd standing in Washington Square park in NYC. The crowd assembled there for the first time last weekend to hold a General Assembly and to possibly set up another encampment. I was there. Zuccotti Park, the sight of the original encampment, had become overcrowded and they needed new space.
Its been a week since then and Occupy Wall Street is beginning to branch out into other parts of the city. Smaller Occupy Wall Street Solidarity encampments have also been set up in cities and towns across the nation…
All I Want for Christmas is the Death of Neoliberalism
Its hard to say what other encampments are like; I can only speak for NYC and Philadelphia as they are they only ones I’ve visited and participated in…
NYC is focused and uncompromising and they keep bringing to light NEOLIBERALISM and ECONOMIC INEQUALITY time and again and I can’t do anything other than offer support. You can’t hit the nail on the head any more squarely. This country suffers from cultural hegemony rooted in neoliberlism which results in ridiculously staggering economic inequality which is then used as leverage by the powerful few to write the rules to ensure that the current social, economic, and political relations are reproduced in their favor.
In some ways, I think Occupy Philadelphia is rooted in the same beliefs and goals as the Occupy Wall Street movement but at the same time it wants to assert its own identity.
What’s in a Name? Liberal, Left Out
The funny and telling thing about these occupation movements are their avoidance of the terms “Left” or “Liberal”. Because that’s essentially what this is all about. The values being promoted by these movements are essentially rooted in Liberal thought and none of them are particularly new. In this country, the Right has been so strong in dominating the national discourse, especially through the Reagan 80’s and the 90’s cultural wars, that to have anything to do with being Left or Liberal became a liability that few wanted to possess. This movement marks the first time in a long time that Left / Liberal values are being promoted forcefully and unabashedly-even if those terms are not being used.
Again, Always Historize or Don’t
They last thing I wanted to point out was the Media’s ahistorical account of Occupy Wall Street and this past Saturday’s, 15 Oct 2011, global day of action. In short, the media keeps presenting Occupy Wall Street as a precursor to similar Occupation and Protest actions taking place around the world, in Europe and the Middle East particularly. FOR THE RECORD, the reverse is true. Occupy Wall Street was influenced by events outside of the United States. Europe and the Middle East felt pain from and responded to the tyrannical global economic system first. The tactics (occupations), targets (financial capital), effects (precariousness, lifetime student loan debt entrapment), etc… were all used and highlighted outside of the United States before they migrated here. Between Philadelphia and NYC, I’ve heard many protesters themselves make the claim that the Occupy Wall Street movement was spreading overseas. Wake up people. Gain a broader view of this picture- its needed in order for this movement to have any success.
The occupation of wall street is still going on… A similar occupation is in the early stages of being organized in Philadelphia.
I mean- yeah its exciting and engages the imagination- but, I feel like its a movie I’ve seen before.
Its starting to get cold outside at night so we’ll see what role that plays. On a side note, just about a year ago at this time, during the summer and fall, I was unemployed and living on couches and in shelters and on park benches. Luckily, I was able to find a job and save up and get a place before winter. Cold is painful.
There’s going to be a general assembly for the Philadelphia occupation downtown tomorrow at one of the churches. I think I might go…
The faults protesters highlight have been articulated in many places from academia, to left leaning media outlets, and they’ve been experienced in the everyday lives of many people… the question that I find interesting is to what end will protesters go to see that the highlighted faults are addressed… That’s what’s left to be seen and is really the only thing “new”…