The Great American Novel Repeats Itself

Seattle has its own brand of the “Occupy” movement. I noticed it on my way to Chipotle, seeing several  signs for Occupy Seattle plastered on lamp-posts and the other day my bus route home was briefly interrupted (a blessing in disguise since I chose to walk home on what turned out to be a nice day). The media doesn’t exactly say what their message is and unfortunately the movement itself isn’t too clear.

The “About Us” page for OccupyWallSt bills itself with:

Occupy Wall Street is a horizontally organized resistance movement employing the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to restore democracy in America. We use a tool known as a people’s assembly to facilitate open, participatory and horizontal organizing between members of the public…. Our nation, our species and our world are in crisis. The US has an important role to play in the solution, but we can no longer afford to let corporate greed and corrupt politics set the policies if our nation.

I understand the desire to associate your cause with something as contemporary and changing as “Arab Spring”. Unfortunately the parallels don’t work. Arab Spring is for a whole set of different problems and tyranny, in a very different part of the world. And it remains to be seen if Arab Spring will lead to beautiful freedoms for men and women or lead to a whole new set of theocratic and tyrannical practices. More to the point, violence continues to play a big part in Arab uprisings. As US Citizens, why not champion Martin Luther King, Jr?

The message also involves restoring democracy. As if democracy has gone on vacation for the last few years and forgot to leave a forwarding address. The rise of business tycoons, monopolies, corporations, and fat banks (in America) began in the late 1800s / early 1900s. The “gilded age” really defined the moment that Capitalism was here to stay. Twain, Sinclair, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and others have written oodles of stories on the subject. I think what today’s protesters mean to say is that they want to inherently change America and redefine her politics. From what I gather,  this isn’t about getting back to our good-ole brand of US democracy but to change it entirely. Corruption, greed, corporate politics, and the like are pretty much timeless. My complaint here is the lack of solutions and the massive amount of complaint. I’m as guilty as the next person, but my generation is a generation of complainers and solipsistic children. Blaming mom and dad only gets us so far.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The Great American Novel Repeats Itself

  1. pml

    What solutions would you propose? The political system–both left and right–is subservient to the moneyed interests of the aforementioned bankers capitalist et al. The Gilded Age is a good reference but you didn’t go far enough. The Gilded Age ended during the Progressive Age when TR, Wilson, and FDR had to respond to the massive demonstrations and calls for action from the citizenry. They broke up monopolies, banks, etc. They set up regulations that after the crash helped propel America into long era of prosperity. That shit has been undone by the last 30 years and both political parties. What would you have these people do? Vote for Obama again so he can turn his back on his supporters–again–after his newest brush with faux populism is over?

  2. I’d start with the wars. Make that the main issue and the focus, à la Vietnam. It’s the biggest money/time and ethical suck of this Country. We need to realign our defense spending so that it makes sense. Then like you said: regulations on politicians and their relationships with corporations, plus regs on the corps themselves. I’d love to see changes in the tax code and a reevaluation of government subsidies to business/farms too.
    I’m not against the occupy movement per se. I just think their focus is too broad and really doesn’t say anything, other than, we are mad at the bankers and greed. They are proud of not having a leader and that stands as a detriment to their cause. Instead of looking like a though-out organized voice they look like a complaining mob.

    What about you?

    • pml

      Well I don’t know if I agree with your last sentiments. The bankers are at the heart of the problem. Their money seeps into every part of the government especially after the Citizens United decision. I don’t think not having a leader or a well though-out voice is a problem. There are tons of organizations like moveon.org that have goals and objectives, ad campaigns etc. but they haven’t been particularly adept at getting those goals met (part of the reason is they quit when Obama was elected). What may be needed now is a movement, like this, that just causes civil unrest and forces action. Look for a long time now polls have shown that Americans across the board support ending the wars, holding bankers responsible for the crash, new regulations, ending the bush tax cuts etc. etc. The problem is no one with a vote in DC cares. They take their money and vote for their corporate overlords. All that stuff you mentioned in the beginning is right and needs to be done and everyone knows it but yet it doesn’t get done. The movement is only a few weeks old and I’m willing to give it more time to mature.

      • Are the bankers at the heart of the problem? I feel like bankers will be bankers and greed is part and parcel. The key is to fix the rules and educate consumers. We have to take away the power that Wall Street has over us, we aren’t going to change those bean-counters anytime soon.

  3. pml

    Well perhaps it is more like a chicken and egg scenario. Politicians won’t willingly change the rules because they are getting gobs and gobs of money from the bankers who are free to make even more money when their politicians create less lenient laws which allows said bankers to give more and more money to the politicians who in turn…

    So yes maybe they aren’t the hear but maybe just the engine or corruption. And yes corruption has and will always be part of the system. That’s just the way the world works but now there is nothing to counter balance the corruption of wall st. We used to have powerful unions that would oppose them and they had their own corrupted politicians who acted as a counter weight. We had a chance to restrain wall st. and change the rules for the better after the crash, which was part of the reason why Obama won so handily. The problem was he squandered that opportunity and now it’s gone. Maybe these protests and general civil unrest will help create the political will to make meaningful changes to a system where 1% controls 40% of the wealth. But I’m not holding my breath just yet.

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