Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Of Movements and Hydras

So some people have suggested that the Occupy Wall Street blackout doesn't exist, and that reporters and the media just don't care cause it's not like Egypt where people are being killed by a brutal dictator.

So if you wear a pretty charcoal Valentino suit that costs more than a Smarte Car and sip champagne from a Trump balcony while installing, funding, and arming the genocidal dictators, then it's ok. Not to mention the billions who aren't just unable to find a job and healthcare but are actively dying, moving to violence and/or scarcity-based wars in other countries thanks to food commodity speculation and other instances of serial bubbles. One Arab leader killing a citizen is a tragedy, a WASP eradicating 1/4 the planet and extinguishing the potential prosperity of its own country is a statistic better suited for the CNBC marquee. Maybe we should gather all those recently futureless college students, Iraq vets, laid off cops teachers and firemen, and people with stomach cancer who can't afford or have been denied the care to get even the pain-relief meds, ask them all to sit on The Charging Bull, one by one, douse themselves in gasoline, and set themselves on fire holding a copy of Audacity of Hope in one hand and Obama's campaign contribution pie chart in the other.

Apparently, they're just some people with signs sitting in a park, not stopping business, not doing anything at all.

Rosa Parks was also just some lady sitting in a bus, if we remove the blinders of hindsight. It may not be big enough to draw attention yet (although there is definitely a degree of censorship going on which is undisputable re: Yahoo Mail and Koch-funded internet "independent" sock puppets abound so I'd be wary of any info about these protests) but in the domesticated, hypermedia-anesthetized United States, you can't just out and run a marathon. You've got to start with just a couple leg lifts. But as any personal trainer will tell you, the hardest part is just getting off the couch and getting into the gym.

Perhaps in the case of the brutal dictator and the ruthless financial mogul, one of these evils just has the resources, money, and connections to hide his skeletons in distant closets, whereas the more mangy counterpart has to do all the wetwork himself, forced to shit in his own backyard.

At any rate, the Mubareks and Gaddafis are just symptoms, lone-wolf psychopaths, the bottom-rung straggling ends of a very deep, very complex, very fucked up web. The Occupy Wall Street protests, however idealistic, uncoordinated, and perhaps premature, are going after the deeper root. Wall Street is the financial center of the universe, and the epicenter of the global pain and suffering caused, the Death Star core. Even if it was only 200 protesting, the symbolic weight globally cannot be underestimated, and it may very well turn out to be a key galvanization point. And in the US, at least now we're aiming at the right spot, instead of getting off on the left-right artificial WWF politics, cheering on Keith Olberman or Bill O'Reily as they slug it out, forgetting that their meal tickets are coming from the same source.

Obfuscation, hiding heinous crimes by embedding them in complexity so people say, "Well, it's not like the bankers just took out a gun and shot some Ethiopians or mugged you for your wallet" is exactly one of their major strategies. The under-educated Bronx kid, who doesn't have the con-skills and robs $300 from the 711 gets life in prison. The red-tied banker who steals $30 billion from 401ks, police and fireman salaries gets coddled by the president, a bailout, and doubles his bonuses the next year. Probably get a seat at the SEC or in the oval office if he keeps up the "good work". Maybe, since he's so good at hiding the truth, he can get a job systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations for the SEC.

The protest was essentially a giant flashmob, a rainstorm coalescing from a rainbow of nascent and growing groups -- The initial grain was Ad Busters, but later snowballed to include Day of Rage, Anonymous, and even Christian and Vietnam Vet organizations. The diversity was truly heartening, and a harbinger. The fact that there was any American out on the street, sleeping for more than one night in tents, to protest anything other than cancellation of Jersey Shore or the election of a "nigger President" should be considered a major victory.

And, granted, this is just the beginning. The austerity and real depression hasn't even begun to kick in yet, and already we've got people complaining, civil unrest. And we, our political system, our president, and we the people still haven't even begun to face the multi-trillion ton gorilla in the room, that the financial h-bombs are still hidden deep in the Hal-sized HFT supercomputers of the numerati.

It's not a "If you break it, they will go" thing for sure. It's a web, woven of money, connections, and thanks to the world wide wonderful internetz the shadow cancer is more fluid and non-local than ever. A garden is never finished, justice is an eternal process, not the end-state of some equation. Wall Street just happens to be, at this point, the largest nodal point of money, the greatest of great attractors of excess, the Gomorrah of wanton greed -- and, thus, the largest source of power abuse and corruption, to the extent that that megacorporations, ubermegabanks, and the blue blood dynasties still put their foot down on any given geography. It is also thusly the largest reservoir of symbolic juju; the way the Civ Rights groups coalesced around King and Parks, the reason why Osama aimed the 747s at the twin towers and the White House. Even if the heads of AIG, Goldman Sachs, he rest of the financial-industrial cabal, Bernanke, Paulson, half Obama's cabinet, McDonald's, Exxon Mobil, and the Boogeyman were served up on a platter at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, for each that fell, two more would take their place, two more backstabbing sociopaths aiming for the corner office securing their megalomaniacal pissing match King-of-the-Hilldom.

If the country does actually wake up, descend pitchforks and shotguns in hand for the blood of the banksters and the billionaires start getting really burnt by the heat down in Hell's Kitchen, then they will of course be on the first Gulfstream out to London, Beijing, or wherever the "economic climate" is "friendly for business". Cue the pained brows of traders plastered aon CNBC and Time Magazine covers, mass handwringing whining about "brain drain" and "America losing its competitive edge". Politicians banging their shoes on podiums in pretend-outrage as they no longer get their thousand dollar lunches and revolving door opportunities on the boards of major banks. Mass exodus of toxicity, probably a drop in "productivity", which was all falsely inflated hot air consisting of the long skyrocketing price of homes, healthcare, and college which noone can afford anymore. A loss in Gross Domestic Product but a gain in General Happiness Quotient.

Whatever the case, the uber rich would just touch down else where, set up shop in Mumbai, somewhere. We can't stop people being greedy self-destructive assholes short of diving under the hood of our brains and rewiring our neurological reward-feedback pathways, or coming up with some cure for sociopathy and psychopathy. Either is superduper unlikely. But perhaps the thing that's really scaring them is the fact that the global unrest and active resistance is spreading now like wildfire, first from the Arab Spring, then to Greece and Spain, to the US. Already, viral co-protests are breaking out in California, even in Kansas. London heads of state and banks are getting wary of similar movements breaking out across the pond. Will the wildfire create utopia? Probably not. But if you're going after a hydra, it's best to hit all the heads at once, full-on scorched Earth.

And it's not like these people are idiotic glass-shattering anarchists. So far the only violence has been coming from the police,

Some have suggested that these are just a bunch of kids interested in partying, finding something fun to do for the weekend, hooking up and getting their faces on TV.

I'm not sure that's fair. Certainly they're not being shot in the street or lynched up by the dozen, but these people (not just kids but blue collar and middle class who have lost their jobs, homes, healthcare, despite what Fox and other mainstream media continue to spin them as) are out there with their tents and pizza prepared to squat the financial center of the universe for months according to Day of Rage, and the other key organizing sites. Many have even given up well-paying jobs -- those vanishing jewels in this economy -- to travel thousands of miles with almost no money to take part in this movement. They're out there for very specific, personal reasons in most cases, varying from chronic unemployment despite overeducation, absence of basic services, and connecting that with the complete failure of the political and business establishment to do anything about it or even *listen*. You'd discover this if you bother to go deeper than the co-opted US lamestream media. are generally better informed than the average American about the heinous crimes and issues involving Wall Street and the financial-political complex, and are protesting smart, not starting scuffles with police. Granted, not everyone will or can afford to be out there that whole time, but to say 'they're just out to have fun and get famous' when there are people being attacked, having their cameras and tents ripped away by police. And -- thanks to bailout-driven "austerity measures" -- these primarily overeducated yet underemployed aren't exactly 'loaded', and most probably aren't taking "paid vacation time" as that crown jewel of the labor movement is quickly becoming a myth as workers rights are continually eroded.

But beyond that, I think sci/speculative fiction writer William Gibson onced summed it up nicely when asked about his decision to leave the US for Canada during the draft:

"It had much more to do with my wanting to be with hippy girls and have lots of hashish than it did with my sympathy for the plight of the North Vietnamese people under US imperialism. Much more, much more to do with hippy girls and hashish."

And I think that goes for most major, global movements. They're as chaotic, insane, and ultimately unpredictable as war, despite the way historians and academics like to tidy up all the black swans into a nice neat movie-script narrative full of protagonists, antagonists, arc and drama. Movements are not legislated into existence, they are not outlined in a boardroom by central planners or sprung fully formed from the dissertations of anthropology professors. They just happen. Sure, the Civil Rights Movement had a core of dedicated individuals in the NAACP, ACLU. But much of that movement, as a subset of the whirlwind that began in the 60's, was also fundamentally about young people doing something fun. Breaking away from the leash of Disneyfied parents still shellshocked from WWII trying to create suburban happy Stepford land. Country kids bored of shoveling hay and listening to uninspired sermons, seeing pictures on this new "Tee-Vee" thing of a place over the rainbow called "San Francisco" where everyone seemed to be having a really great time partying and doing this "mary-wanna" happy stick. And maybe somewhere, running through tear gas away from the cops in New York and a long hot night on the street with a black dancer-turned-demonstrator who’d spent her life under the boot of racism, maybe they found their new selves, came to understand and embody the “cause”. Came to discover the meaning of sacrifice.

I think it goes without saying that without the Beat forefathers of the 50’s and the preceding countercultural movements including the hippies and the JFK era, the America we know today would be much worse off, and indeed, the Civil Rights movement would have had much less needed social traction and political will to take off. As is illustrated most recently in “The Help” and virtually every story where the barriers of color, sex, and religion and other artificial divides between people have been broken, there is always a necessary courage on both sides, the minority (blacks in that case) and majority (whites). So maybe some people came out cause they really believed “the Capitalist Establishment” had to be abandoned for the communes. Maybe some people came out after reading way too much William Burroughs and wanting to blast their minds with every drug available into the Interzone. Maybe some people just followed the busload of hot young hippy chicks. Maybe some people were just bored. Probably for everyone it was a mix of all those, but I doubt even the people there can know their original intents. The important thing was they didn’t just sit around and pontificate to themselves from their armchairs, discuss in committees what “the perfect post-capitalist utopia will look like”, and hold readings of back issues of Das Kapital; no, they got out there and actually DID something. 90% of life is just showing up. I have to applaud the people who occupied, and continue to occupy Wall Street for that, even if they don't immediately accomplish their goals with the first of many legs of protest.

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