I don’t understand why I am supposed to care about this whole #OccupyWallStreet protest. There is no platform, no legislative vehicle, no coherent call to action, no overriding message, and very little in the way of any point.
I have been liveblogging the events at FDL for over a week, and there is a huge point that the media until yesterday obtusely refused to get. And it shaped what little coverage there was.
It is worth giving a shit about.
The point of OccupyWallStreet is that the political process and culture of the United States is broken, that a lot of people know that its broken, and that the anger has gotten to the point that folks want to deal with it. But in order to deal with it, you cannot deal with issues or with legislative agendas, or with predefined principles of a specific ideology. What has to happen is to build the national consensus again from the bottom up and not depend on the manufactured (marketed) consensus created by the media (and that includes the political blogs). So the demand is for a new grassroots political process to arrive at consensus outside the media. And the demand is for restoration of the public space — physical space as well as cultural space in which to deliberate and assemble to demand redress of grievances.
The don’t deserve the pepper spray because in the current security state (and New York understandably is more in lockdown than most cities), just holding a march in the street is illegal. An event permit to assemble for anything in NY costs $4200. That’s a high price for freedom to assemble.
Part of the local coalition is Critical Mass. And they point out that a part of the reason for the high permit cost is that vehicular traffic has priority over pedestrians. But that is just one of the many side issues that feed into the conversation.
The fundamental grievance is that the 1% of top income earners have gained the power to create the economy, political institutions, and cultural norms that benefit them—no surprise there. But that creation is not working and the 1% would rather the 99% be impoverished and oppressed by law that reform the institutions. And folks in the 99% are finally saying “No” and undertaking a very detailed look at the alternatives.
The fact that they don’t deserve it is not a problem with the actions going on right now in (renamed) Liberty Park. It is a problem with the NYPD and the security state that the PATRIOT Act has built.
To keep up with what has been developed (and consensus is a slow and agonizing process), check the New York City General Assembly site. Let folks know that they can participate for a day or whatever. See it from the inside instead of the media’s view.
The current work is on a principles of operation (“Principles of Solidarity”) document, which is still open to discussion. And a call to action, which is still under discussion.
Unlike what you are demanding, these folks have not come with a ready-made set of ideas that they are marketing. And they are seeking that the discussion be ideologically and demographically inclusive. Because the 99% are ideologically and demographically diverse.
The point is re-establishing the lower-level connections of small-d democracy that is now seriously disconnected after 30 years of conservative dominance.
Another site is Occupy Together, which is coordinating the replication of general assemblies across the US (seemingly beginning with cities that are home to a Federal Reserve Branch).
A site to understand the strategy and tactics is Waging Nonviolence.
It is too early in the process to tell whether this will work. But if it does, it fundamentally changes the basis of the political conversation from that established by the Tea Party media campaign of 2009-2010. And by January, I suspect that folks will have seen through what the Tea Party really was.
The success of the OccupyWallStreet process depend on the number and diversity of people who get involved in it. And the extent to which the process is not co-opted as media exposure grows.