Has the Arab Spring come to our shores by way of the New York Autumn? Is this a valid comparison? What exactly is the nature of the movement at hand? And a movement it definitely is, spreading like wildfire throughout this land of the thief and the slave. Occupy Boston, Albuquerque, LA, San Francisco, Seattle – these are but the initial points of contact, points of a conflagration that is likely to take America, if not the whole world, as if by storm, a tsunami against which there is no foreseeable defense, no fortification or preparedness, no appropriate response. I certainly hope so, which should tell you where my sentiments lie. Call me biased if you like, but I think we’re long overdue. The time for the global revolution has arrived.
It’s tempting to compare what we’re witnessing at the moment to the good old sixties – the counter-culture revolution by those we’ve come to call hippies, the flower generation, in short, the Haight-Ashbury kind of scene, the sit-ins, and the like. Indeed, some of the elements reminiscent of our past are definitely present in the attitudes and behavior of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. And yet, the kind of dissent we experienced back then, for all its general and across-the-board character and outreach, cannot be dissociated from, indeed was spurred by, two overriding issues of the day: the anti-war protest (exacerbated by the draft) and Civil Rights.
Not that these were unimportant issues. American imperialism and militarism are to be fought tooth and nail, whenever the occasion presents itself. Likewise with civil rights which, according to script, is the legacy of all people, regardless of skin color or ethnic origin. We’re supposed to, indeed, we’ve all been programmed to fight these injustices time and again, whenever we see them.
What’s the beef then? In what ways do the sixties fall short of the present? How does the present motley crew comprised of students, activists, lawyers, media people, folks of different persuasions, even the Teapartiers, so we’re told, stack up against the glorious sixties? In what way does it do it one better?
A comparison with the recent Madison, Wisconsin rally is equally instructive. The object there was pensions and collective bargaining rights, and the crowd was in the thousands, 70,000 in fact, if memory serves – the measly crowd of Wall Street occupiers is a drop in the bucket in comparison, but who is counting? It was the largest rally in the history of Wisconsin, one of the most progressive states of the Union to boot. Kudos to the Democratic senators from the state legislature who absconded to Indiana lest they be forced to vote against all odds for the rights of the ordinary worker and against severe austerity measures made necessary, so the story goes, by our budgetary crisis.
A valiant effort, I daresay, by politicians and the people alike, standing together for once in the common cause. But how did it end? What was accomplished? Nothing, I’m afraid. Soon after, Governor Walker, with the blessings of the Wisconin Senate and the State Supreme Court, saw to it that the action on behalf of human, workers’ rights was for naught.
Which brings me to the heart of the matter, the idea of committing to a cause, any cause, no matter how just it is! My thinking is, however noble the aspirations or the particular cause which gives rise to them, they’re stained by association, contaminated, tarnished, and the reason is – all such responses are fool’s errands because they’re co-optive by nature, suggestive of the feasibility of negotiation when the time for negotiations is long past. Which is why the movement’s absence of specific demands or a clearly-articulated platform – the subject of severe critique on the part of even the most progressive elements of the American Left – rather than being its greatest weakness, is its greatest strength.
How so? You don’t negotiate with the enemy if you perceive them as the enemy. To do so would be to validate their status as something to be reckoned with, the last thing you want to do once you’ve come to a realization that they’re no longer deserving of any such status, not when the very object of the movement is to strip the enemy of all pretensions to legitimacy. Whatever few concessions can be won or chipped away at the negotiating table aren’t worth the price, not when the object is to discredit the enemy as having no standing whatever, whether moral or legal or otherwise, and to reduce them to the level of brute and faceless force which in fact they are, and deprive them thus of any justification to be anything but.
Indeed, once the traditional channels of voicing a dissent or a protest have become exhausted, when they no longer hold any promise, when all such efforts have been tried in the past and were found wanting, total and absolute negation is the only way to go. So make no mistake about it, the movement at hand is an outright revolt, a revolution in the making, a promise of better things to come; and there’s no taking of prisoners.
Which message, unsurprisingly, is lost on the conventional purveyors and analysts of news in our mainstream media, from Cokie Roberts to Clarence Page, all of whom are still intent on seeing the world in terms of the same failed paradigm and on interpreting the world’s events in terms of it. What they fail to realize is that it’s that very paradigm which is brought into question with the idea of uprooting it.
And it’s no different with the powers that be, from New York’s Finest to Mayor Bloomberg. All authorities, the presumed guardians of the gate, are at their wits’ end; they know not what they’re dealing with, and their resort to violence and sheer force in trying to quash the rebellion is only an indication of how threatened they are, how insecure, how devoid of all understanding.
It’s really amazing how uniform is their response whenever their authority is being challenged; and it makes no difference whatever whether we be taking about Bahrain or Egypt or the good old USA, or whether they’re educated or common thugs. It’s a doomed strategy if there ever was one, one which is destined to failure; yet we see it implemented time and again as though there were no lesson to be learned, no sense of the impending reality that their days are numbered, no conception that you can’t avert a true revolution when it’s knocking at your door, that the best thing you can do under the circumstances is to fold your tent and go home unless you’re willing to be dragged down in chains to the public square and hanged from the nearest lamppost like a common criminal.
They never learn, though, do they? That’s the hallmark of those in power, arbitrary power, all the more pronounced whenever it becomes obvious to anyone but them that their time has come. It’s sheer insanity, if you ask me! Yet, human history is replete with stories of ruthless dictators who have tried to hold on to the remnant, the last vestige of power, and to the bitter end, only to end up as human refuse, their lot no more deserving than that of a mangy dog. This alone should be a telltale that when a revolution comes knocking, you’d better get out of the way and retire while you still can. It’s also a telltale of the ways of power and its eventual demise.
There are populist movements afoot both from the Right and the Left, and they better not be ignored, the Tea Party and the Occupy America movement. They have much more in common than meets the eye – distrust in the government being the starting point, the point of convergence. Both have been subject to derision and utter ridicule from the respective quarters whom they seem to buck, the GOP on the one hand and the Democratic party on the other – both bastions of the Establishment in case you failed to notice. No wonder both are being minimized.
The essential difference between the two? The Teapartiers are still hoping to connect the dots and bring our business sector into the fold as an equally complicit element contributing to their discontent and sense of outrage. Our Military-Industrial complex, corrupt to the core, blessed besides by our government, this unholy alliance, the collusion, ought to be the target, the proper object of their rage. Another obvious shortcoming is their failure to embrace the 99 percent as part and parcel of their radical, anti-government stance, the failure to identify with those who are no longer the middle class or soon to become disenfranchised, with all who live in abject poverty no matter how you cut it, with America’s “invisibles” – in short, with all segments of our society who’re also suffering from the very same dysfunctional system they themselves are rebelling against and find obscene.
Well, that failure can be traced to false ideology, to less than perfect understanding, to a parochial, self-serving outlook – soon to be corrected, is the hope. And when that happens, when the mere 99 percent become 99.99 percent and counting, watch out, America, for your future will be anything but certain; it’ll hang in the balance.
The New York Autumn, to be distinguished from the Arab Spring, is just the right term for the occasion. Unlike our Arab brethren who are putting their lives on the line in order to depose autocratic regimes in favor of democratic ones – regimes we ourselves helped install – we’ve already been through the whole gamut, the gamut of living in a democracy in name only. It was so from the very beginning, and it’s no different today. We are far more sophisticated than that. We know that the idea of democracy is incompatible with the idea of a ruling class, whatever that ruling class may be and whatever the guises under which it tries to represent itself, be it in the form of enlightened legislation, the emphasis on human rights, what else have you. This is but a drop in the bucket, the scraps from the table, condiments thrown your way in order to appease you, to make you believe that our legal-juridical system is working just fine, that its objective and that its only purpose is to promote universal justice and the interests of all.
Don’t be fooled by these high-sounding words or the Constitution, especially if you happen to be gay, a woman, or a person of color. All you’re getting is an ounce of permissiveness masquerading as human rights, but truth be told, they barely tolerate you. In fact, they detest your guts, your insubordination, your haughty insolence, with every fiber of their being, but the democratic creed requires fine words to gloss over the ugly sentiment that lies underneath, the charade. So yes, unlike our Arab brethren, we know what it’s like to live under the thumb of a government which professes itself to be democratic but which violates every rule in the book because we’ve done it for years; we know full well that nothing short of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people will ever satisfy our aspirations and fulfil our destiny. We hope you’ll come to realize that too and join us.
The 1830s was a turbulent period in European history, a period marked by a series of uprisings and struggles for national independence from under the boot of tyrannical nation-states which held lesser nation-states hostage. Today promises to be another such moment, except the struggle is against governments which terrorize their own people. If “Occupy America” only stays on message and doesn’t succumb to putting forth demands or an articulated platform, better yet, if it’s joined by the equally disgruntled segment of the American society from the Right, the Teapartiers, mark my words, the days of the one percent are over and a new beginning is at hand.