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.