Tag Archives: Politics

Occupier + current system + social media = ?

20 May 2012: The police crack down pretty hard on the Occupiers in Chicago today during their Anti-NATO protest.

I found this photograph moving around Facebook and I thought I’d post it.  I thought the Occupy protests were winding down, but based on this chaos, I’d say I was quite off the mark.

The focal point of the image is the young man guarding himself against a police officer, as well as on the overwhelmed and scared woman with the camera.  I feel like this image represents three main elements of the entire Occupy movement really well.

The young man represents the generic Occupier: the recent college graduate, possibly a hipster, who feels the need to stand out against the current regime and say that he doesn’t approve of the current status quo.  His hands are up to shield himself against the night stick, but the look on his face isn’t necessarily one of fear.  There is determination there, a confidence that comes out if you stare a little longer at him, and you can see that he isn’t just going to defend himself against the police officer, he is willing to take him on.

The police officer is not only representative of police presence and the issues that have come out of that during Occupy, but the illustration of faulty government itself.  The police are supposed to protect citizens, just as the government is supposed to benefit the people, but clearly the police were not protecting anyone but themselves in Chicago today, and clearly the system is not working for the governed because groups like the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers exist.

Finally, the woman with the camera represents media, more specifically social media.  Before social media took off, people heard about things like this through news articles or segments done by professionals.  Ideally, the news is supposed to be unbiased but it rarely is.  Now, with social media, people who were actually there in the moment can show their own evidence to anyone they want at lightning speed for free.  With these kinds of resources, the moments like this will always be available to the public and the truth will never be forgotten.

The Occupier, the current system and social media. Put them all together and what do you get?  Based on this photo, a real Charlie Foxtrot.


What is “Occupy Wall Street”?

What is “Occupy Wall Street”?

OWS is a protest seeking to change the status quo.

But that alone doesn’t tell us much. What changes are Occupiers after? What is wrong with the status quo? As Kara noted in her post “We Demand Better Demands”, there is a complete lack of formal consensus on what changes OWS actually seeks. This analysis will seek to answer these questions—without authorization from the GA—in order to form a rope that we can use to wrangle some sort of perspective.

If we seek to define the movement, we have to frame it in a broader context. Let’s talk about a main theme of the protests: economic hardship. On this issue, Occupiers espouse a sentiment of ‘many versus few.’ Taken at face value, they imply that a majority of our country is in dire straights while a minority remains affluent. This is a valid claim: wealth is super-concentrated in the upper quintile of the American population (Domhoff). Meanwhile, America is experiencing the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression (Cowen). Symptoms include, among others: high unemployment, slow growth, and increasing inequality (Cowen, Domhoff). So far, seems like good reasons to be pissed off.

One problem: these are only indicators of deeper issue; they tell us nothing about what is malfunctioning in “the system”. What causes such economic stagnation? What changes should Occupiers seek? In a previous post I questioned the ethics of redistributive taxes as a means of solving Occupiers problems. According to Tyler Cowen, the answers to these questions have little to do with corporate greed; rather they point to depleted innovation:

“In a figurative sense, the American economy has enjoyed lots of low-hanging fruit since at least the seventeenth century, whether it be free land, lots of immigrant labor, or powerful new technologies. Yet during the last forty years, that low-hanging fruit started disappearing, and we started pretending it was still there. We have failed to recognize that we are at a technological plateau and the trees are more bare than we would like to think” (Cowen 8).

So, simply put, America is in a recession (literally meaning “lack of growth”, distinct from depression, which means “negative growth”) because there are no easy ways to obtain growth anymore. The world rate of innovation peaked around 1873 and has been falling ever since (Cowen). In other words, it was easier to invent something useful a hundred years ago than it is today. Inequality stems from the lack of innovation: while labor and capital are relatively plentiful in American society, valuable ideas are scarce and thus high incomes accrue to the creators of these ideas (Cowen).

This problem is only made worse by government policy. Andrew D’Amato does a great synopsis of how political forces have contributed to the recession. He explains that most of the important decisions that exacerbated economic hardship were not made on Wall Street, rather in Washington. Of course, it is contended by Occupiers that Wall Street has a strong influence in politics.

In either case, we have identified some factors of the status quo that are problematic. There are no fresh ideas in the economy and the government is treading water. Now things get complicated: what changes should be sought? What is the best way to solve this problem? This is where everyone disagrees, and there can be no consensus because the best way to solve these problems is not known. Some call for more democracy others call for less. There are a myriad of proposed solutions to the problems we have discovered.

What is OWS? It is a spontaneous unifier of these diverse voices, letting people know that if we don’t get together and figure things out we will have a dark future. Emma notes the flexibility and size of the movement, describing it as “a sort of springboard for countless divergent agendas”. This is key to the movement’s success. Out of the diversity of agendas a forum for ideas has formed (quite literally: see Amanda’s post for more on this).

So, in a sense, OWS is not protesting anything specifically. It is rather an informal coming-together of various parties in mutual recognition of salient issues. Its goal: to brainstorm solutions. In this sense, it is clear from not just the number of participants, but from the number of people who have attempted to understand the movement in the media or otherwise, that OWS has succeeded in its goal of making people think about the problems our world faces. Hopefully solutions will arise from this forum. For more on that, just read our blog.

Thanks for reading,


What do We Really Want?

While it may seem like the Occupy Wall Street movement is original and wants to bring about a change in society, it also reflects something that we have seen before. Of course, I am talking about the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, sometimes referred to as the October Revolution. Before the revolution shook tsarist Russia, there was turmoil among the Russian people in regards to social, economic, and political relations. The cost of living had dramatically risen, workers wages fell 50% from 1913, the Russian national debt was 50 billion rubles. By the time of the revolution, there had been several thousand uprisings against landowners by the peasants. However, while the revolution in Russia was seen as welcome at the time by a majority of the proletariat, the upper classes and those who belonged to the Menshevik group protested the rise to power of the Bolsheviiks, who were led by Vladimir Lenin. The peasants redistributed the land seized by the Tsar, and Russia officially became the Soviet Union. Not to make any major accusations, but the OWS does seem to be heading in this direction. They are protesting the social, economic, and political relations in the US, as well as the national debt and the huge class gap. Do they really want to make everything equal for everyone, in the sense that everyone lives in a communal lifestyle? Look how well that worked out for Russia in the 20th century. Also, the Soviet government first started out being run by Vladimir Lenin, who was supported for the most part by the Bolsheviks and many other groups in Russia. During the Russian Civil War, the Red Army was supported by the people. However, after Lenin’s death, Stalin came to power and changed the whole dynamic of the Soviet government. Stalin changed the policy of equality and communal living to that of fear and obedience. What if the OWS movement became a less radicalized Bolshevik movement? Do we really want to tear down the institutions that we have now and replace them with more socialist institutions? Lenin was seen as a true nationalist, which seems like a positive thing to be called. Is it? Is the OWS movement heading down the same path as the Bolshevik Revolution? I don’t have the answer. Any thoughts?


Disorderly World, Disorderly Politics

A New Politics for a Disorderly World
by Carne Ross, former diplomat for the British foreign service

This is a great read of someone with political experience who agrees with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ross praises the participatory democracy, the personal politics, and the better culture that he claims OWS promotes. If the world is disorderly, should its governments match it?

by Darren Ell



Josh Barro on “the 99%”

Josh Barro on “the 99%”

Thoughts on OWS’s “99%” constituency (thanks to Josh Barro from The National Review Online):

The 99th percentile of Americans, by income, starts with households earning incomes of $593,000. The “We Are the 99 percent” branding puts somebody making $500,000 per year on the oppressed-and-downtrodden side of the wage divide. Indeed, “99 percent” is so expansive a designation that it includes most of the bankers working on Wall Street.

Now, even the far left seems to be endorsing the idea that we can pay for government without touching the poor, the middle class, or even people who are, quite frankly, rich—just not super-rich. If government does valuable and important things, and can’t afford to pay for them with our current tax code, why has it become a consensus view that the vast majority of Americans should get a pass on paying more?

I don’t mean to encourage the Occupy Wall Street protesters to shift their class-warfare target and aim lower. But I do think further reinforcement of the idea that we can make everything better by taking more money from a small elite of super-rich people is unhealthy regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum.

So is there validity to OWS’s 99% constituency? Is it ethical to shift the tax burden from 99% to the top 1%? Is OWS calling for a piggy-back ride from the rich? Feedback welcomed.