Saturday, November 26, 2011

But the Politics Were Too Convenient

Nathalie Rothschild:

On Black Friday, the true colors of the Occupy Wall Street movement really shone through. Premised on the idea that it speaks on behalf of 99 percent of Americans, the Occupy movement is in fact deeply contemptuous of the masses. In no way was this made clearer than through the alignment of the Buy Nothing Day campaign and the Occupy movement.

...But of course Occupy Wall Street never spoke for 99 percent of Americans. This was always a fantasy figure that lent itself well to sloganeering and to presenting a black-and-white view of the world, according to which the powerless masses struggling to get by are on one side, and the fat cat CEOs and reckless bankers are on the other. In this Star Wars-like narrative, the Occupiers serve as the heroes who will purportedly save the masses from their downfall by enlightening them and campaigning on their behalf.

The message that the Occupiers want to send through their anti-consumption campaign is that Americans have been brainwashed by corporations, that they have been induced to blind over-consumption and unthinking acceptance of the messages put out by 'the 1%'. This is the Occupier's Burden, a kind of re-vamped version of the civilising mission described by Rudyard Kipling: to 'de-program' Americans and, in the meantime, render them voiceless and clueless so that the apparently enlightened Occupiers can justify stepping in to define their interests for them and to speak on their behalf.

The message of Buy Nothing Day follows in this vein. Initiated by Adbusters, every anti-consumption hipster's must-have mag, the campaign is essentially promulgation for mass austerity -- a point well-made on the American Situation blog -- and it is an elaborate way of telling people they are stupid, irresponsible, greedy and shallow.

I'm not sure if she's more upset by the anti-consumption message or the masked elitism, but she does apparently write for Spiked, so maybe she just has to be contrary the way most people have to breathe.

Anyway. The idea that there can ever be a perfectly horizontal social movement, appearing everywhere at once from nowhere in particular, is indeed a silly one. It's impossible to get even a tribe or a village to move as one without some type of coercion being involved; it's a pure pipe dream to think that a nation of 310 million could possibly be run through General Assemblies and consensus and mic checks. Anyone with the sort of grand vision and charismatic personality to set themselves up as revolutionary leaders should probably be tranquilized and confined before they freedom and liberty the shit out of you for your own good.

But there's nothing hypocritical about pointing out that within American society itself, the overwhelming majority have indeed been getting brutally fucked over and made to pay for the privilege by the unrestrained greed of the ultra-rich, while within the global community, Westerners in general and Americans in particular have been benefiting from the misery of a few billion other people in order to fill their empty, grasping lives with shit they don't need, financed by money they don't have.

Frankly, a lot of this kind of tired gotcha-style accusation could be buried if people would finally stop acting as if the very concept of elitism is radioactive, but I guess that's a whole 'nother topic.