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.


  1. "The revolution was a lie"

    While it might start off useful and egalitarian and a medium of social change, eventually human nature is going to catch up. Really, it's more a matter of when. I *hope* there's a good decade in this movement, but regardless of how greedy North Americans are, when I hear the rhetoric of #ows, I am forcefully reminded of educated bourgeoisie lambasting the the French nobles for *their* overconsumption, and I start to see a sort of economic Puritanism forming, which requires moral authority in order to force people to give up the things they enjoy, and generally attempts to monitor what *they* decide it worthwhile consumption (art and tech, i would imagine) and anyone else is just mindlessly supporting the oppressors.

    le plus ca change....

  2. Spot on
    I hate 'gotcha' type stuff. As you say, there's nothing hypocritical about pointing out this stuff.
    Well said.

  3. Brian M2:50 PM

    to riff on Shanna a bit...there is a strong hint of fundamentalist pecksniffery among the left wing and anarchist blogging "elite".

    One blogger basically intoned about how we are going to die die die when his kind come to power...and we better not have ever called the po-leece because "the poor masses" anarchy is going to overwhelm us middle class or working class or whomever (whoever is not a criminal drug dealer, I guess...we are all to blame!!!!!) all die die die! LOL

  4. I realize I'm quoting up a storm, (quotes are a suitable substitute for wit) but the other thing that troubles me about how big #ows has gotten is this:

    "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect."

    Yeah, the rabble has been fucked over. Name an era where that WASN'T the case.

    I suppose just because an economic or social reorganization has never occurred that hasn't ended in tears is no reason to assume it can't happen (let's all intend it!)

    But since social organization is a dynamic system, and all types of organization have their positives and negatives, the integrity of which depends solely on individuals upholding the social contract, COULD EVERYBODY PLEASE STOP PRETENDING THAT WE JUST HAVE TO STRIKE A BALANCE TO GET EVERYTHING TO WORK PERFECTLY FOREVER???

    Scribbles talks about the elliptical orbit around happiness; well, as it turns out, there's an elliptical orbit around any impossibility you can name, including justice, equality, and civilization.

    Why is it so hard for everyone to admit this fact?

  5. Brian M1:25 PM

    ended in tears? For whom? According to whom? Gotta be careful there. :)

  6. Sshhh, Brian, I'm prophecying. You're not supposed to point out when a prophecy makes no sense.