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October 3rd, 2011

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02:21 am - Musings on Occupy Wall Street
As with pretty much every other progressive protest of the last 30 years, I didn't expect much to come of the Occupy Wall Street effort and figured they would have mostly gone home by now. The last 30 years have been odd. It's been an era of significant civil rights improvement. Racism is somewhat better, and the economic and social position of women is considerably better, and LGBT rights and public acceptance of LGBT people is going exceedingly well. However, as I mention here, the last 30 years has been the era where the middle class in the US has shrunk and economic inequality has skyrocketed. Under Republican presidents, the situation gets worse, and under Democrats, it doesn't improve. I'm used to seeing improvements in civil rights, but not only do economic inequalities continue to grow and most people in the US continue to get poorer, but it's also a problem that is largely ignored in the mass media and any social actions where people attempt to lobby for improvements is both small and ignored.

I have no idea what the future holds for this movement and the allied movements cropping up across the nation, but dear gods I'd love for once to at least see large numbers of people aware of and angry about this issues, rather than either ignoring them, buying libertarian claptrap about how government regulations are to blame, or supporting astroturfed vileness like the tea-baggers. My entire adult life I've heard the idea that the current far-right swing of the US is temporary and that things will go the other way eventually, but eventually never comes, no matter how bad things continued to get. Perhaps this is the start of a change – I'd love to think that, but it's also difficult to believe. There are other hopeful signs, like the fact that the "Tea Party" is now the most hated group in the US, edging out atheists and muslims, with the "christian right" close behind. Of course, I also thought that 2008 would herald something more than the same slow social improvements and static economic inequality that we saw under Bill Clinton.
Current Mood: discontentdiscontent

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


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[User Picture]
Date:October 4th, 2011 06:25 am (UTC)
Wrt civil rights, there's also been a great deal of local progress - with non-discrimination rules of various sorts that actually work moderately well in a number of states. Also, some of this is change on a social level - we live in a nation where acceptance of gays and lesbians is on the verge of becoming the norm, where trans visibility and acceptance is considerably higher than it was 15 or 20 years ago, and where women are definitely treated more seriously in higher status jobs than they were even a decade ago. Disappointing as Obama has been, I don't think there was a chance that we could have had a black man elected president in the 80s or 90s. Yes, racism is only slightly better than it was in 1990 or 2000, but I think progress has been made.

Of course, some of this is odd, because in some states and cities, truly vast amounts of progress has been made. Everything from LGBT rights to anti-bullying efforts in schools, to a more general attitude of tolerance is far more present on both coasts than it was 15 or 20 years ago, but improvements in most red states have been considerably more modest (and a handful of places are either unchanged or are somewhat worse, at least for immigrants). In many ways, the US is considerably more divided than it was 20, or even 10 years ago.

It's also odd (and worrisome) that in the US we now essentially need two words for civil rights - one for minority rights and the other for general human rights. The second had plummeted since 2001 and even viewed in the best possible light, Obama has done nothing to improve the situation (although, to his credit, he did at least try to close Guantanamo, and was stopped from doing so by Congress), OTOH, from TSA abuses, to assassinating citizens, to the disgraceful treatment of Bradley Manning, Obama has a lot to answer for.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC)
I know a lot of people have complaints about Obama, but I still think he is a principled, capable, and most importantly, rational human being. He is constrained by the political context, strategic concerns of his party, and his principles of the use of executive authority... I am hoping with a wind change, he can be led to where a lot of wish he would be.

I am hoping we can just survive until the next election, and that the next election will turn over some of the vileness. Even in the best case scenario, though, the circus can be expected to continue, to a degree, until 2014, when the last of the Tea Party cohort face re-election challenges.
[User Picture]
Date:October 4th, 2011 12:47 am (UTC)
I'm glad that the Tea Party is getting the rewards of its own vileness.

As for the Republican hegemony over the economy, I think it is permanent. It has gone on all my life, and it's not abating. The only thing I can do is be grateful for what I have, work, and save against illness or job loss. We have all been warned time and again that we are on our own.
[User Picture]
Date:October 7th, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC)

Awesome piece!

There are a few things I think people need to keep in the backs of their heads when looking at Occupy Wall Street.

The first is that this has been brewing for the entirety of the 30 years you've mentioned. Progressive movements in the past 30 years have largely failed on the fact that as long as the majority is content, they're not going to get involved. They might be sympathetic to the latest cause, but they have a home and supper and the illusion of prosperity, so they aren't going to leave the house. That is no longer the case.

The second is that this movement has quite a bit in common with flash-crowds. Once it started, it has perpetuated itself on the fact that it happened at all. As long as it keeps seeding and re-seeding itself, it will most likely continue. And spread. Even if the movement evaporates at its source, it will probably be perpetuated in other places and in other ways.

The third thing, and I think this is the one that the media outlets and a lot of observers miss, is the fact that these are not "kids" staging these occupations. They're adults. They're young adults, yes, but they're all grown up and they can plainly see they've been screwed. They have well formed opinions about this and they're completely disillusioned, not just with the dialog about wealth and poverty in America, but with the ways that dialog has been constructed and perpetuated over the years.

They're being joined, on the streets and in the internet, by those of us who, over the past 30 years, have tried desperately to get people to stop being so complacent. The best thing those of us who are older can do is let the "kids" lead the show. We can bring our own frustrations and ideals, we can sometimes offer organization and cash support. But we can't change the dialog. If we could, we'd have done it by now.

They can.

So I'm optimistic. Cautiously optimistic, yes, but still hopeful. I don't think this will go away, because the problem is much bigger than it has ever been before. It's affecting more people, more profoundly, than it has at any point in the last 30 years. And we've finally (perhaps disasterously) created a generation with a lot of talent, technology, and education, but absolutely NO real prospects for jobs or a future.

They aren't going to disappear. And as long as they're visible, Occupy [Whereever] will be around, and will be relevant.

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