Good morning to you all on this fine Thanksgiving day! Today I'm going to bite the bullet and write about Occupy Wall Street. I haven't written about it until now, mainly because it feels like wading into a vast quicksand that might swallow me whole.
But it's time to step in. I still have reservations, but they are allayed by two simple observations:
a) It's absolutely amazing to see a unified protest movement come together in the US, even if they aren't coming together for something specific.
b) I cannot put it better than Lemony Snicket: "It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view."
So while I lack the necessary conviction to actually join the protests or support them materially, I am still thankful to them, for one reason in particular: they have turned the media rhetoric back onto the government instead of the silly personality coverage the MSM's been obsessed with for the last year.
I may be watching from afar, but what I see horrifies me. When the police adopt military style tactics on the behest of the government, that is a violation of our social contract. State and local government officials attempting to silence 1st amendment rights? That's a violation of our social contract.
Ironically, given its name, Occupy Wall Street reminds us that the problem isn't one entity or sector. The problem is the realignment of our relationship with the government, which has been steadily moving in the wrong direction for almost 50 years. The U.S. government has ceased to be "by the people, for the people," and has become preoccupied with self-perpetuation and preservation of power. This has been the number one preoccupation in foreign policy for the last century. Unfortunately, this ideology has now taken over domestic policy as well.
I firmly support the principles of democracy and capitalism. But we've allowed the rules to change, and they've been changed to serve those who are already in power and deny agency to those who don't have it.
Representational democracy only works if the representatives take their responsibilities to the people seriously. The influx of money, lobbyists and corruption is making it impossible for representatives to focus on the needs of the people who elected them.
Capitalism can't function in a vacuum. It needs rules. You can't blame the financial sector for pushing the boundaries when the boundaries are so lax in the first place. We also need to find a way to reconfigure capitalism so it doesn't rely on unfettered materialism.
There aren't easy answers to any of these questions, and any movement that purports to have easy answers should not be trusted. We have suffered so long from the impact of black-and-white thinking that we need to clear space for serendipity.
The system as it stands isn't working. But that doesn't mean we should turn back to ideologies that have already failed in the past, or continue to fail elsewhere in the world.
We need to approach this problem like the founding fathers did: thinking through the situation logically, arguing loudly when necessary, and most importantly, considering the future and not just the short-term.
You don't have to support or like Occupy Wall Street to recognize that it's caused a genuine cognitive shift in the media and amongst intellectuals. And for that, I'm thankful.