Rediscovering Civil Disobedience
George Goehl of The Nation:
“‘There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal,’ proclaimed Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he took a risk and spoke out forcefully against the War in Vietnam. As more Americans debate whether to leave the sidelines and join the Occupy Wall Street movement, we should heed Dr. King’s words.
Our individual silence is a form of acquiescence, and we speak volumes not only through our action but also through our lack of it. Silence signals that we are okay with what’s happening, or that we have simply given up. While Occupy Wall Street has inspired a new level of consciousness in America, we have only just scratched the surface of what will be needed to shift the political economy of our country.”
It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.
And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called “economic royalists,” not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.
Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police — confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction — but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.
Nonetheless, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced “mobs” and “the pitting of Americans against Americans.” The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging “class warfare,” while Herman Cain calls them “anti-American.” My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don’t deserve to have them.
Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor and a financial-industry titan in his own right, was a bit more moderate, but still accused the protesters of trying to “take the jobs away from people working in this city,” a statement that bears no resemblance to the movement’s actual goals.
And if you were listening to talking heads on CNBC, you learned that the protesters “let their freak flags fly,” and are “aligned with Lenin.”
The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.
Last year, you may recall, a number of financial-industry barons went wild over very mild criticism from President Obama. They denounced Mr. Obama as being almost a socialist for endorsing the so-called Volcker rule, which would simply prohibit banks backed by federal guarantees from engaging in risky speculation. And as for their reaction to proposals to close a loophole that lets some of them pay remarkably low taxes — well, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, compared it to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
And then there’s the campaign of character assassination against Elizabeth Warren, the financial reformer now running for the Senate in Massachusetts. Not long ago a YouTube video of Ms. Warren making an eloquent, down-to-earth case for taxes on the rich went viral. Nothing about what she said was radical — it was no more than a modern riff on Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous dictum that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”
But listening to the reliable defenders of the wealthy, you’d think that Ms. Warren was the second coming of Leon Trotsky. George Will declared that she has a “collectivist agenda,” that she believes that “individualism is a chimera.” And Rush Limbaugh called her “a parasite who hates her host. Willing to destroy the host while she sucks the life out of it.”
What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
“Every person in this camp has been notified they may search for drugs. Everyone. They are free to leave now through the west area without police intervention. No one here has any illicit substances of any kind. We are concerned about planting.”
watch it live
I CAN’T TELL WHAT’S GOING ON BUT IT’S PROBABLY IMPORTANT
Cops watching a man drown because they can no longer afford water-rescue training? Actually happening. That’s just what happens when one political party (Republicans!) openly declares it wants to shrink the size of government until its small enough to drown in a bath tub. Our November/December cover story is up, and it’s a must-read.
THIS PHOTO IS GOING VIRAL ON FACEBOOK RIGHT NOW!
Okay, this is truly funny, however, all of these corporations have been FOISTED upon us, we did not CHOOSE them…and we also do not necessarily APPROVE of the greed that these corporations exhibit - they are our ONLY option for a lot of the products they offer, because they have literally CRUSHED all the competition. Just because we use their products does not mean that we LIKE the way these Corporations operate!!
If I COULD buy Poster Board and Indelible Ink Pens somewhere besides Michael’s I would!! I didn’t CHOOSE to buy from Michaels - they’ve just wiped out the competition. If my local art supply store was STILL OPEN, I’d shop there!! But Michael’s has gone into every suburb and bankrupted those little stationery stores and art supply stores nationwide.
And I do NOT PREFER the crappy, flimsy, poorly-made clothing and shoes, that only last for one season, that you find at America’s Malls, instead of the olden days concept of Mom and Pop specialty stores, where the functionality and long-lasting quality of a product had value.
When I was a kid (born in 1945), I remember walking with my mom to do the shopping. I remember being around 3 yrs old, and holding on to the bottom of my mom’s purse. We would walk together about 1/2 mile up to Kingsbridge Rd, where we went to the Vegetable Stand, the Cheese Shop, The Butcher, The Bakery, the Fruit Stand (yes, SEPARATE from the Vegetable Stand), and when we had a need, we also went to the Mom and Pop Hardware Store, Art Supply Store, The Liquor Store, etc. These store owners KNEW their customers. The butcher would tell my mom when specials were running on the cuts of meat she usually bought. Same with the other merchants. It was personal service. They gave me bits of cheese, or a muffin, or a beef jerky. They knew my name. And when I had my tonsils out in 5th grade, they all asked my mom how I was doing. I miss all that personal service we had before the corporations came in and took over.
Look, I love my Mac like crazy, and my iPod, and I couldn’t live without my iPhone, however that doesn’t mean that I approve of EVERY single move that Apple practices. There are so many suicides in one Chinese Apple Computer factory that Apple actually erected a net around the worker’s dorms to combat the deaths! That’s INSANITY!! Isn’t it? And the cancer rate in the surrounding areas around Apple’s manufacturing plants is way higher than in other parts of China. We here in the West tend to look the other way when hearing these facts. We should, instead, demand that a way be made to create better working conditions for these Chinese workers, as well as a more environmentally sound way to create our electronics.
This is true of all these corporations whose products have been foisted upon us. WE DIDN’T CHOOSE TO ONLY HAVE CORPORATE OPTIONS, it’s been FORCED upon the consuming public. I’m sure most people do NOT prefer the corporate, strip mall lifestyle, where you can spend an entire day on the phone just trying to right a wrong that has been perpetrated upon you by some corporation or other…I posit that most of us would much prefer to live in a less corporate world, especially reflected in our work environment, and in our retail shopping experiences, because most corporations suck at what they do. There are a few corporations that seem to still value and respect their workers (Starbucks comes to mind), but they are few and far between.
So, yes, we use the products that corporations have created — that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement!
i like this
Unlike the Tea Party, who see themselves as the customers of government, people in the Occupy Wall Street movement understand that we are the government. Stated most simply, we are trying to run a 21st-century society on a 13th-century economic operating system. It just doesn’t work.