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Forum Post: The Amorphous Message Is The Message

Posted 12 years ago on Oct. 9, 2011, 7:26 p.m. EST by IdlenessAndMoney (13)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Many are attacking Occupy Wall Street for lacking a clear and succinct message. The reason for deficient clarity is the message itself is about the citizen’s ability to voice opinions in our democracy.

A democracy is government by a majority of the people. Our current system does not represent our majority, but represents the interests of a few. Our democracy has folded into an oligarchy, as it is naturally inclined. I would argue that the ideal form of government is between these two extremes, but we have shifted too far in the last 40 years.

When the government becomes too disconnected from the people, the system itself is corrupted and unconventional means are required to provide a check on the system. This is the case with any form of government at any time in history.

The protesters may not concur on specific policy solutions; in fact they may not even be self-aware in regards to the reasons for their protest. Because the majority of our population has not been sufficiently represented, they have no outlet within the democratic process.

If you wish debate the protests, debate it on these terms: Are the people represented within our republic or are certain groups, namely corporations, significantly disproportionally represented?

An example I found within minutes that illustrates how our political and social institutions are so easily spoiled: getoffwallstreet is run by Interactive Solutions whose clients include citigroup and american express. Why would there be such an organized effort to discredit the protests if they had no direction? In an time where corporations can use unlimited funds to support and suppress information under the guise of free speech, how will the people be represented unless by physical means?



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[-] 2 points by Robespierre (89) 12 years ago

First of all, I find any assertion that the protesters lack coherence to be disingenuous. To quote Glenn Greenwald:

"Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest: that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality, and its unrestrained political power—in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions—is destroying financial security for everyone else?"

(Greenwald quote is from http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/09/28/protests/index.html )

However, I want to add here that, in my eyes, it is absolutely vital that this movement NOT attempt to focus on any particular policy, party, or candidate as a solution to the problem. The problem is the system; thus, no solution can be implemented according to the system's definition of the scope of action.

To be rather more concrete, the problem is not the repeal of Glass-Steagall -- the problem is that Sandy Weill can purchase whatever laws he needs to make Citigroup (more) profitable. The problem is not that Obama's healthcare bill is inadequate -- the problem is that a healthcare bill could not be passed in this country without promising insurance companies a huge cut of all heathcare spending. The problem is not Obama -- the problem is that Obama could not have been elected without taking corporate funding -- nor without being the type that corporations would fund.

The problem is not any policy -- the problem is the mechanism by which policy is made. The problem is not any candidate -- the problem is the mechanism by which candidates are made "realistic."

The social system is like a giant causal loop (what programmers call an infinite loop), and everybody says: this part of the loop is the problem, or that part of the loop is the problem. But the whole loop is the problem, and only breaking enough of the loop to destroy the causal chain completely (so that it can't be repaired, so that the loop cannot be reconnected) will create the conditions where something new can be built.

No economic policy reform can do this. No candidate can do this.

The role of protest, of political theater, of spectacle -- at least, in my eyes, its most potent role -- is to destroy the ideological veil under which power hides itself. If the pretenses under which power operates no longer fall on credulous ears, power itself can weaken, or cease to function.

This country claims to be democratic, but its mechanisms of making policy and of selecting "representatives" is plutocratic. The credulous nation can sit behind their TVs and believe that, for all its faults and flaws, power is at bottom democratic. In my eyes, the goal of this protest must be to make the plutocracy undeniable -- to destroy the credulousness of the people -- to destroy the ability of power to maintain the pretense of democracy.

[-] 1 points by IdlenessAndMoney (13) 12 years ago

Well spoken. I do wish the protesters could grab up signs saying "end the plutocracy" and throw away everything else, but truly, the media is in denial mode.

The thing that frightens me is that many of my friends and colleges (many of whom who work in the political process and are otherwise activists) discount this movement for the very same reasons the media does. And when you get on here, view the protests, or attend, you quickly become overwhelmed with the variety of 'demands'. I feel that in order to reach those not yet convinced, quotes such as Greenwald's or the perspective I gave, may help, and every little bit helps.

[-] 1 points by IdlenessAndMoney (13) 12 years ago

Thanks brightonsage. I feel like the most significant change that protesters can work towards is systematic change. This sort of change requires work outside of the system, while the actual machinations of policy will necessarily remain within our economic and social institutions. Our goal should be to alter these institutions by imposing limits on corporate influence, and then ensure corporate influences are diminished throughout the policy making process.

Here are some words from Rousseau urging citizens to act deputies of democracy outside of the electoral process:

"As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall. When it is necessary to march out to war, they pay troops and stay at home: when it is necessary to meet in council, they name deputies and stay at home. By reason of idleness and money, they end by having soldiers to enslave their country and representatives to sell it.


Sovereignty, for the same reason as makes it inalienable, cannot be represented; it lies essentially in the general will, and will does not admit of representation: it is either the same, or other; there is no intermediate possibility. The deputies of the people, therefore, are not and cannot be its representatives: they are merely its stewards, and can carry through no definitive acts. Every law the people has not ratified in person is null and void -- is, in fact, not a law. The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing. The use it makes of the short moments of liberty it enjoys shows indeed that it deserves to lose them."

Thank you for reading.

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 12 years ago

You are correct. We don't need to define the problem. The problem has many elements and some among us have misidentified parts of it and so have some who are not among us. But even some in the 1% agree that there are problems and that we have defined some of them correctly., There is a place to start.

Maybe we could also agree on some of the solutions for some of these. But the 99% are in pretty substantial agreement that they are not being represented fairly in Congress andf other legislative and executive bodies. There is plenty of evidence of this. One is that 75% support raising the taxes on the 1%. And that a majority of Democrats, Indepedents and even Republican agree. Yet, Republicans will not consider it or even allow their representatives consider it. That is no longer acceptable to the 99% whether the 1% agree or not. This is but one example.

The election process is substantially controlled by the 1%. This must change. Beyond this, it gets complicated and there has not been enough work done to identify and prioritize issues and solutions. but this wouk is past due and must happen soon.

If the 99% can concur with this it will be done and the process can be accelerated with the cooperation of the 1%. The easy way or the hard way., it will happen. In disorganization, there is strength. An amorphous message is still a message that both parties to the link can understand.