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OK, here’s the basic theme I want to communicate.
The central complaint against the protests is that they don’t have specific
goals. Both the right and the left have made this charge, each thinking that
they are scoring points against the protesters.
Conors Friedersdorf writes in this column in the Atlantic that the “fatal
flaw” of the protesters is that they are protesting “symbolic wall
street” verses “actual wall street”, implying that the protesters
greatest strength is their greatest weakeness. The strength is based on the
idea that symbolic wall street is like symbolic New York City – a magical
place in the minds of people in other parts of the country. The author makes
the case that the protests should be about what the real wall street tycoons
have done illegally and how to reform the system. The underlying theme is
that the protest is full of magical thinkers with no real agenda other than
“symbolic” notions. Read it here:
Further to the left (as I consider Mr. Friedersdorf center right because he
can not clearly conceive of the notion that I’m about to write about here
– his anti-protester theme is so much stronger than any of his
pro-protester themes – that is the quality of his writing about his
argument is much stronger than the quality of his writing against the
protests – thus making it clear in his process which side he’s on)
Further to the left is Bill Maher who on Friday’s (October 14, 2011) show
agreed with the panel that the protesters need to have a clear agenda.
We can expect these kinds of criticisms from the right. However, it took the
right wing online news organizations quite a while to even report on the
protests – weeks after they started actually. For example, Real Clear
Politics did not even mention the protests until well into the second week
– long after sites like Truthout, BuzzFlash, Democracy Now! Started
reporting on it. Even after the pepper spray incident the right still did
not report. Then suddenly the criticism about the protesters being hippies
and drum circle whatever started and the theme of the lack of focus (Oh those
naughty kids) started.
The entire point I’m driving at is that all of these criticism emerge from
the same ideological perspective, one that can not perceive the true
significance of the movement because the movement is based in a wholly
different ideology. It is akin to a two dimensional creature being thrust
into a three dimentional world.
The philosophy that the protest embodies is anathema to both right and left.
I’m not even sure many of the protesters understand this idea, though the
core certainly does.
This ideology has also been reflected in the other protests around the world
– Arab Spring, Spain, Greece, etc…
Simply put – We are nearing the end of out tolerance of hierarchical
structures of power and control. The evidence of how this kind of thinking
is destroying us is ubiquitous. It is hard to ignore. However, the problem
is that there are still too many people who can not see because they have
grown up inside the bubble and have been fully indoctrinated (or more kindly
put – accepting) of the dominant ideology. I call this the Truman Show
paralysis. Truman is conceived and born into an artificial world where
everything around him is constructed by the director of the TV show that
Truman is the unwitting star in. It is impossible for him to perceive that
his life is artifice due to the fact that he has no context for seeing beyond
it. We all have these tendencies.
I would argue that hierarchical structures establish these kinds of
boundaries in a particularly restrictive manner. Obviously dictatorships,
monarchies, fascist states are extreme forms of this and we have seen that
they have been on the decline. Rising up through those horrible ashes are
quasi-democratic states, representative governments that are controlled by
monied interests. Combined with a free market, capitalist ideology,
representative government is revealed to have a fatal flaw – too many are
easily persuaded by money and power to want more money and power and
compromise their eithical and more obligations toward the people who have
elected them. This is all old news.
The protests are really driving at disrupting these connections and
ideologies. They are consensus building and cooperative – collaborative
one might say – toward collective agreement and choice, but where each
individual has a right and freedom to express their ideas. This is now much
more possible than ever before due to technological innovations.
It is interesting that Twitter was the subject of a New York magazine
article this month in which it was noted that their dilemma is not knowing
how to move the company forward. The answer is right there and obvious –
Twitter (or something like it) is the answer to the question of how to
establish a world wide consensus building – truly democratic –
collaborative system that frees the world from hierarchical notions of
I am not an idealist in this notion. Though I believe it can work, I believe
there are many potential dangers – The primary one is the tyranny of the
majority. What happens when the majority wants to commit resources only to
the needs of the majority and sacrifice the needs of a minority? What
happens when someone gets a hold of the algorithm that is established to
monitor, filter, and calculate how the consensus is expressing itself?
These are questions I don’t have an answer to. Do we retain some form of
Supreme Court that monitors these ideas? Who monitors the algorithm? How do
we guarantte the rights of the minority.