Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is a Movement Too Big to Fail

From AlterNet, Chris Hedges explains why OWS is so extraordinarily important:

Liberal institutions, including the church, the press, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts and labor unions, set the parameters for limited self-criticism in a functioning democracy as well as small, incremental reforms. The liberal class is permitted to decry the worst excesses of power and champion basic human rights while at the same time endowing systems of power with a morality and virtue it does not possess. Liberals posit themselves as the conscience of the nation. They permit us, through their appeal to public virtues and the public good, to see ourselves and our state as fundamentally good.

But the liberal class, by having refused to question the utopian promises of unfettered capitalism and globalization and by condemning those who did, severed itself from the roots of creative and bold thought, the only forces that could have prevented the liberal class from merging completely with the power elite. The liberal class, which at once was betrayed and betrayed itself, has no role left to play in the battle between us and corporate dominance. All hope lies now with those in the street.

Liberals lack the vision and fortitude to challenge dominant free market ideologies. They have no ideological alternatives even as the Democratic Party openly betrays every principle the liberal class claims to espouse, from universal health care to an end to our permanent war economy to a demand for quality and affordable public education to a return of civil liberties to a demand for jobs and welfare of the working class. The corporate state forced the liberal class to join in the nation’s death march that began with the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Liberals such as Bill Clinton, for corporate money, accelerated the dismantling of our manufacturing base, the gutting of our regulatory agencies, the destruction of our social service programs and the empowerment of speculators who have trashed our economy. The liberal class, stripped of power, could only retreat into its atrophied institutions, where it busied itself with the boutique activism of political correctness and embraced positions it had previously condemned.

More here.

I was watching Massachusetts Representative Barny Frank last night on the Maddow show. Frank is a liberal stalwart, a real Northeastern Democrat, so when he spoke on the effectiveness of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I was kind of halfway expecting some lip service, at least, to what the whole thing is about. Instead, with much pompous pontification, he gave a textbook example of Hedges' notion of the bankrupt and useless liberal class: OWS doesn't have any policy goals, he said, no attempts to get any legislation passed, just a lot of wasted effort.

In an instant he revealed how smart people can be really, really, really fucking stupid.

The reality is that, under the current political and cultural circumstances, there can be no policy, no legislation. I mean, really, we just sat through weeks and weeks of debt ceiling standoff over budget cuts, when there should be no budget cuts, when we need to increase federal spending tenfold, and this is supported now by a majority of economists: the political apparatus of the United States is severely dysfunctional; it can't do what it needs to do to improve our nation's dire situation. The Senate can't pass any bills because everything is filibustered by the Republicans. The House is now essentially ignoring the economy and instead debates abortion bills that are simply knockoffs of abortion bills it has already passed. Rome burns while Nero plays his fiddle.

For OWS to go to politicians with policy demands right now is a total waste of time. Worse, it's dealing with the devil: any negotiation with the Democrats on policy will certainly be subverted in the same way Obama's health care reform ended up as a massive giveaway to the for-profit health care industry. How can Frank not understand this? Answer: like most Democrats, he stands for nothing but reelection and perpetuation of the corporate state which has rewarded him with notoriety and massive campaign donations. At best, he's useless; at worst, he's part of the problem.

The only way to make the federal government, indeed, government in general, responsive to the needs of the people is literally to change the conventional wisdom about how the world works, and OWS is actually doing a very nice job of pushing the corporate news media, at least, in that direction. But until that condition is satisfied, until the culture of the United States is altered in such a way as to make real the concerns of average ordinary working Americans, bloviating politicians like Frank and his used up liberal ilk are simply in the way, and nothing more.

If you read any essay this week, read this one: Hedges has got the goods.