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Sunday, October 09, 2011

OWS, the Obama question, and the Joan of Arc parallel

My initial dislike of the OWS movement had a lot to do with the undeniable fact that many of the people taking part in the protests were the same youngsters who spent much of 2008 insisting that Barack Obama would be the Prog Messiah. These dupes inundated this blog (and all other left-leaning blogs) with vituperative comments and hallucinatory hero-worship. Some of them even issued death threats directed at yours truly.

I will never forgive or forget that behavior.

Now, we "premature anti-Obama liberals" face a problem. An Obama problem.

In the OWS movement, most people are well-and-truly fed up with our supercilious sell-out of a president. But some of the protesters still believe in him. These days, the few Obots left in America seem downright cute -- like kids who leave cookies out for Santa.

Many will argue that, as disappointing as Obama has been, he is still preferable to any Republican. Others will agree with my position: While Obama and Romney are more or less equivalent (and neither one of them would solve our economic troubles), Bachmann and Perry are so thoroughly vile and dangerous that they must be kept from the oval office at all costs -- even if the cost includes support for a miserable failure like Obama.

Then there will be those who insist on going the third party route. That, as I've argued in the past, is a delusion.

Quite a few of you are probably bursting at the seams right now, desperate to tell me: "But this movement isn't about partisan politics! It's about raising consciousness and awareness and establishing a New Age and heralding a We Century and proving how virtuous we can be by eating lots of tofu!"

If you want to give me that rap, please...just die. Preferably in pain. I want no part of a "consciousness raising" exercise, and I don't care for tofu. I want to see a movement that gets practical things -- big things, but practical things -- done.

Face it. We're in election season. Partisan politics, and intra-partisan politics, are going to be part of the very air we breathe. That's just the way it is. Screw you and your fucking tofu. That's the way it is.

So question number 1 is: Can people with diverse views on Obama work together?

Question number 2: How can the rebels keep the upper hand in working with Dems?

The libertarians who have tried to seduce the OWS movement continually warn the protesters not to work with Democratic politicians who express sympathy. To me, this is a signal that the OWS movement must work with Democratic politicians who express sympathy. Whatever the Randroids tell you to do, do the opposite: They are not your friends.

You will note that the Randroids did not tell the Tea Partiers to steer clear of Republican politicians. Instead, the 'bagger leaders forced those politicians to dance to their tune. "Mainstream" Republicans were primaried and replaced by Glenn Beckian kooks.

I used to receive Richard Viguerie's mass mailings to the tea partiers, and I saw how he did it. He was willing to work with politicians because (unlike many lefties) he did not just want to vent -- he wanted power. Like it or not, power is how you get things done. Viguerie knew that the tea party would soon evaporate if it did not make an impact on governance.

Nevertheless, he constantly threatened to walk away from the Republican party.

It's like buying a new car. To get the price you want, you have to be willing to walk away from the dealership. On the other hand, if you're unwilling to enter the dealership in the first place, you'll never get a car.

By all means, work with politicians. Just make sure that they dance to your tune instead of the other way 'round.

On a related note: As some of you may recall, back in the 1990s a certain piece of sociological pseudoscience -- first expressed in a book titled You Just Don't Understand, by Deborah Tannen -- became popular. The meme held that when men talked about problems, they searched for pragmatic solutions, while women talked about their problems in order to express emotions and (get this) to establish "intimacy."

Tannen was full of crap. But for years, she convinced people that whining was a legitimate communication style. Actually, whining is just whining. A certain amount of whining is a necessary part of life, and it is done by both men and women. But solutions are always preferable to whining.

I think the OWS movement can be viewed, metaphorically, in Tannen-vision. Is it going to be a whiners' party, or will it seek solutions? My feminist readers may be appalled by the way I am going to phrase this question, but I'll ask it anyways: Is the movement going to seek "intimacy" (as Tannen mis-defined that term) or will everyone "man up"?

That's why I offered the idea of going after Geithner -- not as a final step, but as a first step.

Many people responded to my suggestion without actually reading my piece (it was summarized in the NYT's "Opinionator" column). My critics usually argued that Obama would replace Geithner with someone worse. In my original post, I stipulated that very probability; nevertheless, I listed six reasons why the OWS-ers should seek his removal.

The most important reason is this: We need to get something done. Pronto.

The protesters must establish that theirs is a movement of do-ers, not whiners. Project "Ta-ta Timmy" would be an easy win, since nobody likes Tim Geithner these days. I doubt that even Geithner likes Geithner.

Let me draw a parallel to the career of that other French girl I love: Jeanne d'Arc -- Joan of Arc to you. (I presume that no feminist will object to this example.)

She had three main goals: First, to raise the siege at Orleans. Second: To get the Dauphin -- that is, her Prince -- crowned King in Reims cathedral, where the King-ing was traditionally done. Alas, she couldn't go directly to Reims because it was deep in English-held territory. Her third goal: To drive the English out of France altogether.

So she defeated the English at Orleans. That was her first big win -- not an easy win, but a necessary one. The initial victory made all the subsequent ones possible.

Then she drove her army toward Reims, conquering city after city across the Loire: Jargeau, Meung, Beaugency, Patay. When she reached Troyes, the enemy surrendered without a fight -- because by that time, the sound of her name made the bad guys soil their trousers. Finally, the Dauphin was crowned in the cathedral.

That's how you get things done. First one battle, then the next, then the next. There could have been no Reims without Orleans.

I remain flabbergasted by the dolts who have told me that sacking Geithner would deflate the movement. That certainly wasn't Joan's experience! When she won at Orleans, people rallied to her cause. A solid victory has an exaltation effect on ordinary individuals. Victory, not venting, is what gives people hope.

We don't need any more vaguely virtuous tofu-eaters. Be like Joan.
Comments:
Seems to me a real accomplishment of the OWS activities would be putting enough pressure on politicians to ensure passage of the Jobs bill.
 
You illustrate my point, Anonymous. Are you willing to work with hose who -- like me -- feel that the jobs bill is a mistake? It focuses on tax cuts. Tax cuts don't work. Like the stimulus, it is an alleged "jobs bill" that doesn't provide much in the way of actual employment. For that reason, it is doomed to fail -- and its failure will be described as a failure of "socialism" when it fact it will be a failure of tax cuts.
 
What about getting some of those Wall Streeters in orange jump suits.

How about that as a second after sacking Geithner?

Could any of this anger be turned into giving Obama-crats the heave-ho?
Purge the party.

OWS = Obama White House Sucks?
 
Joe, perhaps the dullness of Baltimore has sanded some of the sharpness from your intellect. You don't indicate that you have been to the OWS protests or met the participants. Yet you assert that because many young people voted for Obama, these particular young people voted for Obama and thus they are no-nothing hypocrites.

And then you lampoon the language of cooperation with a needless Foxspeak wisecrack about tofu (again without any firsthand field observation). No doubt some of the protesters are young people who have eaten tofu, but some aren't either young or tofu eaters--and I'm willing to bet that not a single sign or statement from OWS has referenced gelatinous soy products.

Why persist with this labeling and ridicule when your only evidence is 3 years and 3,000 miles away? Did someone of your acquaintance invoke Deborah Tannen at a touchy moment?

Tannen (who teaches at Georgetown, by the way) is acknowledged by her peers as a critically important linguist who found a missing link in gender differences. In my opinion, she is only "full of crap" when she asserts that the female mode of empathic speech is morally superior to the male mode of problem solving. But I can't dismiss the entire notion that being heard (as opposed to being heeded) is a critical motive in communication.

Let's look at the origins of OWS. The weisenheimers at Adbusters put out a call for people to express their displeasure toward the pigs on Wall Street. A few hundred people show up, and because young people have the time and the zeal for such things, they are the majority of the participants. (You and I answered similar calls circa 1980 in Los Angeles.) The students tell their friends about it and the numbers increas. But some young people have older siblings or friends or coworkers or parents who share (some of) their sense of outrage. The numbers swell. The media (now including you and me) notices the phenomenon and asks the amorphous crowd for a definitive statement of principles and aims. But outraged crowds don't initially work that way.

Leaders are often churned from the critical mass, and usually they are older, wiser late-comers to the crowd scene, like Cairo's Mohammed El-Baradei, who was handed a megaphone by the attentive kids.

A couple days ago I drove past the Occupy St. Louis rally, and it comprised 100 (mostly) young people, 10 of whom could afford to be arrested that night for a curfew violation. When the total attendance reaches 1,000, more people like me will put on their walking shoes and join them. Maybe some professor from Saint Louis University will risk his tenure by stepping onto a podium and denouncing the corporation that endows his chair.

You could be that guy in Baltimore or D.C. And you could do it without hectoring the audience.
 
I lampoon that language because I've been down that road many many MANY times before. Frankly, I don't want to attend any OWS events because I know I'll run right into the same shit I came to hate before. Meeting the protesters will surely turn me against them. It's easier to like them from a distance.

I'll write a post about what I've seen in the past.
 
And yes, with my inferior U.S.C. education, I know the term is "know-nothing." (THIS DEFENSIVE ADDENDUM IS NOT FOR PUBLICATION, BUT FEEL FREE TO COPY EDIT MY ORIGINAL POST, BRUIN BUDDY.)
 
Can't copy-edit your text, TJ, although I can edit my own comments. That's just the way Blogger works. Sorry.

I knew all along that it was just a typo.

You had to bring up college, didn't ya? That was the period of the anti-intervention marches. Oy. Such stupidity I saw. Same stupidity as now: Consensus decision-making and a distrust of hierarchy because the alternative might cause some egomaniac's precious widdle ego to be hurt.
 
From reports I've read, they seem to insist they do not need A Leader. But how can anything be achieved without, at the very least, a spokesman?

That'll have to be the next step, and could indicate more clearly which way this will go. But even if it goes the wrong way (as we see it), this current effort has raised awareness, and some faction of those of the OWS would likely start anew in a better direction, at some point in the near future - I think, and hope.
 
Joe I agree with most of what you write--- and often when I find myself repulsed by what you write. I know that I will actually open myself up to a higher truth....

But come on. do you think every vegetarian is an asshole rich Whole Foods prog? or worse responsible for Chicago 68? You know, not every vegetarian is wealthy. I make my own seitan sausages by hand (cost appx. $.55 per sausage, takes 1/2 hour), I make killer tofu schnitzel (coated in cornmeal and nutritional yeast) which cost about $1 per plate, and also i sprout my legumes and greens in a jar (they're organic, but also cheaper than dole lettuce... a salad of organic alfalfa, clover, sunflowers, lentils and sprouted radish costs me around $0.50 per plate).

If people are having a hard time making ends meet right now (like I am... now earning about 75% less than five years ago) then going *mostly* veggie is a way to eat healthy food and survive. Sprouting seeds in jars is the most cost effective way to eat (oh, and about 10000% better for you than a Sloppy Joe)

So hate huffpo, hate the progs, sure, hate the fetuses. and heck, hate Waholefoods. But lay off the tofu Joe, you might find it stretches a chili or pasta sauce.. and it doesn't have to make you full of yourself or full of self righteous virtues (full disclosure: I'm not a vegetarian, I've had meat 3 times in Sept when with family. so it's not dogma, just not necessary every day, even if i did have more money), it might just fill your stomach when your earning $800 a month and paying $350 of that on rent...
 
Joe's absolutely right on the 'Jobs Bill', it's not - it's just another fucking tax cut (JAFTC). And just like TehLightbringer's first stimulus it's going to fail and just like the first failure the enemies of the Middle Class will seize the failure as proof that nothing but complete capitulation to the forces of greed will suffice.

Sacking Geithner is a good idea, but I kind'a liked another poster who suggested sacking Holder. And with the latest outrages in the war on drugs and gun walking it's probably more appropriate.

But whoever, TehLightbringer must be made to acknowledge that he's the one acting - none of this 'time with family' bullshit!
 
Tofu person: I couldn't care less about vegetarians one way or the other. My problem comes when vegetarians or some other advocate of niche politics comes in and insists (usually under the rubric of "consensus") that a movement address his or her issues.

It's already happening. The draft statement I saw had a lot of non-economic carp in there. I think the second or third item was a denunciation of unnecessary animal experimentation. Now, I DESPISE animal cruelty -- but what does that issue have anything to do with the economic crisis?

That's the cue for Smelly Hippie (as seen on Futurama) to stand up and say "Don't you see, man? Like, it's all CONNECTED, man!"

Smelly Hippie is Satan. He has ruined every single left-wing gathering I've seen since the late 1960s. Smelly Hippie is either working for the man or he might as well be.

Twilight: Of COURSE these dumb kids need a leader. Where would the civil rights movement have been without King?

Consensus decision making is a proven loser. Has been since forever.
 
But Joe, let's not lose sight that Smelly Hippie is a lesser enemy than than the stinking rich. Life is short. Pick your battles.
 
Do not confuse Randroids with Rand. Two different species.

Nietzsche: Beware of disciples

This mass is an example of Hoffer's "True Believers"

It is a mass sit-in. No agenda. That's good. Now just imagine all the connections, friends, lovers, networking that is going on.

Fun!
 
Joseph, I think most of your readers take your point--the majority of people following this movement are not interested in a hippy-dippy consciousness-raising moment as an endpoint. But certainly any protest first has to wake the public up.

Had this been going 15 years ago, while I was still raising kids, scrambling for money to pay-off medical bills and tuition, I wouldn't have had [and did not have] the time to scour financial pages, follow the minutia of our political system and/or observe and comment on the smokescreen that DC and our pols have thrown up to hide their own collusion and corruption in the biggest financial heist in history.

The young are out on the streets because they can't find decent jobs and their futures look very bleak. Though I suspect most Americans know something is wrong, I doubt the vast majority know how huge the problems really are.

Though OWS has not coalesced around a single message and/or goal yet, I think the simple 99er slogan sends the initial volley: the majority of the country has been screwed and continues to be screwed by a relatively small number of financiers and their political handmaidens. If the movement survives its infancy, the goals will follow. Short of an all out Revolution or just sitting on our hands waiting for the End to come, I'm not sure what the alternative is.

I for one am willing to be patient, watch, read, listen and see how this thing develops. At the very least, it's a warning cry: there's a tsunami headed our way.

Peggy Sue
 
I'll say one thing for Romney - while his economic and health policies might be identical to Obama's, he has never to my knowledge ordered an assassination.
 
Well the fact is that the "candidates" are simply front men and women. Politicians don't run the USA nor the UK. Industrialists do. i.e capitalists do. Political parties simply present a candidate who will "manage" the system - a member of the managerial class. What is the point of even debating the difference between a flea and a louse, a republican and a democrat?
 
In other words, just give up on democracy altogether. Let the corporations fuck us, because nothing can be done.

I first heard this shit back '68, capella.
 
Yes, there is garbage in the jobs bill but there is also money for local govts to hire back some teachers and firefighters. That would be a good thing, in my opinion. Tax cuts aren't totally useless because they put money in people's pockets that may get spent and increase demand which would help the economy. I will take a bill with some small good in it over nothing at all. And I am another UCLA alum
 
Anon, in part I agree. I unhappily supported the stim package for reasons similar to those you offer here. But when that package failed, it powered the "socialist" canard and drove the Tea Party numbers way up.

If "stim 2" fails -- and it will -- what next?
 
"In other words, just give up on democracy altogether. Let the corporations fuck us, because nothing can be done.

I first heard this shit back '68, capella."
So did I. But it goes back way longer than '68. Democracy hasn't happened yet. Oligarchy is what we have now. So I'm not advocating giving up on democracy but in fact developing genuine democracy.
 
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