Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Can peaceful protests work anymore?

    I'm munching popcorn watching the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

   Truth is though, I'm pretty skeptical on the efficacy of protest movements in our current sci fi dystopia. I'm talking protest movements that actually achieve their aims. For instance, according to Guinness and their world record book, the largest protests in human history were against the Iraq war when 36 million people took to the world's streets.  Still, the corporate oligarchy went ahead with their proxy resource war anyway even when a sizable portion of the global public called bullshit on the reasons behind it. Let's face it, entrenched power structures just don't give a shit what the plebs think anymore.

   Back in 2003, we were living in a world where the corporate oligarchy still at least felt a need to come up with a WMD cover story so they could stake a claim in the heart of Mesopotamia's energy reserves. China and Russia hated it but couldn't do anything to oppose that resource grab. Fast forward to Libya in 2011 and the plutocracy didn't even feel the need to bother with costly machinations in popular media and conducted that proxy resource war unmolested by popular dissent.

  Since when did asking the ruling elite nicely by peaceful protest ever work in human history? When you look at it, human history is just one long narrative of who killed who to take their shit. It is certainly not a story of who asked nicely for some shit and was given it because the enlightened rulers gave up power and control because they suddenly developed a new found respect for people with no shit. Us upright apes really only understand violence. When there's blood on the streets the Roman nobility bought property; these days the corporate oligarchy invade some desert shit hole and corner some new energy reserves. Nothing like a good war to clean out the streets of protesters anyway. Being a lazy hipster is unpatriotic in a time of national emergency.

   The oligarchy rolled out al-Qaeda, a bunch of desert idiots on monkey bars and made them out to be the new Reds; and carted off thousands to foreign deserts to go fight them. People are getting wise to the proxy wars designed to tell Russia and China to keep their filthy hands off America's desert. Then came the financial crisis and the masses were getting restless so they tossed the plebs Obama, a handsome black guy who got the suit job where you live in a nice house in Washington DC and get to read the oligarchy's script while the corporate media snap pictures. "Hope and change". Yeah, right. Being a voter these days is like being some teenage punk kid shopping at Hot Topic, buying the corporate made 'rebel' T-shirt and missing the irony completely. Truth is, there are no voter choices that haven't already been pre approved by the entities that run our 'democracy'.

   Sure, you're going to quote me Gandhi or Martin Luther King and say peaceful protest can work. Thing is, those movements had a little more bite than just a bunch of longhairs with conflicting ideas as to what's wrong with our sci fi dystopia. Sure, Gandhi shaved his head, spun his own cloth and never whipped out an AK, but his movement had an arsenal of weaponry that the Occupy Wall Street protesters simply don't have. At least not yet.

   First off, the Indian Independence movement had numbers. Gandhi could pass some gas and have a million people out on the street looking for a whiff of last night's vegetarian curry. The OWS crowd can only manage 30,000 on a good day. That could change but I won't be holding my breath. Another factor is that the Indians had a charismatic leader in Gandhi himself, a little bald brown guy dressed in a towel but a graduate of University College London and smart as hell. He knew how to hurt entrenched power structures in a way that could avoid high body counts. You hit them where it hurts, namely, their wallets. You order your followers not to do business with the oligarchy. For Indians, that meant weaving their own cloth and not importing British textiles. Next up, Gandhi led the Salt March where he encouraged his countrymen to stop paying taxes to the British on salt. Salt is a useful commodity in a country where you sweat a lot and soon the British were feeling some pain. They still locked up Gandhi but that just made him more of a symbol of resistance.

   Truth is, it's hard to see Occupy Wall Street managing to make similar inroads. One major problem with going up against the corporate oligarchy is that in many ways, you're biting the hand that feeds you. Sure, the bastards have bought the political system, attained person hood and own the Supreme Court but they also run the food system, provide Internet access and employ the masses. The "99%" can agitate for better terms but the "system" is so intertwined with every man's needs that it's impossible to affect change without destroying the whole thing. There is no Bastille to storm anymore because violent revolution just gives birth to Napoleons. There is no better system than capitalism because we're all greedy, self interested fucks and the commies lost. There are a lot of working stiffs out there fully invested in the status quo and the oligarchy will have no problems filling jobs in the national guard if a bunch of protesters start rocking the ship.

   I can agree with the spirit of the protests but then you've got the amorphous demands of every guy with a sign:

   No complaint with any of those demands right?

   Thing is, to get the masses on board, you're going to need something simpler. Something you can fit into a soundbite. Trouble is, the problems of the 21st century are so myriad they don't fit on a postage stamp. This leads to disintegration. Gandhi had a simple idea, Indian Independence. MLK, had an even simpler one, equality for all. Today, shit's more complicated.

   The problems run deep. There's this palpable sense that the world can't continue on its present track. This rock just crossed the seven billion population mark and there's a feeling out there that this cannot go on. Energy, food, farmland, water, minerals, all are becoming strategic materials rather than just things we take for granted. The polar ice is melting and already there's bickering between Russia, the US, Canada and the Scandinavian nations about who owns what bit of sea floor in the Arctic. We're in that time just before full on resource shortages and the rich, wise to this, are cashing their chips out of the global casino financial system. We're in the bumpy plateau at the top of the bell curve of peak everything. Every time there's a slight recovery this is matched by a rise in oil and food prices which kills that recovery.

    Rising commodity prices sparked revolutions across the Middle East this year, tossing out dictators and replacing them with democracy. The Egyptians ditched Mubarak and got for their efforts a military/police state and a whole set of new guys with tanks banking cash and unwilling to give up power. That's the problem with revolutions succeeding. You're liable to end up with a new boss just the same as the old boss only meaner. Syrians are getting gunned down on the streets but the global oligarchy couldn't give a shit because Syria has no oil or anything they want. Gaddafi was unlucky enough to be sitting on 10% of EU oil supply and so he got tomahawked.

   Western nations are still years away from Children of Men style chaos. It takes food shortages before the masses finally take up arms against those harvesting them for fun and profit but by then it'll be way too late. The plutocracy by that stage will be safely entrenched in their privately secured armed enclaves and eating cake funded on middle class despair.

   Don't get me wrong, there's nothing I'd like more than to see the Wall Street protests spread and gather strength. Hell, they might even achieve some of their aims. Even then, they'd just be buying a bit more time on the doomsday clock. Meanwhile, the oligarchy are casting hungry eyes around the Middle East and wondering what new war they can get going to clean the streets of filthy protesting hippies.

   I see the media floating the idea of "Iran" and their 'assassination' plot against some Saudi ambassador and I shudder.

   Are they really considering that move? The world's fourth largest oil reserve sitting there with 78 million pesky Persians making the geographical error of living on the top of it. China and Russia are not going to like that resource grab. If the US and Israel get any fancy ideas about bombing Natanz, I'll take that as confirmation that the oligarchy have run out of ideas on how to fix the global financial mess they've created.

   Unfortunately for the rest of us, war wipes slates clean, makes rich men richer and puts protesters in uniform.



  1. The best article I've read on why these protests can't work. The most they can achieve is some small changes but it seems the system will remain rotten and the alternatives worse.

    I hate that my idealism died.

  2. Someone posted this on reddit.

    Just want to let you know, its brilliant.

  3. Very important point which you may have over looked...... Gandhi was chosen because he could be worked with... and wasnt killing anyone.... like many radicals at the time. Sooo... in order for Gandhi to have been successful.... there needed to be a lot of others violently killing anything British. Had there not been violence, there would have been no change.

  4. Then we need to put our money where our mouth is like Ghandi suggested! We need to support local food, local craftsmen, and local government. We need to fight this bottom up, not top down. The only way this "revolution" has a chance in hell, is to grow balls and a cold heart. No, to the shop keeper peddling Chinese trinkets filled with lead should be the first thing on each of their lips.

    Oh but how they want their ipod, their Android, their laptops. Apparently more than they want freedom. However, I digress, you said food right? Look online for farmers markets. There's a way to stick it to the man.

    Clothing? Shop second hand or make your own from second hand shop cloth.

    renting? Rent from a person, not a corporation.

    What about driving a car? Car pool.

    We can beat them AND be green. We can beat the billions out of them just by taking matters back into our own hands.

    Once you have stopped supporting corporations with ALL your dollars, then you can start talking about protesting and actual git-r-done.

  5. I agree Anon.

    Self sufficiency is key. Thing is, we need a charismatic leader to explain that to the masses. And Occupy Wall Street doesn't have one. An inspirational leader who can make the relevant issues understandable to the masses comes along only once a generation.

    And usually he gets assassinated by a "lone gunman".

    JFK, MLK, RFK, Gandhi and John Lennon all died by bullets. It's the "Jesus Christ" paradigm. Kill the guy who tells us we should all get along. Only the good die young.

    Meanwhile, corporations are nameless people hiding behind a business idea of "incorporation" and that anonymity rationalizes evil for profit. No one feels responsible for bad acts because the concept of "corporation" absolves individuals from blame.

    It needs to be addressed, but how?

    1. Mike Bartlett's recent play '13' is an interesting exploration of this very topic. (SPOILERS abound...) One of the central characters is one such 'inspirational leader' named John who becomes the semi-biblical (read: 'the Baptist') figurehead for the disenfranchised masses in a not too unfamiliar dystopian UK. As the conservative government moves to support a US led preemptive strike on Iran, John leads an Occupy style mass protest in the capital. However, the social media that allowed this movement to flourish eventually becomes it's undoing when the 'powers that be' resort to viral character assassination, rather than a bullet from some 'lone gunman', to bring low it's seemingly messianic leader...

      Despite getting somewhat confused due to it's over ambitious approach (in my humble opinion), it raises some really interesting discussion points and is well worth a read if you can locate a copy of the script!

      Superb article as always!

  6. EXCELLENT article. Cheers.

  7. Create a "corporation" and have it lead. The problem with that is people mistrust corporations.

    Another avenue is to create a new religion and have it lead. As long as people behave with sincere belief that this will positively help the earth (a goddess according to quite a few)... it could be a religion. No lone gun man can kill a religion.

    Again, a lot of people are uncomfortable with religion, even if it is a front for leadership, but it is the most viable option.

    It is something to think about.

  8. Every time an American politician mentions Iran, they say "all options are on the table".

    I'm with you War Tard. These crazy fucks are prepared to set the Middle East on fire if they can't solve the financial crisis.


  10. Once again you speak the truth. Its time we all started growing our own food for a start, "anon" above is right. We start from the bottom and work our way up , it was never going to be easy.


  11. Amazing article.

    You explain world events like we're in the same room sipping beers.

    I hate the fact that I kept reading paragraphs and found nothing to disagree with. Keep it up wartard!

  12. Good comment, I don't think people really have the 'balls' or commitment for what is really needed to get change... but this is a start, and that's not a bad thing!

    Sorry I'm kinda distracted by what appears to be a chick very nearly having a 'nip-slip' in that main pic, at least I hope it's a chick, or else that's bringing up some very confusing issues if it's a cute guy lol !

  13. Amazing article, as usual.

  14. I really like what Anonymous wrote about sustainable self sufficient lives! My hubby and I have made our lives very livable by buying second hand clothing, car pooling, living close to our office, walking, and really trying to support our local shops, and neighborhood businesses. We haven't become hermits, we love our gadgets, and cell phones, but we could live without them and our lives are not defined by the STUFF we own. I agree a paradigm shift in the culture must occur.... We did it, why can't other people? Our materialistic culture needs to be examined by us all, what is it we truly value? I for one value my loved ones, and all that YUPPY stuff I used to care about, is just STUFF!!!!!! truly!

  15. When we reach for more than sustainability, then we're getting somewhere. Rather than burdening ourselves with solving the worlds problems, let's embrace and extend our opportunities in our own situations. Let's feel good about who we are, be well, live well and have fun exploring how we can do this together. Let's thrive, fun, powerful and resilient!
    Here lies the challenge: to see this all (life) as a beautiful game. And the funny thing about this game is that to win we need to play this game so beautifully that we attract player after player after player to join us, but yet we cannot befuddle ourselves with a focus on this end. It is important that we don't play 'strategically' to grow support or followers and we don't play to win the game, like musicians of integrity, we play for the love of it. We need to be genuine and genuinely love what we are doing: playing the game that we are playing. When we play the game well and grow stronger in ourselves, happier and less concerned with the future with each present moment, as we grow more connected with ourselves and we also grow more connected with our peers and we identify more widely than as individuals, as we go down this path we realise that we are each our own greatest challenge (as individuals), and it is by supporting each other, and transcending our individuality, that we become comfortable and happy in dynamic relationship with ourselves, our peers and our world. This game is bigger than sides and the rules can change in an instant just as our perspectives can change. We can play to win and we can play for everybody to win. What a game!! It's all about why and how we play it!! Gotta love this! : )

  16. Really great article. And beautifully written, Seth. You said what I was having trouble articulating. Whole-heartedly agreed. I enter the game learning permaculture and growing my own food. It's a beautiful thing and I highly recommend it to anyone as a good start to the game. I think Unknown said it best - it's about our values and it seems we've been given them rather than experiencing them for ourselves.

  17. This is a GREAT blog.

    Am doing a kow tow to the screen right now; your articles are brilliant and to the point.

  18. I totally disagree with the "sole" charismatic leader, on the basis-that if you is that much easier to derail; but by multiples...who have leadership skills, the masses can be brought online. Media such as CD(s) that perhaps would have links for key awareness links...the message will get out. The more bifurcation, the better!

  19. What many people who study the Indian independence movement overlook most of the time is that it wasn't just Ghandi that won independence for India, it was the mutiny by the Royal Indian Navy that could be said to have won independence for India. The RIN Mutiny shattered Great Britain's confidence that it could control India, and it granted India independence rather than risk a long and bloody war like the one in Vietnam. Likewise, in America, they didn't really fear Martin Luther King as much as they feared Malcolm X and the Black Panthers.

  20. To this comment- "We need to support local food, local craftsmen, and local government. We need to fight this bottom up, not top down." Well Canada might get totally screwed with "Support your local farmer, etc. If we get stuck with the Canadian European Trade Agreement...this will effect all levels of Government. One of the issues is that Corporations can sue if they can not compete with the farmers markets and if you choose to ban plastic bags from your community. Fun times a head for us Canadians.
    This was a great article explaining who we are and what is realistic oh how we can cope with the future. Thanks for sharing your thoughts... We in the North half of the America's are facing the our own little crisis... good luck to us all, we are n this together as citizen of North America

  21. What do you think about everyone getting together and not paying income tax until changes/reforms are made, demands are listened to? Starve the beast. Everyone collaborates and April 15th passes like any other day. Seriously. Thoughts? Thanks.

  22. I'm new to your blog and like your style. However here I feel a long rebuttal is in order. Not to worry. In this age of shortened attention spans I'll keep it pretty brief. "The corporate oligarchy went ahead with their proxy resource war anyway" may be true but here I think the Peter Principle trumps everything. They have made control of these resources even more problematic. They replaced one despotic regime that was much easier to deal with then the new one will be. The Baathist thugs were better for business and made a nice counter weight to their Shia neighbors. Not any more, and the same will be the case all across North Africa. The West is truly unprepared for the approaching storm that will make all others in our miserable history pale in comparison. Our military-industrial-corporate banker bosses have us all by the shorthairs but they are incompetent and have lost control of their little world domination game. That is a point that seems lost on almost everyone. Anonymous Steve

  23. "They replaced one despotic regime that was much easier to deal with then the new one will be"

    Of course it should be than the new one. I'm a terrible typist and do this all the time. Hooked on phonics worked for me. Anonymous Steve

  24. Congrats ur pic made the stratfor anon hack

  25. Came here from your War on Iran Phase I article which I enjoyed. I appreciate your view on this OWS matter, as I once held the same. However, I spoke to some OWS protesters myself to get the real scoop on why they are doing this. They have no demands because they do not recognize the current system as legitimate, not because they are "lazy." They have no leader because they believe in decision by majority consent and direct democracy. This article helped me more than anything to really appreciate what OWS stands for and why these folks are out there; please consider reading it if you would like to be more accurate about future commentary regarding OWS:

    That being said, I agree that it's totally ineffective. Their goal of "building a new society within the old" is laudable but also laughable. I'm afraid I see no scenario under which they achieve any meaningful success. Even if they were to start convincing mainstream America to join their cause - an extremely unlikely if not impossible milestone on its own - they would be immediately silenced. I'm certain the only reason they've even been allowed to protest at all is because the oligarchs were getting bored and wanted to have a good laugh at the idiots freezing their asses off in Zuccotti Park.

  26. I keep waiting for those PTSD vets to take over the Occupy scene and show them how it's done. Lord knows that camping out and blocking traffic does dick, but take out some traitor in congress and watch shit roll. They have the experience the weapons and the gonads to do it, but the kicker is that they are committing suicide instead.