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.