A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
I’m old enough to remember when Monty Python swept the neighbourhood. It was too funny! You just had to talk about it, and it kept getting better and better. That’s the way I feel about the Occupy Wall Street movement which has rapidly turned into Occupy Whatever! I simply can’t stop talking about it. Every time it comes up on the panel, some new absurdity raises its lovely head and I’m caught between laughing my haunch off and saying to anybody who’ll listen. “Did you see that?”
First of all, let me get serious and clarify. I’m not opposed to people exercising their democratic right to assemble and protest. Knock yourself out! Also, I do believe there is an unholy bond between large corporations and government that needs to be broken. Okay! I just think there’s a lot of jawboning going on when the same amount of energy could be put to good use. If it’s any consolation, when the Tea Party starts yipping I feel the same way – more about that later. The problem is, to skewer Marshall McLuhan, the movement has become the message. It seems the physical act of standing, sitting or lying around in a park is of paramount importance here. The commitment to change is limited to physically being there. It’s like finding a charity or social cause on Facebook and tapping the “like” icon: it’s a nice gesture, but it doesn’t do any good. In fact, every inane remark or other bit of nonsense, no matter how small, that comes out of the Occupy movement has the cumulative effect of downgrading what’s really important. The genuine need for change and all the hard work that that entails has been hijacked by a dog and pony show that closely resembles America’s Got Whiners and it’s playing on Comedy Central.
For example, recently, conservative YouTubers (and quite a few others) were rolling on the floor laughing at a viral video from Occupy Atlanta. You can see it here. It’s long and full of boring, but if you check it out for just the first minute you can get the idea. It shows just how directionless and ineffectual the Occupy Whatever! movement really is.
Notice the repeat bleating. Didn’t any of these people read Animal Farm in high school? Plus the incredulous look on Congressman Lewis’ face is priceless. I’m not going to put thoughts in the guy’s head, but I don’t think he can believe what he’s seeing. If you’re tough enough to hang in there to the end the best part is the guy with the microphone showing his commitment to nobody’s democracy but his own and shouting down the opposition. I am certain that this is not representative of the entire movement. However, if stuff like this is being passed off as a serious attempt to change society, all I can do is shake my head – words fail me. And, the scary part is this is the public face of the movement, I’m not creative enough to imagine what goes on when the Smart phones are shut off.
In the same vein, here are some recent quotes:
“As long as these big corporations have a good crony capitalist in the White House, they can rely on DC to bail them out until the whole system goes bankrupt, which, I am afraid, is not very far off.”
“At this point, I don’t see any difference between George Bush and Obama. The middle class is a lot worse that when Obama was elected.”
“I have children and grandchildren, and I don’t want them to grow up in this world. I want the world to change. It can be done.”
“I’m just saying this feels an awful lot like the 60s or 70s when I was a kid. I mean, you have the same feeling out here that government and nation have parted paths, and the people will bring the government back to the nation.”
“We got sold out! Banks got bailed out!”
“You leave your country and you expect things to be better in America, a step or two up from what you left back home. And then there’s this rude awakening: America is just not what it used to be.”
“Republicans, Democrats and independents are stepping up and demanding we put our fiscal house in order. I think the overriding message after years of borrowing, spending and bailouts is enough is enough.”
Time for a shock: these come from a BBC quiz, and they’re salted with quotes from the Tea Party. But could you tell the difference? It’s difficult if you’re not careful, because they sound so similar in tone. Yet, I doubt very much if Tea Partiers would be welcomed with open arms by the folks who say they represent the 99%. In fact, I think they`d be met with scorn. By the way, you can take the quiz here, if you like.
It’s not one philosophy or one action or one quote that has turned the Occupy Whatever! movement into a joke for me. It’s the incredible waste of organizational skills, time, money and energy. The people who are part of the Occupy Wall Street movement have shown they can get things done. They`ve shown remarkable organizational skills and a strong commitment to effect change. If they were to turn that energy into just one bank boycott or one corporate embargo, the real effects would be monumental. Unfortunately, I don`t think they realize that democratic change is a long and arduous process; it`s not a montage from an action movie. It takes long hours and hard work, and while I recognize the need for speed to find a way out of this mess, I’m convinced it doesn’t involve sitting around some park all day. However, I`ll take what I`m given and enjoy the grins — while I got èm.