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Happy Birthday OWS Bat Signal

Courtesy of Marsha.  This one is pretty good.  It shows the Bat Signal team from Occupy Wall Street setting up the equipment and the reaction from on the bridge.

Sooo, good morning to you and happy birthday to me!



Glenn Greenwald has a pretty good piece up about how the Democratic party and its retainers are going to try to co-opt Occupy Wall Street.  And I know some Conflucians have expressed similar concerns.  I’ll get to those in a minute.  But I encourage you to go read Greenwald because I think he gets this movement in the same way that I do.  In particular, Greenwald is disturbed by the SEIU’s endorsement of Obama’s re-election the day before Occupy’s N17 Day of Action and explains why he thinks the SEIU will fail:

Having SEIU officials — fresh off endorsing the Obama re-election campaign — shape, fund, dictate and decree an anti-GOP, pro-Obama march is about as antithetical as one can imagine to what the Occupy movement has been. And pretending that the ongoing protests are grounded in the belief that the GOP is the party of the rich while the Democrats are the party of the working class is likely to fool just about nobody other than those fooled by that already. The strength and genius of OWS has been its steadfast refusal to (a) fall into the trap that ensnared the Tea Party of being exploited as a partisan tool and (b) integrate itself into the very political institutions which it’s scorning and protesting.

As I noted several weeks ago, WH-aligned groups such as the Center for American Progress have made explicitly clear that they are going to try to convert OWS into a vote-producing arm for the Obama 2012 campaign, and that’s what “Occupy Congress” is designed to achieve. I believed then and — having spent the last few weeks talking with many OWS protesters around the country — believe even more so now that these efforts will inevitably fail: those who have animated the Occupy movement are not motivated by partisan allegiance or an overarching desire to devote themselves to one of the two parties. In fact, one of the original Occupy groups — as opposed to partisan organizations swooping in to exploit it — has announced its own D.C. occupation to, in part, “demonstrate the failure of the Democrats and Republicans in Congress to represent the views of the majority of people.”

For a long time, I have believed, and still do believe, that the way to get the financiers to behave and for the corporations to begin treating their employees as humans and not resources, is to change the rulemakers in Washington.  But I also realize that you can’t sweep politicians out of office unless the electorate wants that to happen.  And at this point in time, there is still a significant portion of the electorate that has lost its way.  It is confused by ubiquitous messaging from their elected officials and those officials’ mouthpieces.  And the Democrats failed to interrupt this messaging when it had a chance.  When it had a filibuster proof majority in the senate and majorities in the House and a president of its own party, it should have moved immediately to reinstating the “fairness doctrine” and cementing net neutrality into law and doing a myriad other things that would ensure that a different message from the harsh, mean-spirited, “money is everything” one we get non-stop message we get all day long would be heard.  But the Democrats didn’t do this.  Whether it was through malice or stupidity, it managed to turn down its own volume in the public sphere.

We should have known when it did nothing to curtail the right wing messaging that we were on our own.  Without a voice, we have no way to move each other or politicians to do what we want.  We are easily dismissed as dirty fucking hippies and liberals and no one wants to hear from us.

Before we can change our political system, we have to change hearts to make sure that we don’t keep beating up on each other.  We have to expose the way the socio-economic system is set up right now.  And we have to have a movement of people who are willing to walk away from the current setup that isn’t working for them and set up something new that does.  It’s only by turning our backs on the current political climate and working hard to have our own social safety net and economic system that works for us in the long term that we will be free and it won’t matter who is in power in Washington.

Why should we care who is in power in Washington?  Neither party seems to care to exercise its power for our benefit.  I’m not terribly concerned anymore whether Democrats hold the White House or Republicans hold the House.  They’ve made it clear that no matter who we vote for, the result will be pretty much the same. The same people will be entrenched in power and the rest of us will watch them slowly erode away our standard of living and use excuses to steal the money we put away for our own retirements.  I’m not apathetic.  I’m incensed by that.  Everyday, I wonder how it is they have the unmitigated gall to ignore us.  But that’s the way it is right now and I’m no longer going to tilt at electoral windmills.  I made my mind up in 2008 to only vote for politicians who share my values and aren’t afraid to say it.  It looks like I’m not the only one because loudmouth Elizabeth Warren seems to be doing extraordinarily well these days.

Occupy Wall Street was started by people who didn’t like the way things are going.  Those of us who weren’t in the planning stages but don’t like the way things are going either don’t necessarily have to share the same socio political philosophy.  When movements catch on, maybe it doesn’t matter how each unit of that movement does its business as long as they share a common morality.  And that is Occupy Wall Street’s strength.  It is at its core a moral movement.  It is not a political one.  That moral movement is about the vast majority wanting to correct the vast disperity of wealth that has developed in this country, to correct economic and social injustice,to uphold the dignity of working people, to re-establish a social safety net and economic system that works for everyone and to redefine the meaning of success.  That last one is very important.  The morality of success matters.  Does success mean making money at all costs or does it mean achieving goals of a more personal nature?  Right now, our morality is dictated by the marketplace and the people who run it.  And this movement is about changing that morality.  The way we go about changing that morality and withdrawing our support from a system that fails us is what Occupy Wall Street has yet to decide.  So, calls for it to make demands are premature.

The 1% is going to try hard to disrupt that decision making process.  It is going to try hard to prevent the critical mass from forming (although I think they may be losing that battle).  And it is going to try hard to co-opt.  But as long as the movement focuses on determining how to translate its morality into creating a new economy that works for everyone, the political class can wait.  It is not our job to serve the politicians.  It is their job to serve us.

45 Responses

  1. Happy Birthday, riverdaughter!
    It was an auspicious day when you came into the world and we’re all glad that you’re here.

  2. So, how soon until Obama directs state and local officials to ban high power projectors for the sake of NATIONAL SECURITY?

  3. “So, calls for it to make demands are premature.”

    For many reasons, specific demands would be premature. This is about diagnosis and education — not prescriptions.

  4. happy birthday to YOU!!!!RD.
    Scorpios Rock!!!!!! 🙂

  5. Many happies RD, and thank you for everything you do on this blog.
    Have a great day, you deserve it.

  6. Happy Decanting Day, RD! May Our Ford bless you! :mrgreen:

    For those who don’t get the reference:


  7. Of course, the Agnew Holers think the Occupants are puppets of Obummer already, and never mind that the Occupants are opposing Obummer’s masters on Wall Street. 🙄

    Apparently, they think Obummer is an actual liberal, which means I guess they mistook Hillary for a conservative. 😆

    • I neglected to add, “mistook Hillary for a conservative, exactly as the Oborg did.”

    • As somebody said on some thread or other … going to Washington is like dealing with the department of customer relations. The OWSers got tired of dealing with the department of customer relations and decided to go to the boss’s office instead.

      Of course at some point one hopes people passing through the Occupy movement will aquire education/information/vision on what the problems are and what the pressure points are for torturing solutions out of a hostile system. At that point they will have to launch multipronged attacks against the boss’s office, the boss’s minions’ back offices, the revenue streams and the channels of communication, the department of customer relations in Washington, etc. etc. etc.

      ( By the way, “Washington” may not be entirely monolithic even as
      “Communism” was not monolithic during the Cold War. There may be cracks which can be wedged open with the right wedges, and parts of Washington may be turned against eachother in vicious internecine warfare. It may then be to our interest to support some parts against other parts if we can first get that warfare to break out.)

      • Everybody is advising OWS what to do! So they must be doing something right already. 😉

        I expect what they’re doing already IS the most useful thing that they can do at this time. Working within the system, trying to tap wedges into the cracks, as you suggest, has been tried already.

        OWS is educating people who have never looked this deep into these economic issues before. Get enough of them interested, then next election they will come help drive the wedges. Get enough strength voting for the right people (in both parties) and there may eventually be some good results (or at least wider cracks).

        • Well they are already getting major attention. And exciting envy, jealousy, and spite. So they will do what they will do.

          I hope they eventually move on to doing “this and this and this and this and this”. But they will move on to wherever it is they move onto regardless. And several posts ago Riverdaughter did give a possibly still-live address of their’s soliciting thoughts on what various working study groups might work on and/or study. Not to say they would apply
          any one or another offered thought. But the implication was that the readers of that address would give every offered thought whatever due consideration it appeared to deserve.

  8. […] is not lost. They can spend Thanksgiving shining the batsignal on the Washington Monument. That’ll show Congress! GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

  9. I don’t have anything particularly meaningful to add, but I just wanted to compliment you on the post and on your advocacy. For the last three years, it seems like there’s been complete radio silence among the powers that be about the crisis we’re in, its human costs, and any reckoning for the elites that got us here. Your site, along with folks like Corrente and Naked Capitalism, is a place I can go to where I can hear these things discussed and not feel quite so isolated about my concerns (and not feel like a nut or DFH for having them). If we ever get out of the hole we’ve dug ourselves into, maybe we’ll be able to look back and say that people like you started us on the long climb upward. Thank you!

    • Scott, even though there are more good blogs than time to read them all, I will risk offering another good blog which I have been reading for a while. It is called Global Guerillas. It used to focus on violent insurgencies, guerilla wars, etc. But lately it has been expanding its focus to include concepts of economic resiliency and survivalism. And it has been analysing OWS from the standpoint of being an “open source” rebellion and resistance movement under way.

  10. Fantastic! And Happy Birthday!
    As for being co-opted, I am less worried these days. OWS is clear in its objectives. With every passing day it’s bigger, more established, less vulnerable to being gobbled by any part of the establishment. They may become afraid to ride that tiger too!

    • A group of them Mic Checked Obama today. The Obots drowned them out chanting “Obama” before they could say more than the first line they wanted to deliver though. MSNBC is reporting this Mic Check and trying to turn it into yet another Obama fawning message.

  11. Happy Birthday!

  12. Happy, happy birthday- I hope it’s been great. Thanks for all you do.

  13. Happy Birthday, Riverdaughter!!! I hope you’re having a wonderful day!


  14. I’ve posted this thought before, but I think the main problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores the reality of how things need to get done, focusing instead on dreams of what should be done.

    OWS is great because it has shaped the debate about how politics should be run, and how both Democrats and Republicans have been failures. But the Democratic failures have not been in their beliefs – they’ve been in how they take action on those beliefs. The Democrats have been weak – so weak as to be completely ineffective – but they haven’t been blind to the same things that OWS is fighting for.

    If OWS starts to take too hard a stance against voting Democrat or Republican, then the Republicans will win, and the Republicans ARE against everything that OWS is for. OWS can verbally not support the Democrats and their failures, but when they vote they’ll still need to get out of the vote for the Democratic party. They can, and should, vote for Democrats with backbone that will actually take action for once, but there is a difference between “weak” and “against.” Weak can be changed. Against cannot. If Republicans win the elections, especially if it is because of those that support OWS not bothering to go to the polls for the Democrats, then OWS will lose in the end.

    • I don’t think OWS cares one way or the other how you vote.
      OWS is not a GOTV effort for Democrats.
      Somehow, we have it in our heads that movements like these serve the purposes of one party or the other when it is exactly the other way around. Maybe that’s why we aren’t getting what we want from politicians.

      You are behaving like you’re afraid of Republicans. I don’t like them any more than you do but I’m not afraid of them anymore.

  15. Happy birthday, Riverdaughter!

  16. Yes, another round of the Happy Birthday song for Riverdaughter, who singlehandedly has taken on a host of social and political blights and is helping us overcome them. A true, pure voice of reason.

  17. Happy Birthday RD,

    Hope you had/have a great day.

  18. Lambert Strether’s (Corrente!) recommendation for a future Occupation: Defense Technology.

    When you go to this link, don’t forget to check out the comments and leave a “yes” if you find any one – or 100 – helpful!


  19. As was written by me before, without a visible leader to lead the OWS movement, this movement might implode in the near future because of the squabblings and the quirks and idiosyncracies of the different groups comprising the movement.

    If you look at history, all successful protest movements from time immemorial has visible leaders in them, not commitees which decide by group concensus as these 2 examples show.The Indian Independence movement has Mahatma Gandhi as their leader and the Philippine Revolution movement has Corazon Aquino as the leader.

    And here is an excellent article on how protest movements end. A must read:



    • Have to disagree with you there. OWS is a moral movement and in a great many respects (because I’ve been doing my research) resembles the Jesus Movement of the 1st century. Not Christianity, the Jesus Movement. After he died, his followers took different paths. Some of them formed small communities, some were individuals healing and ministering to the poor on their own, some of them became missionaries to other countries. The thing they had in common was a ethos, a great story and a vision of a better world. Other than that, they were on their own and diversified. It took them a long time to organize themselves. And yet, they managed to pull it off.
      What OWS has is not *a* Gandhi. It has many Gandhis. What unites the disperate factions is a commitment to economic and social justice and a vision of a different world where citizens of the world are weaned from fossil fuels and the feudal lords that control them. As long as they resist co-option from the political parties, I think they’re going to do OK. Their tactics are accessible to anyone who ever had a grievance against what used to be seen as an insurmountable force.

      It’s been done once. It can be done again.

    • A leader can be assassinated. If Occupy became a big visible support movement following a visible charismatic leader, that leader would risk getting the Kennedy/King/Kennedy treatment so as to decapitate Occupy.

      Whereas if Occupy remains leaderless, or grows so huge as to become a movement with too many tens of thousands of microleaders for the 1% front government to assassinate them all, then Occupy remains effective as a consciousness-expanding information-seeking-spreading community.

      Various groups and/or persons can take information and vision developed through involvement or contact with Occupy and try to weaponise it for use on the battlefields of political and economic combat.

  20. In case any Occupiers read The Confluence to find good ideas and take them back to Occupy for consideration, here’s an idea in hopes Occupy might find it a good one.

    If Occupy were to become a long-haul movement with enough supporters and money to be able to buy or rent tiny little Occupy Outposts here and there, Occupy could set up Occupy Reading Rooms somewhat like the network of Christian Science Reading Rooms which cover America today. Every Occupy Reading Room could have a library based around the very most effective of the 5,000 Scary Books. (Any particular Occupy Reading Room which had enough money/supporters/staff/volunteers could perhaps even have all 5/000 of the 5,000 Scary Books). And every Occupy Outpost would
    have the autonomy needed to acquire its own books/papers/periodicals unique to the tastes and needs of that Occupy Outpost’s regionalocal tastes and needs/wants/desires.

    • That might be a good solution for some cities and communities, like Chicago where there really isn’t a good free public space for them to occupy. It gives seekers a place to go.
      But in a way, I like the transient nature of OWS. You never know where it’s going to pop up or what quirky non-violent action it’s going to pull to make its point. It’s unpredictable. That’s what makes it so exciting.

      • Maybe they could do both where/when appropriate. Fixed resource centers where appropriate and transient popups without warning all over the place. Anyway, the ideas are all offered here and if/as TC gets more read by members of the OWS community, all ideas will be considered for discard or possible application.

  21. Oooo! Oooo! Here is another good blog by a good blogger who is also referrencing OWS from time to time. I will copy a cutpaste so TC readers can decide if they think he has caught a deep insight about them.
    “Finally, via this post on Global Guerrillas, UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walks to her car after the pepper spray attack by campus police. The crowd just stares at her in complete silence, and the effect is powerful and spooky. As Anne mentioned last week, the Occupy movement is a new tribe, something that gives meaning to the lives of its members. What we see in the video is the tribe’s remarkable self-discipline. This makes them less scary to ordinary people, and more scary to ruling institutions.”

  22. I just found a very interesting post by John Robb of Global Guerillas.
    It is called Beyond Zuccotti. http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2011/11/occupy-note-112311-beyond-zucotti-and-onto-the-taz.html
    He describes how the temporary self-maintainance of the Zuccotti camp-in demonstrated that it is possible to establish what anarchist poet Hakim Bey long ago called Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZs). Interesting to have Hakim Bey brought up. Perhaps if some of the OWSers read this post, they might want to decide whether they want to call some of their temporary camps TAZs in certain situations.
    If so, perhaps they might want to adopt the alternate name of TAZmaniacs and Warner Brothers’s Tasmanian Devil can be their tongue-in-cheek symbol. Or maybe not. But the post is worthwhile regardless.

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