It was all I could do to not make an announcement about Occupy Wall Street after the performance of Desh at Sadlers Wells. I wanted to stand on a chair in the crowded bar and be an announcing angel, manic and exhausted, overworked and chubby but so excited. It was all I could do. Then again at this pub, Harlequinn, then at drop-off at my son's school, then finally while waiting for hot yoga I could contain myself no longer. I started in on someone.
Have you heard about this thing Occupy Wall Street? I think it is just the biggest, best thing. Around 2000 people in a park in New York north of Wall Street, gathered spontaneously because the overwhelming ills of this planet demand it, gathering because the economy is stagnant and the earth needs our care, because people are suffering. They are there for all of us. They call themselves the 99 percent, and so they are. A protest that is about what you want to protest. People are there because food is not clean, because they can't stand the death penalty, because too much of the wealth is concentrated in the hands of too few who do not pay enough tax, they are there because they hate war and love freedom. They are there because they are idealists willing to act. Our Jedi are gathering in urban centers across America. Sign up now!
They marched on the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday night and 700 were arrested. There was almost no camera feed for much of it as the camera operators kept getting arrested. The next person would pick up the camera and they would get arrested. They are determined. Yet much of what happened was completely unfilmed and not followed by the media. All these 24 hour news stations and this media blackout is striking. Bits and pieces are coming through here and there but it doesn't seem to me that anyone is telling the whole story I see from their websites and tweets and clips on youtube. Did you know they have no permit for a sound system so when someone speaks, the people standing near to her say it back loudly so all can here? Have you seen it in action on YouTube? (The Michael Moore clip)
I think what is going on is the highest and best demonstration of the capacity of humans that we have seen lo this long hard decade. These guys are you and me. This is forming now. This is starting. OWS has their own community at that park, and they are using passion and collective wisdom to make the world a better place, a place that is better for the 99. That includes all of us. It is not a fast process, but it is a thrillingly new way for humans to come to decisions that rely on proximity and requires the speaker to convey the essence of her ideas in succinct phrases.
Right now the Occupiers are in America and Ireland, and an action in London is planned. I want to go so bad! I haven't wanted anything so much in such a long time, I want it more than the play. I am itching for this. This is my dream coming true. These are the Bernese Mountain Dogs, the best spirit of animals and of the Earth, pinning down our banks, corporations, governments and religions and staying patiently while they suffer through necessary change.
The Wall Street Occupiers in considering their demands are pretty domestic in their considerations rather than international but I think the kind of lasting fairness and openness that they ultimately want to bring to the economy would have to be international in scope. No one country can chase multinational corporations and stamp out fundamental unfairness in banks. One could see that perhaps the only realistic regulation is multinational. But I am getting ahead of the game here.
It appears that as of yesterday many of the Wall Street Occupiers were really taking their job - to step back and imagine a better world - very seriously. I can't tell you how much I love this.
They deserve our help. If you are reading this blog, I am sorry to use a dirty word but you are an intellectual. You have the concerns in your heart about this world. More than that, if you got your education at a publically funded university, or you teach there, I think you owe your fellow citizens. I went to see the Vice Chancellor give his annual speech this weekend and he said something that made me gasp. He said that universities benefit society and that society, through the state, should therefore fund the universities. My mind flashed to the riots, to the underclass. I was very hard-pressed to think of a benefit that the rioters got out of the universities. But I can think of a few benefits they could provide to the rioters. As well as a few benefits for their own children.
Every academic, economist, ethicist, climate change scientist, renewable energy expert, sustainable agriculture maven could easily support their local occupation by making themselves available. OWS has a beautifully broad goal. Our institutions are flawed and corrupt. Every intellectual should be assisting OWS (that expensive education you got that purportedly benefits society would be useful here, thankyouverymuch). I think these guys are the Civil Rights Movement, they are the heroes, they are the chance for our generation to redeem themselves. These guys are like Dr. Who and Superman, they are like the early church, I feel in their beautiful philosophies (asking us to first go and occupy our own hearts as the most important thing to do to get involved). I want to help. You had me at Occupy.
OWS is radically accepting of diversity and all want the world to be better for humans. It is hard not to want to get behind this. It is an opportunity to help our children in much more important ways than late night Mandarin sessions and home-grown kale ever will. This is it. Hey, look over here. THIS is the change we were looking for. Not that other change that was just pretend change. And certainly not the other pretend change that made fun of the first pretend change in rural locations with firearms.
Nothing personal against Obama. Thank god he was steering the ship the last few years. But that ship - the government of the United States - it's the ship that is the problem. If we don't change Washington, every administration will be either Democrat or Republican, shall be beholden to bankers and corporate interests, shall first and foremost be about deploying money. That is what it will be about, every single administration. That is where the system is broken, both in capitalism and in democracy, in the middlemen.
Right now I think OWS could benefit from the brightest minds of our generation to help them think things through and be living sources of information. OWS as of yesterday was very borderline about retaining democracy and capitalism. A dismantling of the current system in favor of anarchy is a popular view. They may come out that way. (Although in the short-term they have a series of simple, easily-obtainable legislative and executive actions listed in their demands). I hope they don't leave off democracy and capitalism, in whatever sort of vision or nonvision of the state and of the economy that comes out of this project. (It would instantly radicalize OWS and there is so much good to be done the 99 could easily support) Plus I honestly think that democracy and capitalism are the best ways to distribute power and goods among people. Well, they are the worst systems, except for all the other systems. The problem is that democracy and capitalism have too many middlemen. And now the middlemen take all the power in democracy and all the money in capitalism. We don't need the middlemen. We don't need political parties of any description. Or we need to dissolve them all and start new ones. Or we need everyone to just stop giving money to political parties. One of the most beautiful phrases, the phrase I think they will teach my descendants, appeared in their inaugural document. No true democracy is available when the process is decided by economic power. I think they're right. I think it's the whole problem. It's why I got a C on my corporations final when I wrote an impassioned essay about corporations as fictional entities and not true humans should play no part whatsoever in the democratic process, including election financing. Hah! I was right. I always thought I was right and that grade bummed me out. History tends to vindicate my oddest moments. But you know, of course that viewpoint would be scorned in a corporations class. In 2010 I considered a run for Congress in my hometown district in Western New York State. I contacted the Democrats who were welcoming but told me that I had to raise a million dollars, I had to spend almost all of my time fundraising and I would not have any power in my first couple years in the house to actually do anything. They also told me redistricting could rob me of my seat at any time. The powerful culture of politics descended and I didn't like it. I was encouraged to consider myself a supplicant to the rich, to lobby groups and special interests. I was encouraged to consider myself powerless before the party. I declined to run. That culture is not healthy. Imagine elections where people spoke simply from the heart, where "getting someone elected" is not a billion dollar exercise. Democracy needs to be practiced in communities with hearts and minds, not with checkbooks and incestuous lobbying firms. Dial down the capitalism. No true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. Let's put a couple videos on YouTube and call it a day.
And as far as capitalism's middlemen. We don't need banks, we should use cooperatives and nonprofits to store our money, we wouldn't even have to wait for a law to be passed, we have the power to put these guys out of business. Although if a law could be passed, I think it should be to simply tax these guys out of existence. As Michael Moore says, "How much? Not enough." Society does not benefit from derivative trades, synthetic financial products, tracker funds, swaps and excessive monetization as we saw in the sub-prime lending market. All those areas exist only so that banks get richer, that brokers get their fees. And the money attracts the best and the brightest, some of the most brilliant people I know are tax lawyers, bankers. They got their money. And they are nice people who were playing by the rules as they were understood at the time and there is no need to villify them for it. Even the 1 percent should not be the enemy of OWS. Warren Buffet stepped up. People do. I think no one feels rich. There is a consumerist thing where we constantly crave more and easily see just what we don't have, and we don't enjoy the things that we have today. That is a poison of capitalism it would be nice to abate. The guy with the yacht literally feels a little pinched when he sees a guy with a bigger yacht. It's crazy. But I do it too.
Tax these middlemen, the unnecessary baroque flourish (cancerous tumor) that appeared on capitalism in these 20 years. Replace them with the microloan model that has been used so successfully in Africa and India, direct investment, no middlemen. And slowly our best and brightest will either go to where the money is - whether we create incentives to work on renewable energy, a sustainable planet -- or possibly they will follow their hearts, and with the newfound strength of their convictions find a life's work that shrinks capitalism into its proper proportion in our hearts and our lives. Money is just one aspect of our identity. First we must occupy our own hearts.