Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum wrote on October 18, 2011 in "What the Occupy protests tell us about the limits of democracy:"
"[The worldwide protests, OWS and prior anti-globalization protests] are similar in their lack of focus, in their inchoate nature, and above all in their refusal to engage with existing democratic institutions. In New York, marchers chanted, 'This is what democracy looks like,' but actually, this isn't what democracy looks like. This is what freedom of speech looks like. Democracy looks a lot more boring. Democracy requires institutions, elections, political parties, rules, laws, a judiciary and many unglamorous, time-consuming activities, none of which are nearly as much fun as camping out in front of St. Paul's Cathedral or chanting slogans on the Rue Saint-Martin in Paris."
She goes on to admit,
however, that in one sense the protesters have a point in that the problems
exceed the capacity of national governments to cope with them: national
governments "cannot command the allegiance of a billion-dollar global hedge
fund, with its headquarters in a tax haven and its employees scattered around
OWS by Creative Commons
She ends her article with these two paragraphs: "Although I still believe in globalization's economic and spiritual benefits -- along with open borders, freedom of movement and free trade -- globalization has clearly begun to undermine the legitimacy of Western democracies.
"'Global' activists, if they are not careful, will accelerate that decline. Protesters in London shout, 'We need to have a process!' Well, they already have a process: It's called the British political system. And if they don't figure out how to use it, they'll simply weaken it further."
Applebaum has it right when she complains that globalization is undermining the "legitimacy of Western democracies." The Occupation Movement is right to refuse to engage the political process in the manner that politicians and pundits are accustomed to and can understand. The political process is itself a product of globalization: neoliberal policies are the political expression of globalization. Neoliberal policies exist to promote globalization. And while I haven't the slightest clue what Applebaum means by the "spiritual benefits" of globalization, the protesters know all too well the material and "spiritual benefits" of globalization: yawning gaps between the rich and the rest, booty for the rich, impoverishment and thwarted opportunities for the rest, environmental degradation and disasters on the individual, social, and global levels.
This is reflected in the people in their millions worldwide now
coming to see clearly the tragedy and farce of the existing political
institutions and in the immense popularity of the OWS movement in the U.S. (a 73% favorability rating among New Yorkers). How many issues can command that kind of unanimity?
I was listening to NPR yesterday while driving home from work and the reporters led off with accounts of Obama's bus tour of North Carolina and then followed up with talk about the "excitement" surrounding the GOP presidential debates and the fight between Obama and the Republicans over their differing versions of job bills.
As I'm listening to this prattle I'm thinking to myself: "Thank god for the Occupation Movement. Thank god there are finally large numbers of people in the streets who are showing in unmistakable forms that they see that politics as usual are a farce and a tragedy!" Neither the Democrats nor, certainly, the Republicans, have answers to the plight that the people face. They are part of the problem, not part of a solution. John McCain tells us that the Democrats think they can grow jobs with government spending and that the GOP believes that the way to grow jobs is through growing business with more tax cuts and more deregulation. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Yes, prattle on you increasingly irrelevant fools.The solutions do not lie in following your charade of "democratic institutions" at work. The institutions that are "the democratic process" are working quite nicely for the people who have the real power of the dollar or the pound but are no longer exerting the ideological sway over the people that they used to. Obama's "Hope and Change" led by a black man gambit has worn out its welcome and been revealed for what it was all along: a fraud. And that is all to the good.