I am a member of the Steering Committee of the World Can't Wait, an organization formed in 2005 in an effort to mobilize a mass movement of people to give voice and material expression to THE PEOPLE as a political force in their own right, independent of the two major parties and the electoral process. In doing so, we have sought to radically alter the political atmosphere and direction of society that has been so reactionary in nature and trajectory. As an example of this political trend, when WCW broached the term fascism in its original 2005 call to action as a descriptor of the direction of things, it provoked great controversy and significant levels of disbelief. Now the fascist whiff is so strong in the air that using the term does not raise people's hackles as it once did but more nods in reluctant and concerned agreement.
The underlying reasons for this overall abhorrent direction of political affairs over the last three plus decades is something that I analyze in depth in Globalization and the Demolition of Society. Put most concisely, neoliberal policies (aka free market fundamentalism) and the accompanying philosophy of Ayn Rand-style individualism have led to yawning gaps between the plutocracy and the rest of us, between the rich countries and the poor nations, growing insecurity spreading like the concentric circles of waves in a lake after a large object has dropped into the water, multiple and deepening disasters on the global, regional, local, and personal level, and the aggressive rejection of the meaning of objective reality that emanates most overtly from the Republican Party - which hasn't met a made up fact that it doesn't fall in love with - but that is also expressed in the form of the Democrats saying that they are upholding the rule of law while they are relentlessly sabotaging it, with both parties operating on the presumption that what matters is what they claim, not what is actually happening. "Who you gonna believe? Us or your lying eyes?" is their operating credo and something that their dominance and ownership over the means of opinion-making (the media) gives them license to do.
As of 2011 WCW was not successful in mobilizing a mass movement of millions. But the course of political affairs is not easily predicted; the appearance of a movement cannot be forecast in either its exact form or its precise timing when it is a genuinely mass movement and not some astro-turf phenomenon like the Koch Brothers' Tea Parties (Remember them? Where have they gone? I so miss those Revolutionary War costumes!). While we did not know when this popular insurgency would happen precisely or how it would happen exactly, the Occupy Movement represents the emergence of a mass movement that has the potential of being a realization of what WCW was struggling for. That is, a mass movement that radically alters the political atmosphere and balance of political forces. The Occupy Movement has already done this to a significant degree.
Despite the momentousness of what the Occupy Movement has already done and what it is already, there continue to be people who fail to recognize what the Occupy Movement is and who continue to insist that it is either going to go away (fold up its tents, in this case, literally) or that it has had no effect because it still hasn't formulated specific demands, isn't lobbying public officials, and isn't getting itself involved in electoral campaigns. This criticism of the Occupy Movement is the equivalent of complaining that a group of rapidly swimming dolphins still hasn't boarded a boat and begun to raise a sail on this boat in order to travel across the water. "When are they going to do what we recognize as traveling across the water? Why do they insist on wasting their time cavorting about in the water?" (One of the not so subtly expressed sentiments by the Occupy Movement's detractors is their jealousy for its unrepressed character. "Come on, be uptight like the rest of us! Who are you to be so carefree and having so much fun while your very presence stands as a repudiation of what we are?")
What these naysayers don't get on a fundamental level is that the Occupy Movement exists because a critical mass of people have recognized that the existing system and systems' processes are worse than useless; they are symptoms of and part of the problem. The Occupy Movement isn't lobbying the system and the system's representatives because the system itself stands against the values that the Occupy Movement stands for: human lives over profits, the preciousness of the environment and the non-personhood of corporations, the importance of community and mutuality rather than cut-throat individualism and greed. The system trumpets the big winners of the 1%'s, the billionaires, and wants everyone to be like them, even as the rest of the world realizes, as one sign held up at OWS said (apparently inspired by Gandhi): "There is enough for everyone's needs, but not enough for everyone's greed."
How do you have a sensible conversation between such mutually exclusive value systems? How and in what way could someone who believes in co-operation and the collective good convince someone to change their ways whose way of determining victory is by counting how much money he or she has and how much more privileged their lives are than the rest of the people who they regard as losers? How can these two people get together and agree on common ground, when one of the parties to this action -- the 1%'ers - doesn't believe that such as thing as common ground even exists? It is, in fact, a basic premise of their worldview that common ground, the public good, and the public interest, are non-existent fictions!
This is evident, for example, in this view of liberty put forth by Frederick Hayek, neoliberalism's godfather, in his 1960 book The Constitution of Liberty:
"The question of how many courses of action are open to a person is, of course, very important. But it is a different question from that of how far in acting he can follow his own plans and intentions, to what extent the pattern of his conduct is of his own design, directed toward ends for which he has been persistently striving rather than toward necessities created by others in order to make him do what they want. Whether he is free or not does not depend on the range of choice but on whether he can expect to shape his course of action in accordance with his present intentions, or whether somebody else has power so to manipulate the conditions as to make him act according to that person's will rather than his own." [Emphasis added.]
As I go on in the book to discuss Hayek's position:
"By equating liberty with lack of coercion over the individual, by making a principle of individual desires and elevating individual desires over those of the group, Hayek advances a plausible but deeply flawed argument.
"Here is Hayek's pitch: if an individual's view differs from the views of others, then that individual is right to pursue his or her own plans. It doesn't matter, evidently, what is actually in that individual's best interests, because he or she could be wrong about what is best, including for him--or herself, and it doesn't matter what is best for the larger community of which this individual is a part. What matters is that the individual's view differs from what someone else wants him or her to do. As Ronald Reagan put it in 1964: 'Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business.'" (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, pp. 34-35)
This is a clash that is going to end with one or the other side's values prevailing. These two value systems cannot continue to co-exist when the subordinated one has finally begun to awake, is on the move, and is gathering strength and active adherents. As a sign I like from Occupy LA says (citing George Carlin's quote), "It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe in it."
The Occupy Movement has seen the future and they aren't going to get stuffed back into the bottle so easily. If you've got a bottle that you are constantly shaking up and down, thus producing more and more carbonation, trying to put a cover on such a bottle is a losing proposition. The shaking of that bottle is the equivalent of the workings of capitalism and its particular expression in neoliberal policies that are based upon the systematic deprivation of the vast majority of the people, as a means of further enriching and empowering the 1%. What future do neoliberal policies offer the people? How many more pizza godfathers can the market accommodate? We'd have to start selling pizzas to other planetary denizens of other solar systems for there to be markets enough for more pizza billionaires to emerge. And those pizza godfathers can then grope the females of those other planets and deny that they have ever done anything inappropriate to any beings, Earthlings or otherwise.
What jobs are the college graduates with heavy debt going to find and be able to liquidate their debt through? How many wars can be sustained and how many vets with PTSD can this country tolerate before the Occupation Movement overflows with vets who have seen the truth? As one vet said at an OWS action, I've been in many occupations and this is the first occupation that I can believe in!
Which brings me to the role of the government and its efforts to quell the uprising. I tell my students the following hypothetical as a way of explaining what a government is. If a natural disaster occurred outside our classroom and we were stuck in this classroom for two weeks because it wasn't safe to go outside, and someone managed to reach us with supplies enough to last us all those two weeks, if I was to declare because I have a Ph.D. and none of the rest of you do, that I was going to reserve 50% of those supplies for myself, then what would you all do to me? How could I possibly maintain that manifestly unfair division of the resources? The only way I could do it is if recruited a few of the strongest guys in the room to be my bodyguards and in return for their protection, I gave them a bigger piece of the pie.