I am unsure of what to make of the ‘occupy somewhere’ movements. As has been said many times in many different places, the demands of the protesters are almost as numerous as the protesters themselves. There is no real alternative vision of society being presented. At least not one that is workable. Some have written of its egalitarian and anarchic roots. Yet to organize a society with massive numbers of individuals being provided essential services by large public and private organizations on the basis of consensual anarchy is nonsensical. I understand the frustration with high unemployment. I am old enough to have experienced it in the past. It is beyond my level of expertise to decide whether more government spending and higher taxes or less of both would help the most vulnerable at this point . (I have my suspicions that government spending is much more inefficient than spending by individuals or corporations for their own particular reasons.) There is room for fundamental disagreement on which approach to take. Politicians and protesters need to understand this.
There is tremendous emotional satisfaction for those involved I would think. They are ‘doing something’. They get to feel like they are sticking it to those who are responsible for their frustrations. I do not know that they are. What a visual, as the police show up in their riot gear. How noble and peaceful the protesters seem in contrast. (It is interesting that the authorities are getting better at denying that experience by maintaining a low profile.) It is of course a charade. And in this country the sympathies of the larger part of the public lie with the men and women in the uniform in any case.
The claims to represent the majority made by the protesters are common in this kind of activity but entirely mistaken. Even they must know it. Unless they are true believers who ‘know’ that they have the answer to the economic, political and social issues facing us today. So they represent us because they know what is best for us, even if we don’t. Danger there.
Lastly, equality is such an attractive ideal. We all know political and legal equality are enshrined in our constitution. Material equality however, as history has taught us, is a more difficult exercise. There are open societies that are less stratified than ours, but there are none that promise what many in the protests seem to want and that is a great levelling. Appeals to attack the lucky and the successful are ultimately self defeating as open societies need the opportunity for success to be there as much as the actual successful person.
It is hard to say what will happen as the change the protesters want does not come, because it won’t. Partly because even they don’t agree on what kind of changes they want, partly because it is impossible to implement most of what they do want, and partly because the people do not want it. What happens then, especially if the economic situation worsens, is a good question. Perhaps the relative civility will start to unravel. On both sides.