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There are some problems:

Where is their manifesto?
Are there no demands?
Who is in charge of this peaceful movement? Where is Mandella? Ghandi?

There are no short answers.

Is there anything here held in common with similar protests elsewhere in the world?

We think there is; though their targets may differ greatly, each was enabled by the Internet and its many denizens who specialize in human-to-human contacts.

The timing coincidences among protests and revolts is curious. Protests in Syria, Cairo, Britain, OWS in several cities, Wisconsin, and Australia, are so widely different that they confirm the influence of the Internet and the ubiquitous communication it enables. Issues of ideology, fairness, justice, politics, religion, economics and empire all appear on the table somewhere. Whichever issues are of greatest local concern are enabled by the Internet.

So far, protests in the West have been essentially nonviolent. In looking at the OWS movement, an agenda is there, but it is muted. Two of the OWS core organizers, Katie Davison and Amin Husain stated it simply: "A government accountable to the people, freed from corporate influence." That is the goal. Others have their pet goals, but are captured indirectly by Katie and Amin. They include, paraphrased:

  • Regain a decent society that cares about all its people.
  • Stop poisoning the environment.
  • Reinstall the Glass-Steagall Act that would have prevented the very behavior of the bankers who led us into the opaque financial instruments.
  • Proportion tax rates in fairness to maximize benefits for all over the long term. (Is it fair when millionaires are taxed at rates lower than their personal secretaries?)

Obama had his say: “I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel.” He is right on, unusual for a president of recent history.

Whatever the detail, it seems that a turning point in history has begun. Jerome E. Roos captures the essence:

    "2011 marks the end of the end of history."

    "When the system forces ordinary people to become revolutionaries, you know you’re no longer at the End of History. You’re at the very edge of it."

    The Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions. The Arab Spring. The looming Greek default. The increasingly likely breakup of the eurozone. The second coming of the global financial crisis. The return with a vengeance of the systemic critique of capitalism. The resounding worldwide call for real democracy. The dramatic rallies against austerity, inequality and neoliberalism in Spain, Greece, Chile and Israel. The riots in Athens, London and Rome. The occupation of Wall Street and the spreading of the movement throughout the US. The mass protests by millions of people in 1,000 cities and 80 countries on October 15. Even the death of Muammar Gaddafi.

    All of it points in the direction of a simple but unmistakable truth: 2011 marks the End of the End of History. Beyond the flat horizon of liberal democracy and global capitalism, the events of this year have not only opened up a whole new chapter in the unfolding saga of mankind, but they have laid the very foundation for an endless procession of chapters beyond that. What is being shattered is not so much the democratic capitalist system as such, but rather the Utopian belief that this system is the only way to organize social life in the eternal pursuit of freedom, equality and happiness.

    Almost twenty years ago, following the total collapse of the Soviet Union and the final discrediting of state communism, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama conjectured that “we may be witnessing … not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Two decades after the publication of The End of History and the Last Man, Fukuyama’s thesis seems more shaky than ever before.

    This is not to repeat the endless Leftist cliché that neoliberalism is dead — as Slavoj Žižek pointed out, the ideology already died two deaths, first as tragedy following the 9/11 terror attacks, and then as farce following the global financial collapse of 2008 — but rather to point out that neoliberalism as such has finally been revealed for what it always already was: a zombie ideology wrapped around the face of humanity, just like Matt Taibbi’s famous vampire squid, “relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Roos has it exactly right. Our national and world financial systems have been gradually warped in favor of the one percent, wherever they live, but those in the West did the rigging.

Given these prescient and peaceful protests, why has the OWS movement not caught on? It seems from our vantage point that the typical and true middle-class Americans are not badly off with respect to the rest of the world. Yes, for a decade or more, they have lost in real wages, net worth and liberty. But those losses came so gradually month-to-month, that none seemed to notice or care if they did. Well a few noticed and cared enough to start Occupy Wall Street. Whether conscious or not, by selecting Wall Street, they defined their target. The OWS website provides links to documents that they stand for:

OWS has another, perhaps deeper, problem: Its own self. Its General Assembly is a laudable approach to democracy. Everyone can have a voice and everyone is given a voice. Those in the movement report on the excitement their governance creates. Exhilaration and sense of belonging bind all together. Outsiders can hardly envision the feeling, nor can they have any say unless they join. For the insiders, it is almost religious, even intoxicating. Given the sheer magnitude and the very human propensity to define oneself differently from one's neighbors, How can the movement move forward coherent in purpose and direction? We hope they can, for the goal is laudable--if it is not already too late.

Given all the foregoing, our take is simple:

  • The movement will not go away.
  • At the same time time, if it stays as it is it may soon be marginalized.

The solution is education. The Green movement is instructive. It required decades to reach world awareness. OWS may face an equivalent future, even if the educational message becomes ubiquitous. The same people are in opposition.

What Amin has to say to Mondoweiss: “I felt it was a moment for something to shift. It’s time to have people empowered to imagine, what does it mean to live in a beautiful country like the United States of America? This is a movement not about speaking to people, but about hearing. It’s not for the people. It’s with the people. It’s a new way of thinking.”

Katie Davison chimes in on You Tube. From “I feel like this is definitely something that I’ve been working towards my whole life and now I have the opportunity to be part of something that could change the world for the better, and I am so excited.”


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