Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why Occupy Wall Street does not Represent You

Very few topics I’ve covered have generated as much anger as my previous post regarding OWS. Being politically correct is not in my language and I have enough friends so as to not lose sleep over who’s panties get all bunched up. If someone has a different opinion, you’re more than entitled to it. In fact, if you present it in an adult manner, without insulting and in a way it makes some sense I might even publish that different opinion in my blog.
That’s where the signs of trouble start with OWS. I can´t remember the last time I’ve got so many angry email, comments and insults. Even when talking about the Tea Party movement and allowing some people to be more disrespectful towards the movement than I should have I didn’t get that type of hate email and messages. That’s a sign of maturity, understanding and simply knowing better. When all you can do is insult then you either lack the maturity to explain yourself properly or your movement just lacks any content worthy of being explained.
One of the things that apparently angers OWS people the most was my comparison to our version of it, the “piqueteros” and either similar groups of social groups that somehow “evolved” from the piquetero movement.

What is a piquetero?
Seems every member has his or her own definition of what OWS really is.  There’s apparently as many definitions as people involved, another sign of trouble in my opinion. What apparently most of the would agree on is that they are people fed up with the system/government and are most of all fed up of Wall Street, bankers and other global corporations owned by evil greedy men that are basically destroying our planet and enslaving hard working people around the world. So far so good, and so far I’m feeling represented myself. The piqueteros started in somewhat similar way, keeping in mind the clear differences between what is considered a poor person in USA and what´s poor by South American standards. Before becoming political, piqueteros where simply people from all walks of life, mostly poor, that were just fed up of being hungry, unemployed or exploited by both the government and politicians. Eventually the piqueteros became the strong arm of the government itself, but the origins weren’t different form the ones of the OWS movement.

Occupy and Okupas
I sometimes wonder, do people really know what they are joining before saying they support this or that movement? During hard times like these its easy to be misled. You find a group of people that say they are the 99%, that they are fed up, they don’t want to be exploited by big corporations any more, “What the heck, I feel the same way!”  and you finally feel represented.
But what is “Occupy”, where does it come from? It comes from another grassroot movement, but one that may not represent you as much as you think. “Occupy” comes from the “Okupa Movement”, which is slang for “ocupa “, purposefully replacing the c for K as if making reference to their lack or dislike towards proper education and literature, maybe some rebellious spirit and lack of maturity in there as well, something the young Spaniards are known for these days. The “Okupa” movement refers specifically to occupying land, public or privately owned, that has either been abandoned or in the majority of cases, is simply unoccupied. This social problem was already common in South America but it started as a movement in Barcelona with young people living on welfare and not wanting to live with their parents any more. The movement became popular all across Europe and it went well with the idea of working very little or nothing at all, traveling across Europe collecting gov. checks and living in occupied property. The Okupa philosophy is that if a property isn’t occupied, they have a right to occupy it themselves. Sometimes the Okupas have a social twist, some form vegetarian kitchens, do arts and crafts and have a certain hippie air about them. The okupas with more political aspirations go for establishing self-managed cultural or social centers and  growing gardens.
This sort of activities have gained them social acceptance to some level but the root problem with Okupas is significant. For one it completely ignores the right to private property, to manage or inhabit it in whatever way you like. For another it indulges a lifestyle of no responsibility and lack of productivity. During one of my trips to Spain I found what I consider to be a good example of the okupa movement and the core problem of Europe: A 30 year old English skater that was skateboarding in one of the Museums of Barcelona. Dirty, unemployed, and with no intention of finding a job any time soon, he had been living off welfare for several years. I found it to be an interesting metaphor how this person showed no respect, nor any intention to visit the museum he was “playing in”, but had no contempt in damaging the structure he was using for skateboarding.

We’ve seen this kind of social “okupa” movement in Argentina after the 2001. We already had people settling and living in land they didn’t own, forming shanty towns, but after 2001 we saw it grow not only as a matter of occupied real estate, but as a political and social movement as well. Given the magnitude of the crisis it also occurred in industries as well. In some cases workers occupied factories that had been abandoned, but in many others they simply took over what didn’t belong to them. A glorification of this sort of practice can be found in the documentary “The Take”. Naomi Klein, the director of this documentary is a communist and I’ve seen her on CNN talking for OWS movement and organizing events. She’s clearly a OWL leader. While this may sound all very romantic to some remember that this is a double edged sword that cuts both ways. I’d like to hear how much you like the Occupy movement if you one day come back home after a weekend out only to find that some other family has decided to put to better use your “vacant” property. This happens all the time around here and again, its also happening in USA.
The OWS movement has no clear ideology and strategy. Some of their members claim they have, but again its as if there’s as many opinions on what should be done as people involved, with many of them claiming they don’t have a clue, they are just mad and fed up. All of them show resentment towards the so called 1%, but if you’re supposed to “redistribute” what this greedy 1% is taking away, how exactly are you supposed to do that? Through more taxation? Bigger government? It should be no surprise to see Obama showing his support to the OWS movement while being against the Tea Party movement. While not perfect the Tea Party movement has clear objectives or at least some clear stances such as less taxes, not more of them and smaller government.
Ron Paul has showed his concern for the OWS movement and I’ve always considered him a very smart man. Not only do I agree with him, I think the problem he sees with the OWS movement could be much worse if certain people with very clear agendas manage to take control of it and pull the mass that isn’t that sure of what OWS is all about in their direction.
By definition alone, and by some of the key leaders involved, the Occupy movement is clearly leaning to the left. On one hand its supposed to represent the 99% that are fed up, but on the other we all know who benefits from redistribution and socialism. I hope most of the good people that got involved because they felt identified with it in some way understand what this kind of movement is about. More taxation that is supposed to target that 1% inevitably ends up affecting the other 99%, and the bigger government is just the cause of the problem, not the solution. Maybe some of the people involved in OWS believe they are against both of these, but that exactly the monster they are feeding, even if they do it unknowingly.

Who are the leaders, speakers and representatives of OWL?

Naomi Klein, feminist, anti-consumerism , communist.

Cornel West, Black Panther Party admirerer, honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America

Slavoj Žižek, Marxist, atheist philosopher

This guy…

SO, still feeling you’re part of THIS 99%?
Have a nice weekend people.
 Join the forum discussion on this post!


Maldek said...

Great article and 100% spot on!

If I may add for the US readers:
Mr. Obama got his money from the same guys Mr. Bush got his money from.

He talked very different than Mr. Bush but by now many people have realized he didnt realy DO much different; such as ending the wars or taxing/regulating wall street.

Now this OWS movement is again financed by the very same people.
They might TALK against wall street, but in the end they work for them. Some fully aware, most just sheep following the herd.

Never waste a good crysis, you know.

If your situation sux you can not vote for an improvement, you can not protest for an improvement - but you can change your own life.

ElDesmadre said...

Another great post. The problem is just as you show it - the ones thinking they are rebelling against the establishment are really an instrument by which the same establishment will reinforce its position. All revolutions eventually end up with more centralisation, more control and more exploitation. I also have the feeling most people in favour of the OWL movement really haven't got a clue what this is all about, "being fed up" is not a political agenda and the OWL movement already is or is going to be very political.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this so well. Occupy (name a city and not just Wall Street) is too well orchestrated to not have some serious organization behind it. These folks on the street protesting are not the brightest or most motivated people so they need someone or some organization to keep them riled. They are modern day Lenin's Useful IDiots (actually useless idiots).

The Socialists/Communists believe it is their time in the USA. I fear they are right. I hope the USA does not go down this path quietly, but I am not optimistic.

When anyone compares this society's excrement to the Tea Party, they are trying to create some kind of coalition of two diametrically opposing viewpoints.

Thanks for your blog. I purchased your book over a year ago and I am personally responsible for you selling at least a dozen more. I hope all goes well for you and Argentina finds its way out fo the wilderness as well as the USA not going into the wilderness... Sadly, I am not terribly optimistic.

JacLynn said...

I have a lot of friends who are in favor of the OWS protests, I can't even have an open and honest conversation with them about it. It's just like you said in your post. I have been saying for a while now, that I take offense to their claiming to be the 99% because they do not represent me, my family, or most of the people I know. Thanks for this post!

hsu said...

Spot on Ferfal.

The occupiers love to hate, but are clueless about what to do to change the situation.

If they were really being serious, they'd get off their butts and jump into politics.

Aka, do what the Tea Party did: elect candidates with viewpoints that match their own.

John Galt said...

@jaclynn--I have the same issues. Anyone who talks with the OWS sympathizers know this is an absolutely irrational group. Talking with them make me scratch my head and wonder how the made it to adulthood.

This group is irrational and extremely self entitled.

Anonymous said...


They have realized down there at OWS that the capitalists and communists(typically laborers)
have been fighting like rabid animals with each other throughout the entire history of modern civilization. Also that they cannot defeat each other, and that they both have the nuclear bomb. Therefore the whole world is in a dangerous position.

So a solution to this they admit the don't have yet.

Also there is a feeling that the recent past and present generations have selfishly sold out the future generations. Therefore the mood is now it is up to them;

"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." (Thomas Paine)

In their "spokes" groups they are starting from scratch and thoroughly and scrupulously churning everything. Asking everyone to please participate and contribute including religions. To create a system fair to everyone.

In the meantime they want this:

1. Eradicate the Bush tax cuts for the rich and institute new taxes on the wealthiest Americans and on corporations, including a tax on all trading on Wall Street (where they currently pay 0%).

2. Assess a penalty tax on any corporation that moves American jobs to other countries when that company is already making profits in America. Our jobs are the most important national treasure and they cannot be removed from the country simply because someone wants to make more money.

3. Require that all Americans pay the same Social Security tax on all of their earnings (normally, the middle class pays about 6% of their income to Social Security; someone making $1 million a year pays about 0.6% (or 90% less than the average person). This law would simply make the rich pay what everyone else pays.


Anonymous said...

4. Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, placing serious regulations on how business is conducted by Wall Street and the banks.

5. Investigate the Crash of 2008, and bring to justice those who committed any crimes.

6. Reorder our nation's spending priorities (including the ending of all foreign wars and their cost of over $2 billion a week). This will re-open libraries, reinstate band and art and civics classes in our schools, fix our roads and bridges and infrastructure, wire the entire country for 21st century internet, and support scientific research that improves our lives.

7. Join the rest of the free world and create a single-payer, free and universal health care system that covers all Americans all of the time.

8. Immediately reduce carbon emissions that are destroying the planet and discover ways to live without the oil that will be depleted and gone by the end of this century.

9. Require corporations with more than 10,000 employees to restructure their board of directors so that 50% of its members are elected by the company’s workers. We can never have a real democracy as long as most people have no say in what happens at the place they spend most of their time: their job. (For any U.S. businesspeople freaking out at this idea because you think workers can't run a successful company: Germany has a law like this and it has helped to make Germany the world’s leading manufacturing exporter.)

10. We, the people, must pass three constitutional amendments that will go a long way toward fixing the core problems we now have. These include:

a) A constitutional amendment that fixes our broken electoral system by 1) completely removing campaign contributions from the political process; 2) requiring all elections to be publicly financed; 3) moving election day to the weekend to increase voter turnout; 4) making all Americans registered voters at the moment of their birth; 5) banning computerized voting and requiring that all elections take place on paper ballots.

b) A constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people and do not have the constitutional rights of citizens. This amendment should also state that the interests of the general public and society must always come before the interests of corporations.

c) A constitutional amendment that will act as a "second bill of rights" as proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt: that every American has a human right to employment, to health care, to a free and full education, to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat safe food, and to be cared for with dignity and respect in their old age.

Irrational space case commies? NO WAY! These are good, intelligent, sincere and courageous people. Give em a fair go. It's only been 2 months! By the time they finish sifting through it all they may endorse Ron Paul!

Michael said...

I am in complete agreement as to the idea of property rights. However, I think that I am somewhat sympathetic to those who are occupying unused land and buildings. As an anarchist, I believe that no group, no matter how large should have the right to initiate violence against another. The idea of real property which comes from the Latin word for royal is a concept completely misunderstood by most people. No one but governments truly own the land. If a government can tax it, you don't own it. If a government can take it from you legally, then you have no true property rights.
I also take issue with the idea of land being private property. Who was the original owner of the land?
An anarchist idea of land rights, holds that in order to truly say you own a property, it must be in use. In effect it must be occupied to be truly owned.
The governments of this world set up the rules and use them to their own advantage. If Occupying unused land is violating property rights, it is only the artificial rights created by government rules.

LadyLydia said...

You mentioned a possible reason for the use of the letter "k" instead of "c" in occupy. The Russian language uses K more prominently, and it is used in words like Amerika to make it appear more "soviet" or communist.

Anonymous said...

Here's another aspect. If Internet forums were any indication about the general mentality, the occupy movement should not be happening. Reading forums and blogs I see very little of talk which could cause this kind of movement. Little coordination, little actual planning, little agreeing on stuff, little thinking leading to this kind of action behind all. As I see it, there is NO movement on the real grassroots level. That's my observation about it. Then all in a sudden there is a huge movement looking very organized. It does not match. This is another signal telling OWS is other than what is the "desired observation".

Anonymous said...

A true grass roots movement would in fact have great difficulty consolidating it's power structure and it set of goals and ideals. OWS was a spontaneous movement that represented a dissatisfaction with the status quo that inflicted untold suffering on Americans. It thus inspired people with many differing ideas of what wrongs needed to righted. OWS is still fractured in this sense because there are numerous agendas, not the least of which are anarchists who see the total annihilation of government, which may explain the unpopularity due to violent protest.

Contrasted to the Tea Party movement, which had four clearly defined tenets: (1) no new taxes, and lower taxes for everyone, but finally focusing on lower rates of taxation on the "job creators." (2) reduced government spending, especially on social spending, albeit leaving defense (military spending) untouched. (3) Reducing the size of government. (4) Removing Obama from office in 2012, and retaking the congress with those who share the views of the Tea Party. These tenets were agreed upon immediately within the Tea Party members of various chapters nationwide, thus not demonstrating typical grass roots movement diversity of opinion. This solidarity of purpose would suggest that the Tea Party, which was immediately supported by people like the Koch brothers, was not a grass movement at all, but rather a well orchestrated, and contrived, extension of the hegemony. Further, the signs and rhetoric of the Tea Party movement, with it's palpable racial overtones, was not as "mature" as you might suggest. And its unwillingness to compromise on issues to the point of government default, ala Argentina, does not a sign of maturity.

If the Tea Party were independent, and not without strong and seriously focused influences from corporate entities, e.g., Koch Industries, it would have identified early on, that while OWS has subtle difference in their approach and issues, it was questioning bailouts, and the dearth of Wall Street accountability. But it didn't.

Well then, no name calling, purely posits that suggest your comparison of OWS to the Tea Party movement is either intentionally lacking in intellectual honesty or naive.

Globalization is a serious matter. Sending manufacturing jobs to nations with the cheapest work force should be of concern to Americans. The exploitation of natural resources worldwide should be of concern to the indigenous population world wide. Energy exploitation, i.e., oil mining, in the face of apparently clean, and free alternatives should be of concern to Americans. There are points of agreement that both OWS and Tea Party movement can find. But setting them apart from each other is a clever ruse by interested parties in fracturing the power of the people.

Be skeptical.

That said, I appreciate that you've opened this meaningful and intelligent line of discourse on the subject.