Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Two Powerful Videos

Two powerful video statements that caught my attention yesterday about the global Occupy movement.  In the first, on the "Democracy Now" show, Cornel West explains to Amy Goodman why he was down the road being arrested in front of the Supreme Court while President Obama was speaking recently at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr., monument.  West identifies himself as a "revolutionary Christian" in solidarity with anyone who wants to build a more humane and inclusive society around the world.  This is how he wants Dr. King to be remembered, as well.

West thinks that, with the various movements of social protest now sweeping the globe, we are living through a "magnificent moment of democratic awakening."  He tells Goodman that her show gives voice to the eloquence of those mistakenly called "everyday people," who  speak with profound wisdom.

And then he says: 

To juxtapose that with words of politicians, I don't care what color, because, of course, we want to protect and respect everybody, including the president, but we want to correct him   and the ways in which they're complicitous in a system that makes it difficult for the dignity and for the decency of everyday people to be seen and accented.  And just listening to those words, that's what the freedom movement of the sixties was all about.  That's what the feminist movement, the anti-homophobic movement, the labor movement, the movement for elderly, and, most important for me, our children [was about].  We haven't really talked enough about the 42% of our precious kids of all colors, our precious children, who live in or near poverty in the richest nation in the history of the world.  It's a moral disgrace.

And, in the other clip I'd like to recommend, Charlie Rose interviews Amy Goodman and Chris Hedges about what they understand the Occupy movement to be and to signify.  Both are eloquent  and incisive.    

Goodman agrees with Rose when he asks her if this movement is akin to the American revolution.  She states that she sees it as "a new American revolution," noting that it "is catching on like wildfire now, a thousand sites, all over the world."  She's just back from Louisville, where she was moved by "the eloquence of the young people and old who were there, who were saying this is a defining moment."

And then she observes,

We are seeing something like we haven't seen before, except what?, decades ago with the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and it's something that's in formation.  I don't think it can be predicted where it will go.  But it is hot right now.

Hedges's powerful analysis: the Occupy movements are occurring now because people everywhere want "to reverse the corporate coup d'état that's been carried out."  These global protest movements are a reaction to the  "reconfiguration of the global economy into a form of neo-feudalism, where there are essentially masters within the managerial class and serfs."  For all of us subject to the imperatives of the neo-feudalist corporate oligarchy, the past few decades have been an economic and social "race to the bottom," and people are now determined to resist their subjugation to an elite that forces them into such a going-nowhere race.

And then Hedges says,

That reconfiguration into an oligarchic corporate state is already very far advanced, so I think these people are very, very clear that we cannot sustain ourselves both, not only as a society, but even as a species, if we don't confront the corporate state.  I think it's a kind of return to sanity.  I think it's a confrontation with dead ideas.  I think it is a demand for justice, and I think it has an important difference between both the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement in that it attracts labor.

Hedges's final point strikes me as extremely important, since one of the ways in which Nixon (and, following him, Reagan) set the conditions for the rise of the corporate oligarchy in the United States was by adroitly playing working-class white voters, many of them Catholics in the northern U.S. who had historically voted Democratic, against the civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements.  Nixon and the neo-conservative strategists advising him encouraged him to take advantage of the resentment Southern whites (another historic Democratic bloc) felt due to desegregation, and peel this Democratic constituency off Democratic voter rolls.  But these strategists also encouraged the Republican party to inculcate among working-class whites in the Northern part of the country the sense that the various civil rights movements were spearheaded by intellectual elites disdainful of ordinary working people and their strong religiously-oriented family values.

This policy of division, of pitting group against group and instilling hostility and fear in large segments of the American public, was wildly successful for the neoconservative strategists who crafted it.  One of its most deleterious consequences, for "ordinary" Americans, was that it got people to vote against their own economic and social best interest on the basis of "values-oriented" goals like opposition to abortion or gay rights.  If the Occupy movement can succeed in rebuilding bridges between the labor movement and the various civil rights movements that flowed from the 1960s, it will be a powerful force for social change in the U.S.

And, to complement the two video clips above, I'd like to recommend another article about the Occupy Writers group about which I blogged several days ago, and a fine statement of the philosophy of universal global solidarity underlying the Occupy movements, by Randall Amster at Common Dreams.

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