There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave. […]
Choose. But choose fast. The state and corporate forces are determined to crush this. They are not going to wait for you. They are terrified this will spread. They have their long phalanxes of police on motorcycles, their rows of white paddy wagons, their foot soldiers hunting for you on the streets with pepper spray and orange plastic nets. They have their metal barricades set up on every single street leading into the New York financial district, where the mandarins in Brooks Brothers suits use your money, money they stole from you, to gamble and speculate and gorge themselves while one in four children outside those barricades depend on food stamps to eat.
Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged. Today they run the state and the financial markets. They disseminate the lies that pollute our airwaves. They know, even better than you, how pervasive the corruption and theft have become, how gamed the system is against you, how corporations have cemented into place a thin oligarchic class and an obsequious cadre of politicians, judges and journalists who live in their little gated Versailles while 6 million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a number soon to rise to 10 million, where a million people a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills and 45,000 die from lack of proper care, where real joblessness is spiraling to over 20 percent, where the citizens, including students, spend lives toiling in debt peonage, working dead-end jobs, when they have jobs, a world devoid of hope, a world of masters and serfs.
If our overall fertility rate is at replacement level—if we have enough young people in the pipeline to do all the jobs that will need doing going forward—does it really matter so much if some women are having more kids than they are ready for and some are having fewer? Unfortunately for women on both ends of the economic spectrum, it does. Poorer women suffer when they have unintended births—as do their children. Research shows that women with unplanned pregnancies are more likely to smoke, drink, and go without prenatal care. Their births are more likely to be premature. Their children are less likely to be breastfed, and more likely to be neglected and to have various physical and mental health effects. Then, reinforcing the cycle, the very fact of having a child increases a woman’s chances of being poor.
Across the reproductive divide, there are other serious problems. The declining fertility of professional women ought to be sounding an alarm, highlighting the extent to which our policies are deeply unfriendly to parents. Low birthrates in Europe have inspired a slew of policies designed to make it easier to simultaneously work and parent, yet here, because our overall birthrate is robust, we’ve had no such moment of reckoning. So while Germany recently responded to the fact that its birthrate had slipped below 1.4 children per woman by making its paid leave policy more generous, allowing mothers and fathers to split up to 18 months after the birth of a child, the United States still has no national paid leave law in place. And while Denmark, France, and Sweden provide good subsidized care to the vast majority of their populations, we still have no decent childcare system.
It’s unsurprising that establishment media outlets have been condescending, dismissive and scornful of the ongoing protests on Wall Street. Any entity that declares itself an adversary of prevailing institutional power is going to be viewed with hostility by establishment-serving institutions and their loyalists. That’s just the nature of protests that take place outside approved channels, an inevitable by-product of disruptive dissent: those who are most vested in safeguarding and legitimizing establishment prerogatives (which, by definition, includes establishment media outlets) are going to be hostile to those challenges. As the virtually universal disdain in these same circles for WikiLeaks (and, before that, for the Iraq War protests) demonstrated: the more effectively adversarial it is, the more establishment hostility it’s going to provoke.
Nor is it surprising that much of the most vocal criticisms of the Wall Street protests has come from some self-identified progressives, who one might think would be instinctively sympathetic to the substantive message of the protesters. In an excellent analysis entitled “Why Establishment Media & the Power Elite Loathe Occupy Wall Street,” Kevin Gosztola chronicles how much of the most scornful criticisms have come from Democratic partisans who — like the politicians to whom they devote their fealty — feign populist opposition to Wall Street for political gain. […]
But much of this progressive criticism consists of relatively (ostensibly) well-intentioned tactical and organizational critiques of the protests: there wasn’t a clear unified message; it lacked a coherent media strategy; the neo-hippie participants were too off-putting to Middle America; the resulting police brutality overwhelmed the message, etc. That’s the high-minded form which most progressive scorn for the protests took: it’s just not professionally organized or effective.
Some of these critiques are ludicrous. Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest: that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality and its unrestrained political power — in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions — is destroying financial security for everyone else? Beyond that, criticizing protesters for the prominence of police brutality stories is pure victim-blaming (and, independently, having police brutality highlighted is its own benefit).
Most importantly, very few protest movements enjoy perfect clarity about tactics or command widespread support when they begin; they’re designed to spark conversation, raise awareness, attract others to the cause, and build those structural planks as they grow and develop. Dismissing these incipient protests because they lack fully developed, sophisticated professionalization is akin to pronouncing a three-year-old child worthless because he can’t read Schopenhauer: those who are actually interested in helping it develop will work toward improving those deficiencies, not harp on them in order to belittle its worth.
In the days after 9/11, a Dallas man named Mark Stroman went on a revenge killing spree. Rais Bhuiyan survived and, a decade later, tried to stop Stroman’s execution.
He used to have 20/10 vision in both eyes, and he was a pilot in the Bangladeshi air force. That was before he came to America—to Texas—in pursuit of higher learning. Before a white supremacist lifted a shotgun to his face and blasted searing-hot pellets through his right pupil. Before his wife left him, he lost his job, and he became homeless and terrified to talk to strangers. Before years of operations—dozens of long needles inserted into his eye—and a decade of piecing his life back together. It was only after all of this that Rais Bhuiyan, the 5-foot-6 immigrant with a soft voice and one very focused eye, sued the state of Texas to stop the execution of the man who shot him.
No one expects the Palestinians to win in the security council because the US has said it will veto the request even if the Palestinians get the necessary nine votes in favour - and it looks as if they’ll fall short after an intense American campaign to get countries such as Portugal and Bosnia to abstain. In any case, there is unlikely to be a vote any time soon.
But Abbas can claim a victory of sorts at the end of a week that has seen a dramatic shift in the diplomatic ground in the Palestinians’ favour. His resistance to pressure not to submit the request has prompted the most serious attempt to revive the peace process in years as Washington, London and Paris sought to avoid a showdown in the security council that could severely damage their standing in other parts of the Middle East, particularly for Britain and France which are heavily involved in Libya.
The US’s claim to dominate mediation has been damaged by its unrelenting opposition to the Palestinian move and Obama’s astonishingly pro-Israel speech to the UN earlier this week. That has provided a chink for the Europeans and Arabs to press for a greater role. Certainly it has exposed Washington as a partisan player.