The Occupy Movement as a Reason for Having Hope

By: Alton C. Thompson

Here’s a portion of a recent posting concerning President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent for the presidency, Willard (“Mitt”) Romney:

In his comments, Romney was responding to three central criticisms advanced by the Obama campaign this week: that Romney’s venture capital firm had exploited companies for the economic gain of executives, that Romney was advocating failed Bush-era economic policies and that Romney had equated productivity with personal income to suggest Americans weren’t working hard enough.

The presumptive Republican nominee added that it “certainly sounds like” the president was attacking the free market system.

“There’s no question but that he’s attacking capitalism, in part, I think, because he doesn’t understand how the free economy works. He’s never had a job in the free economy; neither has Vice President Biden,” Romney said.

As the posting indicates, Romney equates “free market system” and “capitalism,” and asserts that the United States is now (and by implication, has always been) a “capitalist” country, so far as its economy is concerned.

One expects politicians to be glib, of course, but from my standpoint Romney’s claims amount to so much “mush” (to avoid being vulgar here!), for two reasons:

  • Rather than supplying us with a definition—a lecture on his conception—of “capitalism,” he assumes that the meaning of the term is obvious to all.
  • Not having supplied us with a definition of “capitalism,” he feels no need to provide us with proof that the reality of our economy at present is such as to fit his definition of “capitalism”—reasonably well, if not perfectly.

The fact that Republicans (as that party is currently constituted, at any rate) seem to be unanimous in taking the position that the size of government must be reduced, suggests that they believe that the economy should not be subject to any interference by government—and that that’s what they mean by “capitalist.”

But to claim that government should not “interfere” is not, of course, to claim that government should play no role in the economy—or society in general. For although the current Republicans are against “social” programs—i.e., programs that help “ordinary” people—they are all for those programs from which the rich and rich corporations benefit, such as public works projects (undertaken usually by private contracting firms, rather than government employees per se) and—especially!—the military. Indeed our Department of Defense would more accurately be named the Department of Offense—for it is offensive in both senses of the word: On the one hand, those doing contract work for that department make a “killing” monetarily and, on the other hand, the department’s personnel seems to have as their primary job the killing of innocent people—while failing to prevent the killing of people by, e.g., the Israelis.

I am always suspicious of people who use terms such as “capitalism,” “freedom,” “liberty,” “democracy,” because they never define these abstract words that they are using, and seem to use such words to mask their true intentions rather than to convey truthful information. They hope (if but unconsciously) that those hearing them speak or reading what they say will not “see through” them—and in many, if not most, cases that hope is realized. Propaganda can take many forms, and this is one of them, Thank you, Edward Bernays [1891 – 1995]—a nephew of Sigmund Freud [1856 – 1939]— for your wonderful contribution to the goals of truth and honesty! How prescient George Orwell [1903 -- 1950] was, in writing in his classic 1984, that:

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

We seem to be perpetually at war; we are told that we live in a “free” society, but the facts are otherwise; and ignorance/propaganda seems to be the order of the day with our governmental officials and media—to say nothing of the commercials that bombard us as we view television or listen to the radio.

Each of the above is a problem from various perspectives, but from my perspective the basic problem that they present is that given that we are living in perilous times from an atmospheric change standpoint, this fact is being kept from the public. Indeed, our political leaders not only seem intent on hiding facts from the public, but making decisions that will intensify the problem rather than address it— Obama’s recent decision regarding the arctic being a case in point.

Those of concern about humankind’s future (which is, of course, intertwined with that of numerous other species) must recognize the situation that currently exists so far as propaganda is concerned, and therefore realize that if any steps are to be taken to address the atmospheric change problem that faces us, it would be utterly insane to look to our political leaders for leadership. Rather, we must face the fact that private citizens must “take matters into their own hands.”

In a sense, this has already been occurring, in that millions of people have been engaged in the Occupy movement across the United States. Millions of people in our society—including many who have not participated in the Occupy movement—sense that much is amiss about our society, and I find this fact encouraging.

Those who do sense that something is wrong with our society seem, however, to be unable to articulate very well what they sense; and because of that fact, they are at a loss as to what to do about the ills of our society. Occupy Movement -- 99%

The reason that I find the fact that many have been participating in the Occupy movement encouraging is that it is such individuals who could, it would seem, be attracted to the sort of movement that is especially needed at present—a movement to build a New Society within the (rotten) shell of the Existing Order.

Participation can take two forms, and both are important. On the one hand, one can become an active participant; on the other hand, a passive participant—who helps finance those actively engaged in the movement.

“New Society” can, I suppose, be conceived in different ways, but I perceive the creation of a New Society as a process of creating “building blocks,” those “blocks” being small communities, each of which strives to be as independent as possible from the Larger Society. I conceive the initial communities in this movement containing retirees (because they have incomes independent of jobs), with the diversity of the movement (in age, etc., terms increasing over time as the movement progresses.

It should be kept in mind that our country has a rich communal history (the Shakers, Amana colonies, New Harmony, etc.—see, e.g., this), and that that history is still alive (see, e.g., this). One might, I suppose, make the argument that such communities are not “capitalistic”—and there might be merit in such an argument. My response to such an argument, however, is: “Who cares! How one categorizes them is of no importance. What is important is that circumstances are such currently that something needs to be done, and I happen to perceive the creation of such communities as an, if not the, answer to not only the problem of atmospheric change, but (quite possibly) our various other problems as well.”

Note that in arguing for such a program I am not asserting that in, say, 50 years our society would consist just of small communities. My hope is that our society would be dominated by such communities, but it does not follow from that fact that our citizens would be only living in such communities. Rather, I would expect that considerable diversity would exist in living arrangements in 50 years.

The only problem that I perceive is getting such a program underway. Someone must emerge to supply leadership to such a movement, and this has not occurred yet.

Of course, even if such a movement does get underway, there is no guarantee that those who become active participants in it will survive the ravages of atmospheric change. They will, true, have a better chance of survival than those who ignore “the handwriting on the wall,” but that’s all that one can say about their survival chances.

About the author: Al Thompson works (data management) for an Engineering (Avionics) firm in Milwaukee. Click here to mail him.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Justin Caouette

    Excellent piece! I worry, though. In order to “take things into our own hands” it would force us to make major changes to our overall value schema. Occupy Movement didn’t require anything close to that!