Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Today The Detachment comes out in paper, and I'm in New York briefly for some book stuff. Naturally, I spent the afternoon at OccupyWallStreet, a movement that is spreading incredibly fast. Here are some impressions.

First, the notion that the movement doesn't know or can't articulate what it wants is nonsense. As I think the photos in this post (I had trouble uploading the videos; will try again later) will make clear, the fundamental grievance that has motivated people to interrupt their lives and endure ridicule, discomfort, and attacks by the police, is their understanding that America's political processes have been captured by oligarchic interests, and that politicians serve not the people, but the powerful.

This is not a movement against capitalism; it is a movement against America's current version of capitalism, which we might loosely label with the oxymoron "crony capitalism," which, by definition, isn't capitalism at all.

I was impressed by the determination and organization I witnessed. There were people engaged primarily in occupying the park; people holding signs; people running services -- information, food, sanitation, trash disposal, medical. My sense was of a collection of citizens who had come to realize that America's political system is so broken, that our democracy has become so inverted and perverted, that they had to do something, had to do whatever they could, even if that something was just to deploy their bodies and their voices and to declare together, Enough.

Where will it all lead? I don't know. But I have a feeling that all such protests against inequality, corruption, and repression must initially seem doomed to failure. Who could have believed in 1980, when Solidarity was formed in Poland, that ten years later Lech Walesa would be president? Who would have predicted when Tahrir Square in Egypt was first occupied that Mubarak would soon be forced to step down? And I'll bet that even as Thomas Jefferson penned The Declaration of Independence, he had moments of, "What the hell am I doing? We've really got a chance against Britain?!"

It must always seem hopeless at the outset. Except sometimes it turns out not to be.

P.S. If you're around on Friday, October 21, come by the Palo Alto Four Seasons for the Detachment launch party, generously hosted by the Four Seasons with legendary local independent bookseller Kepler's Books. Come by at 6:00 pm for wine and light bites, after which, at 7:00, I'll say a few words about the book and take questions. I'll then sign books, which Kepler's will be selling on the premises (autographed copies make great gifts, you know… ;)). After the signing, I'm going to hit the bar -- and hope you'll join me! If you like gin, order a Purple Rain (it's not on the menu). Buy a book from Kepler's, and have dinner after at the wonderful hotel restaurant, Quattro -- what could be better?

Friday, October 21, 6:00 pm
Four Seasons Palo Alto
2050 University Avenue
East Palo Alto, CA 94303
(650) 566-1200

Update: Okay, I couldn't get the video to upload directly here, so posted it on YouTube and will now embed. Here you go:


Anonymous said...

Barry, I think the impression in the media that has become prevalent that the Occupy Wall Street movement is inarticulate seems to me, to be perpetuated by the mainstream media. They consistently pick and choose people to interview who seem to be on the fringe of the movement. Every movement has it's fringe elements, it's hanger-ons, or just down right wackos. Do I agree with everything the movement is demanding? No, but it doesn't take away from the positive message to me, that other people are finally seeing what I have for years. The political/economic system we operate in, is fundamentally broken. This may be the first of many movements or revolutions to come as people grow more involved and more in touch with one another (social media etc.). I remember you saying how the CIA does not operate nearly as efficiently as the movies would have us believe and similarly this movement is far more effective, literate and informed then media, politicians and opposing groups like the tea party would have us believe.


ssas said...

This fits very well with the non-mainstream reading I've done. Denver had its own protest and I couldn't make it down. I wasn't as interested in protesting as just experiencing it.

Jon Olson said...

Thanks for the "visit," Barry.

Jon O.
The Petoskey Stone

BookBitch said...

Barry, thanks for posting this, I'm going to share it.

Finished the Detachment and loved it! I've missed Rain. Will post a review at http://www.bookbitch.com this weekend. Have fun at the launch party!

Michael Kingswood said...

I concur with opposition to Crony Capitalism. My problem with Occupy Wall Street is they're falling hook line and sinker for the trite and false distraction of rich vs poor, and ignoring the real problem.

They should be protesting against the government, not business, and certainly not Wall Street. Nothing that has happened would have been possible without interference and collusion from a government that has inserted itself into countless areas where it should not be, and worse, where it is Constitutionally prohibited from being. Yet they would advocate giving more power to the very organization (government) that caused the problem. It seems to me they've not bothered to do a root cause analysis on the things that have them pissed off.

Of course, I'll wager a sizable chunk of the folks there are only present to hook up with a hot granola chick (or guy). But that just might be me looking back on the history of previous, similar, events and assuming that history has repeated itself yet again. It's possible that things, and people, are different this time.... *snort*

And oh by the way, if you take out a loan, even a student loan, you pay it and you don't whine about it when times are tough for you. It's called being an adult. Welcome to the real world, kids.

It's always good to hear your take on things, Barry.

Michael Kingswood

Barry Eisler said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Michael, if I understand your argument correctly, you're saying that government intrusiveness caused the Great Recession. This is an extraordinary claim and I wonder why you would make it without any cites or other supporting evidence.

I'm no economist, but I don't see how overregulation could be the cause of financial conglomerates deemed too big to fail (the proper term would be "systemically dangerous"), or of a casino market in derivatives 20 times the size of the US economy. I don't see how you can call the repeal of Glass Steagall, which had prevented bank holding companies from owning other financial institutions, a case of too much government regulation.

You talk about "collusion from the government." Apparently, your ideology is so rigid it's actually warping your diction. Because like sex, "collusion" takes the preposition "with," not "from." It is precisely corporate collusion with the government that OWS is calling out. So suggesting that people should protest only one or the other collusive party is to drastically miss the point.

FWIW, in the two days I spent time at OWS, I didn't hear anyone, or see any signs calling for, "more power" for the government. From where are you getting this notion? I'm not asking this rhetorically. You're making a lot of claims that are either unsupported by or contradicted by facts, and you might usefully consider the source of your attachment to your opinions given that they have little basis in the external world. Think of this suggested exercise as an example of the kind of "root cause analysis" you wish others would engage in.

You're willing to wager that many of the protestors are there only to find sexual partners. Really? It's been my observation and experience that most people who hope to get laid go to, say, a bar, rather than sleeping outdoors on the cold concrete and getting pepper sprayed by police. But perhaps your romance strategies are unusual in this regard, and you're projecting them onto others. Would you say the same thing about the civil rights marches of the 60's, or any anti-war protest, or perhaps any exercise of the people's right to peaceably assemble? I imagine so -- after all, if someone doesn't agree with you, he must be a fraud, right? Which is precisely the narcissistic assumption behind your silly and unsupported notion that people are at OWS purely to get laid.

"And oh by the way, if you take out a loan, even a student loan, you pay it and you don't whine about it when times are tough for you. It's called being an adult. Welcome to the real world, kids."

Fascinating -- and revealing -- that you would offer advice so snide, self-satisfied, and self-pleasuring to individuals, while failing to see that the recommendation applies a fortiori to financial conglomerates who gambled too much and too stupidly but who, unlike, say, students, had enough lobbyists and political clout to convince the government to use taxpayer money to bail them out. This sort of unequal treatment is at the very heart of OWS, and is the explanation for the protest's location. What does it say about you that you would overlook something to obvious? That you would articulate a principle and then apply it so one-sidedly?

Ah, those dirty fucking hippies. So naive, so ignorant. Always spouting off without bothering to first perform a root cause analysis. It's downright embarrassing.