The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - More On #OccupyWallStreet
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More On #OccupyWallStreet|
Despite appearances, this essay’s about #OccupyWallSt.
Now. I’m in a bad mood because my work day has been yet another tangle of “This documentation tells me this will work, but it doesn’t” and people changing their minds willy-nilly, causing me to have to reprogram entire modules because they can’t decide how things should function.
Furthermore, I’m working in the kind of code where I have to concentrate. And Gini’s the sort of person who, despite years of getting better about it, still sees me on the couch, thinks “Couch is not work,” and will jar me out of programmer-space me without so much as a by-your-leave to tell me about some internet meme.
So when Gini barges into my concentration for the third time today to ask me if I’ve seen so-and-so’s post on cheesemaking, I:
a) Say “JESUS CHRIST, WHAT THE FUCK WOMAN, I’M WORKING HERE, CAN’T YOU FUCKING GET IT THROUGH YOUR THICK SKULL? IT’S BEEN YEARS, YOU SHOULD KNOW THE LOOK ON MY FACE.”
b) Snap, “Working. Now. See?” and point at the computer to let her know just what an idiot she is.
c) Shake off the rage, which isn’t really her fault, and quietly point out that I am working, sweetie, and you’ve interrupted me twice today, and if you don’t stop that I’m probably going to eventually snap at you in a way I’ll regret. Please respect my space.
The correct answer, of course, is C…. But it’s also the least satisfying. I don’t get to have the Tower of Righteous Rage, I don’t get to make her feel as crappy as I do, I don’t get the satisfaction of the dramatic apology I might (miiiight) get if I made a much bigger deal of this.
On the other hand, I don’t have to apologize later, and I don’t make her feel as crappy as I do, and she doesn’t pack her bags and leave after I pull that shit enough times. So there’s that.
The lesson here, children, is one of those big fundaments of life: The right move is not necessarily the satisfying move. It’s said that in diplomacy, a good compromise often makes both parties feel as though they didn’t get what they wanted. And they didn’t. But they got more than if they’d went to war, and probably lost.
The reason I bring this up is because I just got a comment that read:
So I’m doing a little teeth-grinding here, Ferrett.
Because at what point is something going to count as doing something?
You’ve previously posted, grouchy about people who make Tweets or posts or whatever in solidarity with something because they weren’t out doing anything.
Well? Now people are out doing something, and you STILL are saying they aren’t doing anything. At what point will it count? What has to be done for it to count as “doing something?” People are doing what they can; why isn’t it enough? Why can’t you/we not recognize that you don’t go from nothing to everything in a snap?
That’s an incorrect summary of my position.
I wasn’t grouchy because they weren’t out doing anything.
I was grouchy because they weren’t doing anything effective.
Too much of activism is about what feels satisfying, and not what’s actually effective. One of the reasons I laud MLK is that he said, “Hey, you know what, we could yell a lot and be ignored, but frankly, these people are going to go out of business if we stop patronizing them. Let’s be respectful enough that we always look meek and noble in the press, and behind the scenes we fucking squeeze their throats until they choke.”
That wasn’t satisfying, I’m sure, taking the upper hand as much of the time. I’m sure rioting is a lot more satisfying. But it would have just gotten everyone jailed.
Now, at this point, I’m glad that #OccupyWallSt is raising big questions; that’s great. Whether they’re actually going to be effective in the long term in achieving their goals is another matter. And I’m concerned that it’s going to turn into some big ball of everyone getting their satisfaction on by making a big stink and hanging around in crowds and waving signs, and in the end getting actually no legislation passed. (And hey, they’re not rioting and causing bad press. Good job!)
I can recognize that we don’t go from nothing to everything in a snap. But I can also recognize, for I have seen, protest groups dwindle into irrelevance because they’re more concerned about feeling good than doing what’s effective.
As such, for me to ask, “Hey, is this actually working?” is not only a question you shouldn’t be grinding your teeth over, but one that should be foremost in your fucking mind when you’re looking at it. I’ve seen groups whose sole goal’s been to get the word out, and they got plenty of that word out, and nobody fucking cared. I don’t deny they’re doing something. But what are they actually doing?
As I said, I want to be proven wrong. Maybe this evolves into something more significant than a bunch of people getting together, feeling good, and walking away with exactly the same legislation and power structure that was here when they got here. Maybe the questions take root and make real change. I am, at least, heartened to see consistent nationwide protests about this sort of thing, which is more than has been done in recent memory for any non-war-related activity that I can imagine.
But what I see from here is an awful lot of satisfaction in the form of “YEAH WE’RE HERE YOU SHOULD BE TOO, IT’S AWESOME” and comparatively little effectiveness in the form of “THIS IS WHAT WE THINK WOULD FIX THINGS, GO DO THAT.”
As such, I’m never going to stop asking, “Well, is this working?” And neither should you.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/158558.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Tags: man up democrats, politics
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC)|| |
You're not wrong (and your initial story echoes an argument that my wife and I had last night ... i think you guys are our emotional doppelgangers sometimes). That said ... you think that the occupy peopel are not being effective. Great. What would be effective? What do you suggest they do?
they have a LOT of good energy right now. A lot of motivated people who want change and who are willing to do *something* to get it. What is that something?
The plutocrats aren't going to willingly give anything up, so in the end it's going to come down to guillotines or not guillotines. (And unfortunately it will be not guillotines, because it's so adamantly a peaceful protest.)
Result I'm predicting, especially for the new London branch, is agents provocateur turning it violent, provoking "justified" violent police response, shutting it all down. Britain has more experience in doing that, which is why I predict it there first.
The only way I can see a peaceful revolution could shut down the plutocrats would be if everyone disengaged from the economic system, maybe starting an alternative one - but they've got that loophole stitched up already, with creating a currency being illegal, and property tax or rent obliging one to engage with the existing currency pretty much no matter what. (Plus, nowadays even that wouldn't work very well anyway, because the bulk of the food and construction is made by friends of the plutocrats now, not by the peasants!)
Effectiveness is measured from the other side.
How many *years* of civil rights protests did it take before "something" was accomplished?
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: Effectiveness is measured from the other side.
As many years as it will take to dismantle the current socio-political structure.
And while once can argue that the struggle for civil rights goes back as long as the drafting of the US Constitution,The Civil Rights Movement as most of us think of it ran from about 1954 (Brown v Board of Ed) peaks with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and is considered to wind down 1968-1970.
Social change *can* happen quickly but it's never overnight.
From what I've seen of the Occupy folks, they're trying to do exactly what you're asking them to. When I was at Occupy Seattle, there was a big discussion group centered around developing an coherent, inclusive, and focused set of demands. But that stuff doesn't just spring fully formed out of a movement like Athena from the forehead of Zeus; it takes time, and energy, and thoughtfulness. The only way they'd have that message already is if they'd been working behind the scenes with PR people and speechwriters before they every showed up, and, well, that's not how a populist movement works.
If you want to help them develop a list of demands, then go down to Occupy Cleveland (I think you're in Cleveland, right?) and sit on on the work group and help them out. If you don't want to help, then respect the fact that this is a process and it might take more than a single news cycle to cohere.
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)|| |
I do not get the idea that "respect" is equivalent to "don't voice criticism".
For, blessed are the cheesemakers.
I am a bad man because I want to read the post on cheesemaking!
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)|| |
I have that same issue when coding. Even if it's my boss coming by, I want to scream "I'm in the zone, get away from me!". The best workaround seems to be some object you set out as a do not disturb signal and the hope that it is respected. It.. kinda works. As (for those you know) the hand held up can, but a shiny bauble is most effective.
And I agree about the satisfaction versus effectualness discontinuity. It's certainly in place where I live. Maybe it will get better, but it shows no signs of it. Were I a person in power in my mansion on a hill, I would just bring the barbecue chef out and sit there chuckling at the milling peasants below. Until a mandate is in place it's just a party.
My method is to just say "programming!" I can just about manage that without losing my thread, but any more than that and it's gone.
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC)|| |
At the risk of responding to a mundane aside with a helpful tip, you could consider a "coding hat" a la the "writing hat" here.
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC)|| |
Mmm. Interesting points about ages at time of starting a relationship, too... yes, not particularly romantic having separate blankets or beds, but TBPH fuck romantic -- it's better to get good sleep and not end up smothering your partner out of deprivation.
If you're pushing against a brick wall, you're doing something, but you're not really accomplishing anything.
This post and the last one perfectly sum up my feelings on this whole thing, and i've had some friends of mine get a little upset at me that i wasn't really behind this, even though i totally support it in theory, i have serious doubts as to it's goals and execution.
And by "this post" i mean your blog entries not the two above posts in the comments.
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)|| |
Funny thing...I'd always figured the big point of the occupy movement was to start putting human faces on the consequences of corporate irresponsibility and government complicity. Look this grandmother in the eye and tell her she deserved to lose her house because the banks played a shell game with mortgages. That sort of thing. Dare to tell this young man over here to get a job, when he and five of his buddies will happily throw your ass to the ground and tell you that they've been looking for ANYTHING for two years and not even WalMart is hiring right now where they live, because the banks haven't made good on their promise to lend out more money to small and medium businesses if the government would just bail them out pretty please. That sort of thing.
And that's the sort of thing that can be done handily just by showing up.
Possibly. I'm not seeing that online or in the news, really, except in the kinds of circles where there's already a lot of liberal postings... But that could be it.
OWS has published a manifesto, clearly stating their grievances, and exhorting "the people of the world" to "...create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone." That certainly strikes me as a good start.
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)|| |
The manifesto is a list of grievances. It has no plan of action. No suggestions for what to do. just a list of problems. They're legit problems, for the most part, but without a solution, what's the benefit?
This is the same argument that I have in the other direction with people who are anti-abortion. i say, "Good. You have a legit complaint. Abortions sort of suck. Please give me your solution to the 2 million unwanted pregnancies problem and I'll gladly start to listen. Till you have a solution, we're doing the best we can over here".
And that is exactly what wall street or the government or whoever is listening will say to these folks. "We hear you. You're right. W're doing our best. Do you have any suggestions?"
the fact is that nobody knows what to do. Even the best minds working on it have had dozens of surefire plans in the last year and none of them have done anything and nobody is agreeing on anything.
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)|| |
I wasn’t grouchy because they weren’t out doing anything.
I was grouchy because they weren’t doing anything effective.
My snarky response would be "then why do Democratic voters get a pass every two years?" but I know you're often mad at them, too.
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)|| |
I’ve seen groups whose sole goal’s been to get the word out, and they got plenty of that word out, and nobody fucking cared.
And now? PEOPLE CARE. You proved that by the media coverage in your first damned post. By the fact that you felt put-upon eneough to post about them twice in one damned day.
What makes my teeth grind is that, rather than actually proposing anything, you're running around yelling "they're about _nothing_!", as if civil rights groups sprang up like fucking Athena. Your MLK analogy lies flat for me because you don't get any sense that know enough of the background to realize how a movement like this _potentially_ differs from many of your points, or how it parallels (and doesn't) the history of any successful civil rights movement. "Gosh, they have no goals" was, in fact, a frequent criticism of much of the movement -- and it took years for not just MLK, but a lot of other parallel efforts to get off the ground.
For example: the reason the early Civil Rights actions were mostly boycotts, and thus, organized, were because their was an effective economic lever -- if Negros were able to stop spending at a certain place or area, the effects were directly felt. That created a powerful feedback loop for those early protests -- one that is near-ineffectual with these actions. Moreover, there was a lot of words around how "small minded" these efforts were, not realizing that they would act as stepping stones, over time.
Contrast, in fact, with the tactic of the sit-in, which like the OWS actions started among students and other people able to occupy a space for a time, and were initially highly disorganized yet effective. these, too, were stepping stones, were ways for a small independent group to step in and aid. That can be very important to a movement catching fire. And they weren't about "fixing", but about drawing attention via "creating tension" -- and that is a concept MLK would use often to describe his work.
There's a lot I can write about that time, and about exactly how MLK's work affects these kinds of protests. But it's far too early to even determine what will occur, much less to call out people around it and invite a ton of historical analogies to direct it. That just feels...arrogant.
I like you, man. Yet I honestly feel you're now approaching the show-you-ass stage of this discussion, far more heat than light. I really hope you reign it it, because it's going from a inaccurate talk about a subject to invoking some people, ideals, and concepts on a brutally shallow level.
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)|| |
Sorry about all the misspellings/crap grammar. You know you've moved me when I can't even write properly anymore. :(
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)|| |
Last night, at our dining room table:strgzncat
: I really like this OccupyWallStreet movement.beckyzoole
: Yeah, me too.strgzncat
: You want to hear this commentary?bbwoof
: Do they have a plan?beckyzoole
: No. So far, all they are doing is pointing out the problem.bbwoof
: In my experience, when you bring a problem to the boss, you should also bring a solution.beckyzoole
: [turns away]strgzncat
: [turns away]
I always seem to have the unpopular opinion. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who holds that opinion, Ferrett; thank you.
The thing is, the only reason I would bring a problem to a superior is if I didn't know a solution. If I knew the solution to the problem, I'd implement it, unless I knew my boss was so strict that I couldn't do anything different without his approval.
What I'm getting at these gatherings is a collective "Here's our problems, now let's figure out a path to fixing them." Because half the battle is knowing just what our problems are, and how widespread they are.
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 09:37 pm (UTC)|| |
I think it's important to ask if Occupy Wall Street is going to effect meaningful change. But if you have already decided it's not going to, I think you're jumping the gun. Political movements take a lot longer than a few weeks to produce results, generally speaking. And the results might be indirect.
Also, I don't know if you intended with your relationship communication analogy to imply that acting polite and gentle is always more effective in the political arena than acting loud and angry -- but if so, I very much disagree. I think using both tactics is more effective than using only one of them.
The right move is not necessarily the satisfying move
also, the right thing isn't always the best thing - and the best thing isn't always the right thing.
oh and for the record, what i've seen of #occupylexington has been a great big joke. first not a lot of people knew it was even going down. second it's poorly organized. third lather rinse repeat.
Yeah, the people with the solutions are not the majority in those crowds.
But that's not the point, because the only people that can actually implement the solutions are in power and have not been listening to their citizens, they've been listening to corporations and financial institutions. This is basically people standing up and saying, we're not going to take it anymore! And it's spread all the way around the world, because the USA markets have screwed up economies all around the world.
The solution is more financial regulation (contrary to what the lobbyists tell your politicians). The solution is removing certain corrosive individuals, like Alan Greenspan (king of deregulation and a decrepit old man that doesn't have the capacity to do anything but cling to his ideology) from having any say in policy.
The solution is not bailing out corporations when they fuck up. Or if you do, don't damn well pay them 100 cents on the dollar.
Stop coddling the wealthy. Just as there is a separation between church and state, there should be a separation between corporations and government. Stop the revolving doors. Make political campaign contributions transparent and regulated.
But none of this is going to happen until the government and those with money and power are scared. Why should they give things up when they've got a good thing going for themselves and their cronies?
Sometimes, the first battle you have to win is the one for getting people to actually pay attention. OWS are still fighting that one, because the media are trying to avoid talking about them at all, and when they finally do mumble a few words about it, they come across as more interested in making excuses for why this really doesn't deserve to be talked about than in dealing with issues of any actual substance.
So for now, I'm willing to cut them a bit more slack.
|Date:||October 13th, 2011 04:08 am (UTC)|| |
So, after one moves their money out of Skank of America or Shitibank, and votes for the rep that promises (a promise s/he will later renege on) to do whatever it is one is wanting them to do with legislation. . . . what else does one DO? Those of us not in any kind of power. Heck, if POTUS can't get consensus or bargain or bully opponents into cooperating, what do the powerless DO?
I don't expect you have answers, instant or forthcoming. I'm just at a loss. All I can do is put my money and my vote where I want them. The rest seems in someone else's hands.