Could Occupy Together Be Effective?

_PaulS_, Flickr.

_PaulS_, Flickr.

SODOM & GOMORRAH: How do you turn blind rage into something useful?

@kalimkassam was kind enough to include me in a Twitter conversation with @kyachtic, the Leader of the Libertarian Party in Canada, where the latter was asking how the #OccupyTogether movement could direct their rage toward something practical. Of course, @kalimkassam asks if this would even be desirable. It would not; the last thing we need is for the mob to gain real power. Even acknowledging that the occupy groups aren’t all a bunch of Marxists, history tells us that the Marxists are better at harnessing crowds for revolutionary/nefarious (they may as well be the same word) purposes that only an idiot would join their crowds.

Nevertheless, the #OccupyTogether groups are destined for failure. I say this because #OccupyWallStreet didn’t have a goal or unified message from the outset. They weren’t sure if they were fighting banks, the government, oil companies, Israel, the UN, or the State of Georgia. Then they blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge – the impact of such a move did irreperable damage to their movement. Instead of fighting for “the little guy” or “the worker” or “the American” they interrupted said workers’ commutes home. They created undue stress, frustration, they kept parents from their children longer than the already too long their work day plus commute keep them appart. They probably even helped the big oil companies through all the gasoline that was wasted sitting on the bridge. I say that #OccupyTogether is a failed movement because it seeks to replicate that aimlessness and frustration across the country.

My response to @kalimkassam‘s question was, I feel, something that would have made #OccupyWallStreet successful if they would have done it. Since none of the occupiers likely read Restorus, and if they did they’d quickly distrust any advice coming from these quarters, I feel safe presenting my ideas openly.

The first thing the protestors should have done was to decide on an emotion. I read tweets that made the whole protest seem like a giant block party. The Day of Rage didn’t have a lot of rage.

Second, and related to the first, is purpose. Why are you there, what do you want? Some vague promise of a second American Revolution is enough to get the police to show up, but not enough to form a political movement. Further, in that instance, the police have thought out their purpose (to prevent violent insurrection) much more than the protestor has (to revolt, or something). Politics is chess; you generally lose to the person who has planned out more moves than you. Figure out what you stand for. The first indicator that this would be an aimless movement was that the protestors openly claimed they wanted to create a Tahrir Square moment in the United States. I still don’t know what everyone wanted in Tahrir Square and I doubt the protestors do either. Everyone wants “freedom” and “democracy” but I doubt many in either group can answer what those words mean to them.

Third, find an enemy and defeat them. While I disagree with the protestors’ chosen tactic (gather in large numbers and yell at things), they have apparently already come up with an approach they feel comfortable with. That approach needs to be directed toward someone. I said on Twitter that #EndTheFed was stupid; it ought to be #FireBernanke.* Naturally firing Ben Bernanke is a prerequisite to ending the Federal Reserve, so it fits with a broader goal. While this site and others spend considerable time examining the impersonal nature of our bureaucratic governments, we must always recognize that bureaucracies exist to crush and destroy politics. They are an end to political action.** Finding and defeating an enemy, as Carl Schmitt teaches us, is the essence of politics. Therefore an attempt to fight the bureaucracy as “the enemy” is justified, but misguided. This will only result in the formation of your own bureaucracy (and this an end to politics and your struggle) or defeat as you are unsure where your energy should be focused. Think of Ron Paul and other libertarians; they oppose “The State” and they hope to fight “The State” and “The Statists.” Where should they begin? EPA, FDA, CIA, FBI, DOE, FCC, FTC, DOT, BOP, CBO, NYT, CNN, MSNBC, etc. All of these organizations have thousands of employees who depend on the bureaucracy for food and other things. They are so massive and you are so small, and the minute you start fighting them all at once is the minute you start losing.

Politics is about people. Even if government has hidden behind the monstrosity that is the bureaucracy, any successful political struggle must be focused on people. The smaller the group, the better. If you can narrow it down to one or two, you’re in business. Everyone has enemies who they work with; attacking the organization will only cause everyone to unite to defend against the outsiders who would threaten their pensions. Targetting just one insider and centering your energy there will dramatically increase your odds of success; firing one person is easier than dismantling an entire organization. The momentum you gain from the public victory will allow you to continue to advance on the long term goal. Tahrir Square, while lacking a real purpose, at least gained short term momentum and a public victory by getting Mubarak fired.

*@kyachtic responded by saying that, in Canada, Bernanke isn’t known much and, further, his firing isn’t a prerequisite to ending the Fed. The first point is entirely true, and is the reason why this mass universal movement fad won’t work. The oppressors in the United States are different from the oppressors in Canada. While a universal movement might agree on what characterizes an oppressor (if the movement is organized by intelligent people, such as was the case with international Communism), the actual targets of a protest will vary. The second point is technically true, but again with an intelligent organization, the arguments behind #FireBernanke can be translated into a larger #EndTheFed goal – especially if people in power go on record with agreeing to fire Bernanke for the same reasons you want to fire him.

**@kyachtic responded (after most of this was written) by saying that 1) rage doesn’t work, logic and reason do, and 2) politics is undesirable and should be avoided. Thus we have arrived at why I’m not a libertarian.

First, logic and reason (whatever those are or mean – the “reason” of today is not the “reason” of yesteryear) work only with a group of friends who agree on certain ground rules. I will continue to raise the question, what happens when people don’t agree to play by the rules? Have you ever been so enraged that logic and reason stop being persuasive? If we consider that the Far Left operates based on a politics of rage (rage against Wall Street, the State, authority, God) and that the Far Right has a politics of fear (fear of societal, familial, religious collapse) we only have to imagine times in our own lives where rage and fear were more persuasive than any rational argument to see that rationality will always lose when confronted with the sheer power of irrationality. (There’s more to be said, but perhaps in tomorrow’s article.)

Second, as stated above, the desire to avoid politics led to the creation of the bureaucracy. The original literature justifying its growth (esp. Max Weber) in the mid 19th century calls for a group of public servants who were disinterested from the day to day political strife. We need “experts” who would apply “logic and reason” to public affairs so that the most optimal outcome would always happen. This plan failed, of course. But further, I would argue that politics is unavoidable. (When @JonathanE22 laments that humans cannot live in peace, he is entirely correct. We never will.) Even the attempt to end politics will and has met resistance from those who would preserve it. If politics is about the identification and struggle against enemies, we may say that politics gives people something to die for. Likewise, if we abolish the forces that give us something to die for, we might also abolish the forces that give us something to live for. What then are we “free” for?

Naturally, I’m grateful to @kalimkassam@kyachtic, and @JonathanE22 for the interesting, intelligent, and motivating conversation. I hope that no one is too taken aback by my assaults on logic, reason, and all that is holy. All are welcome to respond/contribute on or elsewhere; I’ll be sure to pay attention.