Politics & Prejudices
Unpleasant truths for the Occupy Movement
And could 2012 mean the end of Michigan’s black reps. in Congress?
Published: November 2, 2011
Just about everybody seems excited about the Occupy Wall Street-inspired protests currently sweeping the nation. Michael Moore himself, filmmaker and patron saint of Flint, has been dashing around various cities, attempting to inspire the protesters.
"There's no turning back, is there?" he challenged the occupiers in Oakland, Calif., where, last week, a poor veteran of our war on and in Iraq nearly got killed when he was apparently hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired by the local police.
"NO," the crowd roared back enthusiastically. No turning back. Right on. Moore claimed the movement, if that's what it is, has already "scored a number of victories in our first six weeks."
Well, "we've killed despair and we've killed apathy," he said, claiming this was the start of a "watershed moment."
That would be nice, if it were true.
But I doubt it. Here's a contrary view, from a cranky old cynic. The high priests of greed, the bailed-out bankers and the plutocrats who own the nation aren't really worried about Occupy Wall Street.
Not one bit.
Sure, a few nervous right-wing editorial writers and radio talk show clowns are railing against the movement and telling lies about the demonstrators, in part because they think that's what their masters want. But the smart capitalists, while they are keeping a watchful eye on the protesters, aren't really concerned.
Here are three reasons why:
First, the Occupiers have no coherent agenda. They think bailing out the rich was a terrible thing, especially since so many people have no jobs, nor prospects of jobs.
But what are they demanding the government do about it? Do they have any program? Not that I can see. Two weeks ago I blundered into an "Occupy" protest on a crisp fall day in Traverse City, of all places. They were a band of mostly merry folk holding signs, waving and trying to get cars to honk, and having a good time.
What their demands were, if they had any, was not at all clear.
Occasionally they ducked into a nearby bookstore and ordered hot chocolate. If I were a bailed-out banker or other parasite, I might even think the Occupy protests were a good idea.
They haven't really threatened anything — so far — and allow those screwed over by the system to let off steam.
The second reason J.P. Morgan's successors aren't quaking in their tuxedos: No politician of any stature has stepped forth to lead the movement and propose a coherent program of action.
Not even, for example, making the rich "1 percent" or even 5 percent pay their fair share in taxes, or suggesting we use some of the money we are using to destroy Afghanistan to rebuild Detroit.
Again, do you see anyone, even U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist, stepping forward to rally these folks around an agenda? Nope, uh-uh, can't be bothered. Yes, inequality is bad, but what do they want to do about it?
And, finally, the third reason the plutocrats aren't breaking a sweat is simply this: It is getting cold outside. That's right. Winter is coming. Are Muffy and Brian and their grandma going to be out in those tents in Grand Circus Park in February? Especially without any one thing they are pressing the government, any government to do?
You know the answer. Think back. Remember the big globalization protests in Seattle in 1999? Remember the round of protests against globalization that swept the nation and the world in 2007? What did they accomplish? Did they stop globalization?
Are the protesters still on the job, demonstrating, agitating, demanding equal pay for equal work nationwide? Again, you know the answer. They went back to school or back to work.
Or back to el barrio. That doesn't mean all this is hopeless. Some stupid police brutality might help energize this movement.
Somebody with guts and brains could still come forward and seize this moment to try and remake the world. But it won't be easy.
Consider this: The civil rights movement of the 1960s and the anti-Vietnam War movement of the '60s and '70s were coherent and focused, and the demonstrators knew exactly what they wanted.
They eventually succeeded. But getting there literally took years. Overthrowing this corrupt system might be a lot harder.
No one fights harder than those who have money and want to hang on to it. I'm not putting the cause down; this may be the most important battle we could ever wage, if we want to save democracy.
But if you think it's going to be easy, think again.
No black congressmen? Last week, I wrote about state Sen. Bert Johnson's decision to challenge longtime U.S. Rep. John Conyers in next year's Democratic primary in the 13th District, which is primarily Detroit and western Wayne County.
Since then, state Sen. Glenn Anderson of Westland has also jumped into the race, and state Rep. Shanelle Jackson of Detroit is making noises about running. Anderson is white; the rest are African-American. This is a district that is about 56 percent black.
> Email Jack Lessenberry