Democracy Now featured an interview last Friday with Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street protester who was beaten severely by New York City police while having a seizure, and arrested on March 18. She also was held incommunicado in jail. Others were treated in similar fashion, suffering a variety of injuries from rough treatment. (Read more here.) More were arrested Saturday.
The question begging to be asked in this case is why it is so important to police to treat the protesters so badly. It's bad public relations, and serves to attract more people to the Occupy movement. I pondered this a bit, and have come up with four reasons.
The first and most obvious reason is that they like treating people badly. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has had serious problems with corruption and brutality throughout its history, and it can be said with confidence that these are cultural habits. This corruption has been portrayed in movies, most notably in Serpico, with Al Pacino playing the lead role.
The second reason is that they have encouragement from above, from the chief of police and the mayor. Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, is a Wall Street guy. Wall Street is where his constituents work to siphon the wealth from the rest of the country. The Occupy movement must be crushed, from the Wall Street point of view, lest it threaten bankers' control over the economy.
The third reason is that in spite of the widespread belief that we live in a democratic country, we really live in an authoritarian system. We can vote, but voting is pretty proscribed and narrow. Protest is frowned upon, and if it is for something as fundamental as control over the economy, authority will respond in brutal ways. We haven't yet reached the stage where "Syria" finds itself, but when push comes to shove, so to speak, it's not unheard of in American history for killing of protesters and union workers. (This too.)
What may be the overriding reason for the police brutality is what is known as ontological error, or category mistake, where things of one kind are presented as if they belong to another. It applies to people as well. I believe it is the source of all our dysfunction, our inability to be on this planet in a sane and civilized manner. I wrote about this in 2008, and little has changed since then.
What has become clear to me is that this category error is willful, done to satisfy unconscious psychological needs. An example of ontological error in the economic sphere is money fetishism, in which the representation of value is mistaken for the value it represents. As the representation becomes more and more complex, with bundling of money assets like mortgages and pension plans, then betting on the default on these assets, representations of representations appear, then representations of representations of representations, and the original value gets lost in the confusion. The result inevitably is a crashing of the house of cards, and that is what happened in 2008.
This is where a complicit government comes in. Wall Street banks and brokerage firms were facing a collapse in 2008, and their friends in the Congress, the White House, and the Federal Reserve System conspired to bail them out.
Any movement that challenges Wall Street threatens the entire infrastructure of corruption in this country. By making a connection of economic inequality, unemployment, dislocation, home foreclosures and gutting of retirement savings to the banking system, government, corporations and the wealthy, the Occupy movement has the potential to expose the entire ruling structure as the criminal operation that it is.
In this context brutal beatings and arrests of protesters make perfect sense. The ruling structure needs for this movement to stop. We are in a presidential election year. The last thing the Structure needs is for people to get riled up at a time when politicians are scrambling to fool them once again.
A good example of the need to quash dissent is Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel's plan to curtail protest at the upcoming NATO summit. The denial of parade permits is a time-honored tactic to circumvent the Constitution. Of course, Chicago has notable experience in quashing dissent, staging a police riot at the 1968 "Democratic" convention.
This all happens within a broader context - climate change. Due to the industrialized world's exponential increase in the use of fossil fuels, the planet is heating up. The Polar ice caps are melting. Severe weather is becoming the norm all over the planet. In the "U.S.," we now have a forest fire season, which is just getting started. Wisconsin has had eighty-plus degree temperatures for several days this month, and nationwide records have been broken for the month of March.
This context matters, because it is the same ruling structure that has corrupted our economic system that is preventing any meaningful action to reverse the effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. To do anything meaningful would require a drastic curtailment in the use of fossil fuels, not over the next fifty years, but right now. If this were to happen the power, control, security and wealth of our corrupt ruling structure would be erased in a relative instant, so from the perspective of the elites, there can be no reversing of climate change.
There can't be dissent either, at least not dissent to the degree that change becomes immanent. Thus, the New York Police Department to the rescue. This might explain why they have been spying on people well beyond the city limits. So far, they supposedly are spying only on Muslims. Projects like this don't stop with one target. They grow and grow.
On the bright side, a scared ruling structure is a good sign. They ought to be scared. They are criminals. A growing protest movement could bring them to justice. They could lose everything.
They will lose everything. Climate change isn't going away any time soon. Our corrupt infinite growth economic system has little room to grow. The rest of the planet is becoming increasingly uneasy with "American" dominance and fossil fuel profligacy. All these forces are converging at the same time. It is going to be a wild ride from here on out.
If you are interested in becoming involved with the Occupy movement, click here.
The National Lawyers Guild is helping with the legal defense of Occupy protesters. They could use a little help funding their work.
You can see more videos of Occupy activities here.
The Occupy movement isn't just on the east coast. Here's an example of what police are dong on the west coast.
To see a video of NYPD Inspector Anthony Bologna (Tony Baloney) pepper spraying two women at the Occupy Wall Street protest last September, click here.
This song is a good theme for 2012.
Here's a song that fits.
This is a good theme song for Wall Street bankers.
R.I.P. Earl Scruggs. I saw him perform with his sons - the Earl Scruggs Revue - in 1975. It was the best concert I ever went to. He did three encores.