Professor Keck's Reality 101


Michigan, USA
December 31
Mary Keck is a writer and blogger. Her articles have appeared on Open Salon, The Public Intellectual, and The Huffington Post. She is currently a columnist for The Times Herald where she writes about nature, outdoor recreation, and wildlife.

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OCTOBER 13, 2011 4:06PM

OWS: A 21st Century Revolution (Updated)

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Bill Maher whined about pronouncing “Occupy Wall Street" last Friday night on his show. For him, five syllables across three words are a mouthful with too much substance and not enough sound byte.  His jibes reflect the anxiety pundits experience trying to categorize OWS.  Some say it is like the response to the Vietnam War, while others draw similarities to the Tea Party. The Occupation spreading across the United States has been equated to many other protests, but its amorphous structure and methodology defy easy comparisons.

With a closer look, one can see that the Occupation's agenda does not emphasize individualism like the Tea Party. Rather, it insists on compassion for one’s fellow citizens. According to the “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City,” they speak “as one people, united,” and they believe “the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members.”  

Occupy Poster

The unity expressed in this declaration resists categorical analysis in part because this organization's demands can't be satisfied by outdated methods of representative governance. It is important to remember that our democracy's founders didn’t have a draft of the Constitution written when they began their campaign, nor could they refer to civil disobedience exemplars like Henry David Thoreau, Susan B Anthony, and Martin Luther King Jr. Therefore, we shouldn't be surprised that the Occupiers do not have a nicely polished plan of action. In fact, the openness to evolving platforms and solutions may be its greatest asset.

OWS's resistance to definition demonstrates a 21st century mindset. Our founders' overthrow of the monarchial rule was an advanced notion at the time. Likewise, this Occupation may mean a true revolution that posits a contemporary alternative to democracies modeled on ancient Rome, and so a resort to an upsetting and untried structure shouldn't surprise us. 

The existing rule of the land does not appeal to OWS citizens who are fed up with the failure of both republicans and democrats to represent majority interests. Glenn Greenwald explains, "efforts to exploit these protests into some re-branded Obama 2012 crusade" will meet with little success because alleged "progressives" have betrayed the American people. The Occupation does not have goals easily divided along profit-driven, two-party lines. Even its methods do not reflect a business as usual mentality. As Andrea Schmidt's recent blog post points out, the use of a "Human Mic" shows a desire for a more "direct democratic process." 

Democracy for Sale 

Like some women's movements, Occupy Wall Street's fluid composition has resisted the traditional hierarchal schema. Members are treated with fairness, varying perspectives are readily heard, and no single leader has emerged. This structural alternative to patriarchy would truly be different from our current phallically-shaped governing body, which places our president at the top of the pyramid as “commander-in-chief.” The citizen's voices are far below, removed from him by the bickering and posturing of the House and the Senate made up of representatives who do not reflect or symbolize the diverse majority for whom they purport to speak.

Unlike the documents of our founders, this Occupation's "Declaration" incorporates the views of individuals who are not rich, white, or male. For example, the protesters feel that corporations have “perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.” Voices of many disenfranchised groups are heard in the sentiments of OWS, and in fact, the movement embodies traits of many who have been oppressed by a privately-funded democracy.

Their environmental interests show qualities classically labeled as feminine, for instance. The Occupiers believe corporations have “poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.”  This perspective comes from a collective epiphany that recognizes homo sapiens' connection with nature and stresses the significance of relationships, a characteristic also often associated with women.

Interconnectivity is advocated by eco-feminists like Vandana Shiva of the Earth Democracy movement, “which provides an alternative worldview in which humans are embedded in the Earth Family.” OWS extends Shiva's ideas to argue that Wall Street is not only connected to Main Street but also to the rural routes and all of the Earth surrounding the roadsides. 

OWS For a Better World  

The activists see a deliberate affront to that connectivity when the government continue[s] to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.” Reforms packaged in Tar Sands exploration, so-called clean coal technology, and XL Pipeline landscapes are not acceptable. Instead, the way of the Occupy Wall Street crowd is to redesign our use, creation, and storage of energy through truly innovative means such as efficient technologies, bio-mimicry, and self-sustainability.

These activists are also thinking of connections beyond our national borders, arguing that the government has "perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad [and has] participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas." These declarations of international peace were birthed by an organization that shows a dedication to nonviolence not only in their statements but also through their methods of protest. This platform against aggression and violence is another example of this movement's break from typically masculine notions.

OWS Crimes Against Humanity  

On the other hand, there are also traits associated with men to be found in our Occupiers. Mainly, in their stereotypical desire for power. Not the power of one, but of many who are unified around a common concern: mass injustice.

Due to its androgynous structure and methods, it seems that OWS desires something new, something "radically democratic," Paul Rosenberg says. Therefore, it is no surprise when pundits struggle with the complexity of this movement, for it is  not typical of the simple, black and white world in which they thrive. Instead this Occupation reflects a multicolored, multidimensional, and multifaceted reality.

As Paul Krugman noted recently, the plutocrats are panicking as a citizenry previously fast asleep has awakened and will no longer consume, work, and keep quiet.  But the occupiers of Wall Street may have more planned than fixing a system rigged in favor of the wealthy. The specter of a democracy that does not operate on binaries and sees gender, race, and age as flexible may also haunt supporters of the status quo.

While a movement in resistance to patriarchy strikes fear into Wall Street, the protesters have allies like Cornel West who encourages us, "Don't be scared to say revolution." These modern activists don't seem at all frightened, and they shouldn't be. If the pundits and politicians want to disrupt this movement, they'll have to first catch up to OWS's nuanced worldview.

OWS Revolution  

Update 10/18: Find this article on The Huffington Post.

Update 10/20: This article is featured on the Public IntellectualTwenty News, and News Wire

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Good stuff again, Professor, and nice to see you on the Huffington Post, too!

I'm fascinated by the body metaphor at work in your post here. The hierarchal organization of traditional society vs. the oceanic inclusiveness of direct democracy.

My questions are: is our choice limited to the stoppered bottle of pyramid power or the free-flow of ideas? Is hierarchy the enemy?

For those who've been paying attention this is nothing surprising at all- it is called Evolution, folks. Yes, we are evolving and we will never stop. Sadly, when right wing authoritarians are holding the cards Devo was "right" and they want to try and force us to de-evolve, but, over time, the Universe don't play that tune ...

Again, some have been paying attention, adbusters is all about singularity, and that is what is at play here. For a "progressive" to not be familiar with the concept, the truth, actually, says volumes about whats going on.

The web is a big extension of consciousness, it's not New Agey, it's what happens wherever amino acids travel in this Universe, and whatever generates new life, inevitably, in the billions of others.

Now, you can't keep the smart kids from knowing they can power their cars without petroleum, grow food in the city, even in winter, and exist happily and completely without corporate garbage products, brainwash advertising and the McJobs that feed them.

That, in this century, is a suckers game ... less players try out every minute, and the real Exodus is nearly a month old ... this will be a Happy Christmas.

You had me at "'Bill Maher whined".
Good work.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
--sinclair louis

"One withstands the invasion of armies; one does not withstand the invasion of ideas."
--victor hugo

occupy wall street, my speech to the masses
"the Occupation's agenda ... insists on compassion for one's fellow citizens."

Really? It would be more accurate to write that the Occupiers are left-wing populists that, like right-wing populists, simply blame their fellow citizens. And like right-wing populists, they seek to dehumanize other people. Here are some signs I've seen:

"Hitler's Bankers = Wall Street"
"Crimes Against Humanity"
"I'll Believe Corporations are People When Texas Executes One"

Here are a few comments I've read on Salon, written by self-professed OWS supporters:

"All the rich understand is force and violence - give it to them."
"I would not shed a tear if they were thrown into the gutter."
"Their heads should be on pikes."
"They are evil - pure evil."

Why hasn't Salon called this attitude out? Salon was justifiably outraged when the Tea Party used Nazi imagery and not-so-thinly-veiled threats against Obama, why is it different now? Historically, right-wing populists have blamed, among others, Jews, blacks, and immigrants for the "common man's" problems. Now the self-proclaimed "99%" is blaming a rich and demonic 1 percent for their problems. Now I know people will respond, "But the rich are doing ... to us. " or "But the rich did ... to us." Substitute Jew, black, or immigrant in your statement, and perhaps you will see my point.
Down with the establishment!

Up with the people that are already part of the establishment…

…Okay, I’m having a little trouble with the goal here.
A democracy of souls, finally, for an enlightened populace?
Reminds me of some William blake lines
i always wanted to see come true:

It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity:
Thus could I sing and thus rejoice: but it is not so with me.'

'Compel the poor to live upon a crust of bread, by soft mild arts.
Smile when they frown, frown when they smile; and when a man looks pale
With labour and abstinence, say he looks healthy and happy;
And when his children sicken, let them die; there are enough
Born, even too many, and our earth will be overrun
Without these arts.
The sun has left his blackness and has found a fresher morning,
And the mild moon rejoices in the clear and cloudless night,
And Man walks forth from midst of the fires: the evil is all consum'd.
His eyes behold the Angelic spheres arising night and day;
The stars consum'd like a lamp blown out, and in their stead, behold
The expanding eyes of Man behold the depths of wondrous worlds!
One Earth, one sea beneath; nor erring globes wander, but stars
Of fire rise up nightly from the ocean; and one sun
Each morning, like a new born man, issues with songs and joy
Calling the Plowman to his labour and the Shepherd to his rest...

uh, a bit flowery but terribly inspiring, no?
great photos and essay. thank-you. the streets!!!

You've proven my point with your classic populism: attribute to your undesirable incredible powers. For Hitler, the Jews were ruling a corrupt Germany. For the KKK, the blacks were destroying America. For the Tea Party, Mexicans are taking all our jobs and smarty-pant scientists tricking the populous. Now for OWS, the rich alone caused the recession by forcing "common people" (who are actually wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of most of humanity) to buy houses that they couldn't afford. Did the rich also force a majority of voting Americans to elect Reagan and Bush, who in their own ways helped to create some of what OWS is protesting against.

But you still didn't answer the question: why is it OK to compare bankers, who lend people money, to Hitler, who killed millions of innocent people? Frankly, it was sick when the Tea Party did it to Obama and it is just as sick now - and it is intellectually dishonest of you to pretend not to see that.
"As Paul Krugman noted recently, the plutocrats are panicking as a citizenry previously fast asleep has awakened and will no longer consume, work, and keep quiet."
questionable, I havent really seen any plutocrats trembling lately. I think they are just LAUGHING slightly less loudly.
It's a beautiful thing -- the leaderless, democratic style of the protesters of OWS. It brings to mind all the ideas which have worked, which we dismiss as impractical. We need to think in these ways more often.
Peter, you will soon see that most of the "writers" on OS don't answer questions. Nor are they capable of real debate. You'll soon be called names and accused of hijacking the blog.

But good on you for trying and, good luck!
Peterchullo, I can think of very few cases when a comparing anyone to Hitler or the KKK was apt. My post isn't really about the signs. Yes, there are signs featured here, but I think the true sentiments of the group are expressed in the Declaration they voted on, which is linked.

Just as we should not assume that all Tea Partiers agreed with folks who held up racist signs, I don't think that we can paint all the OWS protesters with a broad brush either. That's one of the main points of my post: they are a diverse bunch.

Rwoo was saying that the bankers and corporations ARE a real threat to democracy whereas jews and blacks were NOT a real threat. This is true, is it not?
Fine profkeck. But the next time a conservative compares living under the Obama administration to dying under Hitler - a comparison that trivializes the deaths of about 9 million people - who on the left will say, as they have for the last few years, "Oh, we never say such outrageous things!" ? How will they say that, when we now have photos of well-fed, cell phone-using, ipod-owning, very much alive progressives comparing their plight to that of Hitler's victims? And I have yet to hear another fellow liberal call that wrong.
love the graphics! use KKK - HITLER early and often - they are words. If they bring heat - energy to any discussion in this era of apathy - then I speak for the lynched and gassed! use them - and everything you can to fire up the hearts and minds of the numb.
Forgive us who do, as we forgive you who feel the need to remind us for doing so. Are we to be divided now as well for poor word choice?
Your post is an effective response to the criticism that OWS does not clearly express a mission. Super post.
Peterchullo - this liberal says it's wrong. And you're analysis is right on. What's appropriately ironic to me is that on the one hand, there's this underlying philosophy - we are all connected. Yet the very real ways we are all connected in this economy, in times both good, but now bad - these connections are dismissed. It's their fault, that things are bad, not our fault, etc., but, oh, we're all connected in this great web of life.
"Don't be scared to say revolution." It's about time; Go OWS!
To those who say "Go Revolution", check back in when your iphones don't work, ditto with your computers, and you can't get a loan to buy that car. Also, check out what leftist revolutions have given "us" in the past 100 years or so. It ain't pretty. In fact, gee, it looks a lot like fascism. But it does obliterate, often literally, the individual. So on that score, the professor, can be pleased - although I doubt she will want HER individuality or personal freedom messed with. Will always be the other guy and, of course, for his own good.
"So on that score, the professor, can be pleased" should be "the professor can be pleased". Sorry.
i'd have some confidence in progress if i saw some evidence you know where you are.

as soon as i see 'our democracy' i lose interest, because america is not a democracy, never was, and was intentionally created to protect the rich from the rest.

some of your concerns would be quickly resolved if america were a democracy,, citizen initiative could make sure america was run for the people, because it would be run by the people.

but how can you struggle for democracy if you think the current oligarchy is the same thing?
Right Wingers of today are beyond clueless. A couple examples:

1. Why compare Bush (Cheney) to Hitler? Both invaded countries for no reason other than power and resources and killed hundreds of thousands or more of innocent old women and children.

2. Why compare the Tea Party to the KKK? Um, because it is financed by the John Birch Society, the "nice face", as if they could have one, of the Klan.

3. Why let right wing authoritarian lemmings spout hate and putrid nonsense, not to mention libertarian idiocy against the same social contract which is the only thing allowing to spew gibberish in a Salon, not on their own toilet? Well, we don't.

BJ, your arguments are way past weak, they are just simplistic slogans hiding the hate behind them ... they will never go unchallenged by educated people who give a damn.

OWS is the end of all your propped up fantasies and injustice based hater policy.
Dear Barbara,

Why do you hate America?

I recall some Very Important People revolting from a system they didn't support. I recall reading somewhere that "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it , and to institute new government"

Actually, it's not just a good idea; it's our duty: "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Revolution looks like the only way forward. Don't be afraid to say revolution, even if Barbara is reluctant to fulfill her constitutional responsibilities.
"this Occupation reflects a multicolored"

This "movement" is probably more white than the Tea Party. Let get serious, just like the ideological battles of the 19-20th century, this is a battle between the WHITE middle class. These people are just retread of the old 60's left, new people same bunch.

It all comes down to the fact that the white middle class (western middle class in general) is being squeezed economically. In the US, blacks and Latinos have not participated in your economy except as recipients of government spending. We long ago have seen through "progressive" worldview. This is why none of us are at your "protest." As Lilly white as The TP folks.
Hey Mr B.S.

I just returned from a weekend OWS rally which was populated with all walks, ages, and colors. You may also have noticed Cornel West was arrested yesterday.

What you are evidently ignorant of is the fact that far trillions more are wasted through corporate greed than any food stamp or WIC abuse you might dream up. The biggest criminals and greatest threat to our democracy are the super-rich white collar types. Read that again: the largest drain on government spending is not poor folks, black folks, or brown folks--the largest siphon of government spending are the subsidies for special interests like Big Oil, Big Ag, Big War, and Big Banks--white, upper class, male enclaves, mind you.

In other words, take your hate with you as you leave, cause there's only one race, and we are after the same goal: economic justice. Which side are you on?
Lance - maybe you can define economic justice to me. And then explain how it would be implemented.
Lance, I don't hate America. Don't know where you got that notion.

I don't want a revolution in America either. Sorry.
Surfer - you need to prove the Tea Party is financed by the Birch Society. Evidence?
Thanks to Peterchullo - it is a trivialization indeed to compare Wall Streeters OR Tea Party types or the left to Hitler. It makes light of the deaths of 11 million people. (I am talking only too of the Holocaust murders, not even addressing the deaths of millions of brave soldiers who fought for the Allies.)
Mr Cole,

Let's start here:

Economic justice is NOT letting "too-big-to-fail" banks collude with investment firms to create mortgage backed securities filled with illicit loans they know are going to tank. Economic justice is NOT selling those securities to clients purposely kept in the dark about how those hand-picked, intentionally mis-rated loans are most likely to fail. Economic justice is NOT raking in mega-profits from short-selling those same securities while the rest of the world economy craters and the 99% are subjected to austerity measures.

Economic justice would hold the criminals accountable (i.e. putting them in jail and refunding their client's investments), but that would require the SEC to quit shredding files from cases hushed by the same investment firms and would require that the DOJ to work on behalf of humans rather than corporations.

These actions and policies are the very antithesis of economic justice, don't you think, Mr. Cole?
So BJ,

Since you're so offended by inappropriate comparisons, I suppose you're opposed to the ridiculous comparison made by the TP as well.

You know, the one where they compare their plight to those original colonists revolting from King George III.

You know, the one where they think a man freely elected by a majority of Americans is comparable to an unimpeachable monarch.

You remember the Tea Party, right? They're the ones who had no problem with government waste and overreach for a decade in the Iraq, Afghan, and Patriot Act debacles, yet screamed "fascism" and draped themselves in tea bags when a black Democrat was elected and then a bipartisan legislative body passed legislation they were told not to like.

Why were you so silent during the Bush/Cheney administration shredded our constitution? Why are you so vocal now? Both questions have the same answer: because you are partisans first, and do what ever the party bosses encourage you to do.

So fine; you don't want a revolution. Then stay at home while the rest of the world passes you by, because the necessary changes aren't going to happen by themselves. If you're not got the courage to uphold your constitutional duties, then get out of the way because the true patriots are coming through and we've got work to do.
Lance, Lance

"all walks, ages, and colors." I will call BS. Now I will say I have not been to NYC but I sure have seen the one in DC. Again I went (not part of) to Becky one last year and the idiot comedian's one. Again, 95% WHITE! I will state this simpler for you....middle class and up whites fighting other middle class and up whites.

As for the few token colored folk you have.....Google John Lewis and Atlanta OWS's.....good the look in his face when you WHITEs refused to let him speak. I almost fell on the ground laughing!!!!
One last thing Lance,

"The biggest criminals and greatest threat to our democracy are the super-rich white collar types."

This includes every one of the progressive or liberal types....K Street....Big Universities.....Big Green, et al ! They just want to steal from one set of white type to give to another white type. The problem for my community is that aligning with the "progressive" movement (such as the OWS) means we get a few more SCRAPS from another set of white plantation owners.
Thanks !

Odd that your article got only 5 comments before it
was closed at Huffington Post. Big brother ?

Also odd that on youtube many of the most popular
OWS videos are from Russian TV.....where of course
the former big shot Soviets still pretty much run it
and shoot pesky journalist's....but they now have
homes in France or London, and send kids to
be educated in US or England...

I'm also very disappointed with Obama....Dennis
Kucinich seemed unelectable, but he's been right
almost every time, and I think now could be....
It makes me happy to know that all of todays generation, are not mindless androids! I'm not really sure what is going to come of the occupy movement. Perhaps it is the beginning of the end, for our current system. If that is what it truly is, I will be very happy indeed!
Wise and well thought out. R