The New York Autumn

The New York Autumn

(A version of this article was published in Blogcritics on October, 2011)

I

Has the Arab Spring come to our shores by way of the New York Autumn? Is this a valid comparison? What exactly is the nature of the movement at hand? 

And a movement it most assuredly is, spreading like wildfire throughout this land of the thief and the slave. Occupy Boston, Albuquerque, LA, San Francisco, Seattle – these are but the initial points of contact, points of a conflagration that is likely to take America, if not the whole world, as if by storm. It’s a tsunami against which there is no foreseeable defense, no fortification or preparedness, no appropriate response. I certainly hope so!

Call me biased if you like, but I think we’re long overdue. The time for the global revolution has arrived!

II

It’s tempting to compare what we’re witnessing right now to the good old sixties – the counter-culture revolution by those we’ve come to call hippies, the flower generation, in short, the Haight-Ashbury kind of scene, the sit-ins, and the like. 

Indeed, many elements reminiscent of our past are assuredly present in the attitudes and behavior of the OWS crowd. And yet, the kind of dissent we’d experienced back then, for all its general and across-the-board character and outreach, cannot be dissociated from, indeed was spurred by, two overriding issues of the day: the anti-war protest (exacerbated by the draft) and Civil Rights.

III

Not that those were unimportant issues. American imperialism and militarism must be fought tooth and nail whenever the occasion presents itself. And it’s likewise with civil rights, which is the legacy of all people, regardless of skin color or ethnic origin. We are supposed — indeed, we were programmed — to fight these injustices time and again, whenever we see them.

What’s the beef, then? In what ways do the sixties fall short of the present? How does the present motley crew, comprised of students, activists, lawyers, media people, folks of different persuasions, even the Tea-partiers, or so we’re told, stack up against the glorious sixties? In what way does it do it one better?

IV

A comparison with recent Madison, WI protests is equally instructive. The issue concerned pensions and collective bargaining rights, and the crowd was in the thousands (70,000 or so, in fact) — massive numbers when contrasted to the OWS activists!

It was the largest rally in the history of Wisconsin,It was the largest rally in the history of Wisconsin, once the most progressive state of the Union. Kudos to the Democratic senators from the state legislature who have absconded to Indiana lest they be forced to vote against all odds for the rights of ordinary workers and against severe austerity measures made necessary, so the story goes, by our budgetary crisis.

A valiant effort, I say, by politicians and the people alike, standing together for once in the common cause. But how did it end? What was accomplished?

Nothing, I’m afraid. Soon after, Governor Walker, with the blessings of the Wisconsin Senate and the State Supreme Court, made certain that the action on behalf of the workers’ rights would be for naught.

V

Let’s go to the heart of the matter –the idea of committing to a cause, any cause, however just it may be. 

Observe first that however noble the aspirations or the cause which gives rise to them, they’re stained by association, contaminated and tarnished. And the reason is — all such responses are fool’s errands because they’re co-optative by nature, suggestive of the feasibility of negotiation when the time for negotiations is long past due.

That’s why the absence of specific demands or a clearly articulated platform on the OWS’s part – the subject of severe critique on the part of even the most progressive elements of the American Left! – rather than being its greatest weakness, it’s its greatest strength.

VI

How so? You don’t negotiate with the enemy if you perceive them as the enemy. To do so would be to validate their status as worthy of reckoning. And that’s the last thing you’d want to do once you realize that they’re no longer deserving of any such, not when the very object of the movement is to strip the enemy of all pretensions to legitimacy. 

Whatever few concessions can be won or chipped away at the negotiating table aren’t worth the price. Not when the object is to discredit the enemy as having no standing whatever, whether moral or legal or otherwise, and to reduce them to the level of brute and faceless force they are and deprive them thus of any justification to the contrary.

Indeed, once the conventional channels of voicing dissent are exhausted and no longer hold any promise, total and absolute negation is the only way to go. So make no mistake about it, the movement at hand is an outright revolt, a revolution in the making, a promise of better things to come, and there’s no taking of prisoners.

Which message, unsurprisingly, is lost on the conventional purveyors and analysts of news in our mainstream media, from Cokie Roberts to Clarence Page, all of whom are still intent on seeing the world in terms of the same failed paradigm and on interpreting the world’s events in terms of it. They fail to realize that it’s that very paradigm that’s in question and that the object is to uproot it.

VII

And it’s no different with the powers-that-be, from the New York’s Finest to Mayor Bloomberg. All authorities, the presumed guardians of the gate, are at their wits’ end. They know not what they’re dealing with, and their resort to violence and sheer force in trying to quash the rebellion is only an indication of how threatened they are, how insecure, how devoid of all understanding.

It’s incredible how uniform is their response whenever their authority is under scrutiny. And it makes no difference whatever whether we be talking about Bahrain or Egypt or the good old USA, or whether they’re educated or common thugs. 

VIII

It’s a doomed strategy if there ever was one, one which is doomed to fail. And yet, we see it implemented time and again as though there were no lessons to be learned. 

There’s no sense of the impending reality that their days are numbered, no conception that you can’t avert a true revolution when it’s knocking at your door. Also absent is a realization that, under the circumstances, the best thing to do is fold your tent and go home unless you be willing to be dragged down in chains to the public square and hanged from the nearest lamppost like a common criminal.

They never learn, though, do they? 

IX

That’s the trademark of those in power — arbitrary power. And it’s all the more pronounced whenever it becomes obvious to anyone but the abusers that their time has come. 

It’s sheer insanity. Yet, human history is replete with stories of ruthless dictators who have tried to hold on to the remnant, the last vestige of power, and to the bitter end, only to end up as human refuse, their lot no more deserving than that of a mangy dog. 

This alone should be a telltale that when a revolution comes knocking, you’d better get out of the way and retire while you still can. It’s also a telltale of the ways of power and its eventual demise.

X

There’re populist movements afoot both from the Right and the Left — the Tea Party and the Occupy America movement — and we’d better not ignore them. They have much more in common than meets the eye – distrust in the government being the starting point, the point of convergence. Both have been subject to scorn and utter ridicule from the respective quarters whom they seem to buck, the GOP on the one hand and the Democratic party on the other. Both are bastions of the Establishment, in case you failed to notice. Both are minimized.

The essential difference between the two? The Tea partiers are still hoping to connect the dots and bring our business sector into the fold as an equally complicit element contributing to their discontent and sense of outrage. Our military-industrial complex, corrupt to the core, blessed besides by our government, this unholy alliance, ought to be the target, the proper object of their rage. 

XI

Another obvious shortcoming is their failure to embrace “the 99 percenters” as part and parcel of their radical, anti-government stance and to identify with all segments of our society who’re also suffering from the very same dysfunctional system they’re rebelling against and find obscene.

Well, that failure can be traced to false ideology, to less than perfect understanding, to a parochial, self-serving outlook – soon to be corrected, is the hope. And when that happens, when the mere 99 percent become 99.99 percent and counting, watch out, America, for your future will be anything but certain; it’ll hang in the balance.

XII

To be distinguished from the Arab Spring, the New York Autumn is just the term for the occasion. Unlike our Arab brethren who are putting their lives on the line to depose autocratic regimes in favor of democratic ones – regimes we helped install – we’ve already been through the whole gamut, the gamut of living in a democracy in name only. It was so from the very beginning, and it’s no different today. 

We are more sophisticated than that, I should think. We know that the idea of democracy is incompatible with the concept of a ruling class, whatever that class might be and whatever the guises under which it tries to represent itself, be it in the form of enlightened legislation, the emphasis on human rights, what else have you. 

It’s but a drop in the bucket, the scraps from the table to appease you and make you believe that our legal-juridical system is working just fine and that its only purpose is to promote universal justice and the interests of all.

XIII

Don’t be fooled, however, by these high-sounding words or the Constitution, especially if you happen to be gay, a woman, or a person of color. All you’re getting is an ounce of permissiveness masquerading as human rights, but the truth is, they barely tolerate you. They detest your guts, your insubordination, and your haughty insolence with every fiber of their being. But the democratic creed requires fine words to gloss over the ugly sentiment that lies underneath, the charade. 

So yes, unlike our Arab brethren, we know what it’s like to live under the thumb of a government that professes itself to be democratic and yet violates every rule in the book because we’ve done it for years. We also know that nothing short of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people will ever satisfy our aspirations and fulfill our destiny. We hope you’ll come to realize that too and join us.

XIV

The 1830s was a turbulent period in European history, a period marked by a series of uprisings and struggles for national independence from under the boot of authoritarian nation-states that held lesser nation-states hostage. Today promises to be another such moment, except the struggle is against governments that terrorize their own people.

If “Occupy America” only stays on message and doesn’t succumb to putting forth demands or an articulated platform — better yet, if it’s joined by the equally disgruntled segment of the American society from the Right — the days of the “one-percenters” are over, and a new beginning is at hand.

Viva La Revolution!

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