Thursday, October 06, 2011

Occupying Reservations

I visited #occupyboston tonight. I saw some rays of hope — at the encampment’s nightly General Assembly, the representative from the AFL-CIO announced protest marches coming up this and next week that he wanted the Occupy community to participate in. His announcements took up about 5 minutes time during the meeting.

By comparison, a motion to ban the use of disposable plates and utensils took… Well, it took forever because their assembly meetings insist upon using a “Direct Democracy” format, where anyone in the assembly is allowed to speak. This makes the process of “democracy” incredibly long and arduous — even among a group of people who generally agree with each other. It would only take 15 trolls shouting to stop one of these meetings cold.

The usual suspects were present at Occupy Boston, just like at any other protest: crusty socialists. They are a large part of the crowd at the encampment, and their anti-capitalist sentiment pervades the community.

Looking over literature at the table for the International Socialists Organization, I saw magazines exulting the Egyptian revolution and how it’s not finished yet. What the Egyptian citizens did in Midan Tahrir to bring down the government was amazing, and their actions make me proud to have lived in their country for a short time. I felt a deep connection to the al-sha3b al-masri when they overthrew their dictator.

I also know what it’s like to live in a dictatorship. America isn’t there… I dare place an addendum of “yet” at the end of that sentence, but in truth we’re not even close.

Also, Egyptians (I would dare to add the addendum of “my people” following that, but some Egyptians would disagree) want capitalism. They would kill to enjoy the opportunities that a capitalist-based economy, with little corruption, would bring them. Essentially, there's no difference in feeling on this between people in oppressed societies, like Egypt, and people in America.

Corruption is pervasive to varying degrees in all societies, and the Occupy movements are a reaction to the perversion of capitalism in America — the overreach by Wall Street and corporate executives to grab as many bonuses as possible, no matter the cost. Even if that cost is the greed which is eroding America’s middle class.

But does this mean society needs to (or would) revert to socialism? No.

The “American Dream” is really a method devised to keep the middle class happy and not thinking about starting a revolution. What is the “American Dream”, really? I’ll tell you: here’s a job, a house, a truck, a way to support your family, cable and broadband internet to pipe entertainment into your home and shut you the fuck up; and if you do really well you can buy a boat. Kick back, watch “Dexter”, be entertained by that show’s twisting of the American Dream, grab a beer and feel happy. Work may be stressful, but life is good.

The American Dream is societal control. And, you know what? I’m hooked. I want that — all of it. I went to college to try and earn all of that. My parents didn’t goto college and they got the dream, but I’m quickly approaching my mid-30’s and struggling. I can’t even get a credit card right now, nevermind a house. I could only afford to give my local NPR station a $10 donation this pledge drive, and I donated at a time when they need X amount of money to get another $32,000 — not when they were giving away a trip to Italy. I didn’t give a fuck about that, I just felt guilty that I couldn’t give my local station more money so I wanted to maximize its potential.

So what happened? I’m not alone in this feeling that my grasp on the American Dream is slipping, that explains the more radical political movements we see today: the Tea Party and Occupy. And believe me, both of these movements are polar opposites of each other — but they are reactions to the same symptoms. Where’s the American Dream?

The American Dream requires a capitalist society. The Occupy movement has good intentions in mind, but if they really expect to model themselves after the Arab Spring, then they’re going to run into a particularly troubling irony: The Arabs want the capitalist dream. They want their version of the American Dream, and so do I. Socialism isn’t going to fix this, nor will it ever be accepted.

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