Nothing about New Zealand today. Just some feelings I have about current events.
This was originally a comment I posted on my friend’s post regarding the Occupy Wall Street protests, so, no caps. Haha.
i have mixed feelings about the wall street protest. i can definitely get behind the motive but any good protest has a specific demand in mind.
what’s this one’s demand? “quit being douches?” fuck, even if i were the likely nonexistent wall street exec who was moved by what was going on outside, i’d be like, “they are so right. i’ve been unethical about my decisions.” and then do what, precisely? make whatever changes are in my power that my demonstrably fucked-up moral compass decides are better for the firm? resign, leaving such matters in the hands of others who may or may not be similarly sympathetic?
i’m not saying that people shouldn’t try to make a change simply because there’s a low chance of it succeeding. i’m just saying, those who feel strongly about this should get their act together and do something more practical–educating the voting public not involved in this movement, recommending actual legislation, or hell, even having a unified and specific demand from their targets on wall street (maybe even having a more specific target than “wall street…” at least then, one firm would lose some face and perhaps a few shareholders would feel like dumping their shares)–and less emotional than this vent-fest.
don’t get me wrong, i highly respect the people doing this. they’re doing something, and they’re doing something big, and actually quite well-organized, and it’s getting a fuckton of attention, which is actually great. BUT it is a damn shame that an alliance of people this huge and well-organized and (particularly at the organizational level) well-educated can’t come up with something better than to vent on location about something as abstract as “corporate greed.”
As this guy (CNN) points out in an article sympathetic with the protests, “…the product of the decentralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus.”
What part of that doesn’t sound like a huge waste of time?
What use is a consensus on an abstract grievance? It’s more or less a consensus among Americans that homicide is “bad.” This, of course, includes people on both sides of the abortion debate. But pro-lifers believe abortion is homicide. Pro-choicers don’t. Similarly, just about everybody can agree that Wall Street execs fucked shit up for the economy. But that means different things to the person who took out a loan the bank knew he could never pay back, vs. the wealthy trader who found herself out of a job because her financial institution collapsed under the weight of its scandals, vs. the guy who has to pay a bit more for milk than he did five years ago, vs. the family who just plain can’t afford anything anymore. You expect these people to come to a consensus less obvious and more helpful than “The sub-prime lending crisis made things shitty for us?” At least that’s common ground. But that’s all you have when you make consensus such a priority. Common ground, and nothing to use it for.
It’s less about victory than sustainability? Then what precisely are the protesters trying to accomplish here?
We have to ask ourselves, in an ideal world, what would happen as a result of our efforts? Then, how distant is that ideal from reality? Then, how do we close that gap?
There are two approaches to that last question:
1. Step up our game. Obvious.
2. Take the “ideal world” itself and move it closer to concrete reality.
And how do we do #2? Set concrete goals for our efforts. We should be able to paint a logical, direct line from what we’re doing and what we want it to accomplish–not just aim our efforts in the general direction of what we want.
“Make the world a better place” is a lofty, abstract goal, and won’t alone lead you to actually getting shit done.
“End world hunger” is a bit better. But not much. What will you get done in pursuit of this?
“Increase the quality of nutrition in the school-provided lunches in Chicago area public schools.” Now we’re getting somewhere. Now we can talk about, “How?”
This is true in everything we try to do. The more specific our goal, the better our chances of accomplishing it.
If you make a workout/diet plan for a month with the goal of “getting fit,” you may or may not get there. You’ll go to the gym, doing all sorts of exercises that are all probably good for you, but some of which may have more or less of an impact on “getting fit” in different ways than others. You’ll eat “healthy,” but you should be doing that anyway.
But if you do this with the goal of “decreasing my resting heart rate by 10bpm,” you will prioritize gym exercises that will increase your cardiovascular health, as opposed to, say, muscle gain. You will eat healthy as you always should, but perhaps focus on foods that prioritize your heart health over others (“My eyes are fine; I can buy fewer carrots, but I’ll buy more bananas”). In short, you’ll get that shit done.
Occupy Wall Street needs this kind of specific goal. A specific demand for a specific Wall Street target to do a specific something. OCW has in fact accomplished great feats in attracting attention. Now, imagine if this powerful movement set specific goals for its impassioned members, focusing its efforts on one specific grievance after another, knocking them out until all of the sudden, their abstract ideal of the destruction of corporate greed is that much closer to reality. That’d be powerful shit, man.