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On #OccupyWallStreet and the Power of Open Source and Consensual Processes

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I’m fascinated by how many political operatives seem keen to tell the participants in OccupyWallStreet that they are doing lots of things wrong, and really should shape up and follow traditional lines, like issuing demands and seeking to apply pressure in more conventional ways. Given that the movement is getting lots of free and mainly favorable PR and is mushrooming all over the US, there does not seem to be a lot of empirical support for this view.

As numerous readers have pointed out, and the folks in Zuccotti Park recognize all too well, using those strategies now would play into the hands of the existing power structure. Per Richard Kline:

What I found disconcerting about the media’s quest to find the demands motivating the Occupiers was just that single word, ‘demands.’ That together with the rapidity of the media’s insistence that there must be demands. By itself it said everything about the media strategy anti-occupation while also ignoring the substantive statements of individuals at the occupations and the process of the occupations. ‘Demands’ are what disgruntled extremists ‘agitate’ for, in common, anti-popular media presentation of the last twenty years. Demands for ‘special’ pay; demands for ‘special’ treatment. Demands for ‘scapegoats’ to be dragged expensively into court. Demands for ‘acknowledgment’ from the politicos ‘at the top.’ You know: labor ‘demands,’ and all that stuff. The point was/is if demands can be elicited, than those in the occupation _must_ be agitators, which means that they must be malcontents, which means that they must be ‘unrepresentative,’ which means that they must be selfish interests; bums looking for handouts and blood, because that’s who the media presents as having ‘demands’ rather than ‘negotiating’ stances, or operational ‘missions’ like Serious People.

What the occupiers have had are questions. “Why aren’t there indictments for fraud and worse?” “Why are we firing nurses and teachers when corporate profits will hit a RECORD this year?” “Why to the richest pay no tax while state and local governments are crushed with debt?” “Why does the Beltway do absolutely nothing about employment?” “Why have student grants disappeared to be replaced by predatory loans without which we cannot get the education employers and the System demand from us?” These questions may _become_ demands, but they aren’t, yet. They, and most of the rest of us 99%, would realy like to have answers. But the media have done everything possible to _exclude_ questions of this kind, to push them to small, late, interior paragraphs in turgid pabalum articles and to exclude them from the broadcast media altogether.

The most visible controversy has surrounded “what do these people want?” As we’ve argued, “We are the 99%” more than suffices as a high level answer. It is a VERY powerful message. It says “We don’t need to negotiate. This is our country and we want it back from the top 1% which has been selling us out.” The 1% know damned well what the 99% want, which is a more just society. If you forced any 10 in the top 1% of them to make a list of 10 things they thought the other 99% wanted, I guarantee you’d have no more than 16 real issues among the 100 answers you’d get in total. And I strongly suspect the 99% would agree or at most restate them.

But the second source of orthodox consternation is the notion that there has to be a conventional hierarchical structure in place for an effort like this to succeed. The media and the officialdom seem flummoxed by the lack of obvious leaders and official spokesmen.

OWS is an experiment in something more akin to direct democracy and it explicitly places the wishes and needs of the community first. If nothing else it is exercising muscles that have atrophied badly in American discourse.

There seem to be some tacit assumptions in the reactions against the leisurely -looking process of community and consensus building at work in Zuccotti Square and other Occupy gatherings. One is that direct democracy doesn’t scale. There is some truth to that observation. Ancient Athens had 60,000 citizens at its peak.

But the fallacy here is that “not A” which is “not pure democracy” implies that the only alternative is B, which is something like our current way of doing politics. “Not A” is simply “not A”, and there are quite a few successful models which have far more participation by and accountability to a broad community than found in our current social/political arrangements where real influence is concentrated in a very few hands.

One that OWS has invoked is the open source model. Note that large scale open source programs are not lacking in organization; Linus Torvalds was the clear leader of Linux development and had a cohort of lieutenants under him. But this was an ambitious undertaking that was otherwise very informal.

One of the reasons it worked was that there were shared norms as to what good outcomes were, and that members of the community felt they gained something by making contributions that were recognized and valued by their peers. It’s worth stressing that: you had a large group that worked on the potlatch model, where being rewarded via accolades from your peer group was highly motivating. By contrast, the widespread assumption among the elites, that only money is motivating and everyone ultimately can be bought.

The community in Zuccotti Park seems to be building some foundations along these lines. People contribute because they feel it is inherently worthwhile to add a plank to something that will be much bigger. And the elaborate General Assembly process may well be building a set of new shared norms and values on the foundation of the obvious injustice of widespread, unpunished looting by the banks and the failure of the political elites to be responsive to the needs of ordinary citizens. It took the populist movement of 19th century over 15 years of organizing against the injustice of the debtcropper system for it to become a potent political force. If OWS can accomplish something like that in six months or even two years, that’s rapid by historical standards.

A second model is the Japanese nemawashi, which is their rather elaborate process of getting internal buy-in for new initiatives. Having been something of a cultural experimental animal (I was the first Westerner hired into the Japanese hierarchy of Sumitomo Bank, which was one of the most prestigious companies in Japan at that time), I’ve found Western descriptions of nemawashi to be a bit naive and romanticized.

Except in owner-controlled companies, which run on top-down Western lines, Japanese companies impose far stronger obligations of the leadership to obtain the consent of the lower ranks for any initiative to more forward (note even this is a bit simplified: decisions are almost never made at the CEO/board level; they happen at the bucho level, which is typically held by men in their early 40s, and are passed up the line for what is almost always the formality of more senior level approval). The notion really is that the company is a community and everyone must pull together; all the Japanese (and yours truly following them) described Sumitomo as “our bank”.

Now admittedly, the Sumitomo version of nemawashi was probably at the decisive end of the spectrum for Japan. Sumitomo was unusually action oriented for a Japanese company and Kansai (Western Japan, such as in Osaka) Japanese are very direct, so the version I was exposed to was much sharper elbowed than what I imagine you’d see elsewhere. The power dynamics were also far more complex than naive Western accounts depict: there were people who knew how to work the system and pretty much everyone involved made careful calculations as to whether an idea looked likely to get done and how much in energy and political capital they’d spend in trying to modify or block it.

Nevertheless, the implicit rights of the members of the organization to dissent with or propose changes to an idea were taken very seriously in Japan, so bank staffers were vastly more willing to oppose an initiative than they would be in the West.

But from what I saw, one Western cliche about nemawashi IS true. Once everyone who had a right to weigh in had been consulted, and a proposal had incorporated all their views, implementation was rapid. You didn’t get the backstabbing and footdragging you see in Western firms. And the plans were always sounder and more robust by virtue of having so many eyes on them.

In other words, the wider world tends to see the slow deliberate process of OWS as a weakness, when it is likely to prove to be strength for the protracted and hard fought struggle of making fundamental, lasting, and positive changes the social and political order. Even though the literal translation of nemawashi “going around the roots”, as in carefully unearthing a bonsai tree so it can be planted in new soil, the image my colleagues always used was “patting the roots,” that is making sure the tree was solidly in place so it would grow well. The OccupyWallStreet participants have a similar focus, of first and foremost making sure their effort is firmly planted so that it can grow.

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145 comments

  1. Paul Tioxon

    It is a political process, it involves deliberation, and consensus decision making, that has been found numerous organizations going back decades, if not longer. Many community groups, food coops, direct action groups, larger coalition building groups all used consensus. As you point out, bringing everyone on board makes for better implementation. One of the big problems for managing anything is taking 10 steps forwards only to go 9 steps back in a short amount of time. The fallout is frustration that all of your time and effort is a waste and you should go home and focus on the smallest arena of social activity available.

    A big threat, minus the confusion caused by not acting the way those in power want you to act, is that many of these protesters have stepped outside of consensus reality. They are not working, they are burning the world down, not making a mess of things but still manage to jar a lot people in the media, in government, and in various institutions. By stepping out of the socializing forces of roles of worker, consumer, head of household, provider, etc. due to having the rug pulled from underneath your feet that do not allow you to play out your usual role, the protesters can observe the social order from a different perspective. And this perspective allows the growth of a new faculty of perception that did not previously exist, due to the socializing forces of society that caught everyone up when there was plenty of work, plenty of money, plenty of blue skies. Now, students are graduating into a jobless recovery, homeowners are now told that what was once the American Dream of ownership is now their lack of personal responsibility in restraining themselves from profligate acquisitions. And I, we, they want to know why?

    I did everything I was lead to believe was normal behavior. Now, I am being punished with austerity, unemployment, diminished hopes for retirement, loss of medical care, and worse, stress on my family which is resulting in breakdowns with personal relationships. Why when the banks are made whole but we get vilified as too lazy to find work, too stupid to avoid liars loans, now, we are liars, instead of applicants!!!

    I see all of these and many other concerns. Politics is now out in the street, in public, because it has no where else to go. Perfectly good Congress Representatives are getting behind bogus recovery gimmicks, like the low tax repatriation of foreign profits. This is just another tax loophole for corporations that even liberal Reps are claiming as source of capital for job creation. The money is just going to be used for stock buybacks, or some other cause, not new factories or expanded payrolls.

    If specific demands are made, how easy is it for lobbyists to amend them into more tax loopholes, more crony contracts, more inauthentic populism masquerades when we are going to see more power grabs. Demands do not make change. Changing the behaviors of the thousands and then millions of people, by going into the streets will make a change, the one that speaks without language, the one that says we can, and are walking out of your social order into a new one. If we keep leaving, there will be no one left to profit from .

    1. mac

      I am “old” so I was around when the Hippies were and even a bit of the “beats” so I can recall them. I think they had the same concerns and hopes, but were perhaps pulled into the “demand”mode. They followed the rules of society but could see their rewards were not there.

      1. Susan the other

        I’m old too mac. We have lived through it all. I see us as not coffee house beatniks (which was a narcissitic fiction), not hippies (another fiction but with anger against war mongering), not sharing in our own world (because we were relentlessly disenfranchised), not condoning the methods of our country’s capitalistic system (because we were relentlessly impoverished – if it could ever even be referred to as a system), not anything. So I identify heart and soul with OWS when they look at it all and claim to be not for anything.

        1. Liah

          Susan, one of the things I recall most dearly was the sense of community from those days. The idea of living an ethical life – outside the system – appears to have been too much for what we then called “the establishment”. The PTB had to demonize a group of shaggy-haired kids whose greatest drawback to society was not providing a continuing reliable revenue stream to the emerging corp/gov!

          Seems things, as they do, have come full circle – or are about to. With the lovely Jeremy Rifkin and his “Third Industrial Revolution” (well worth the listen) – based on community, networking and sustainability – there is much to hope for.

          Yves said more in this one post than I’ve read in a plethora of others the same ilk – but they are all on a similar line. Of course, those ideas were last taken and turned to stone (literally) by The System – for fear of its power-brokers losing control over the masses.

          Warms the heart to see push back again.

          Jeremy Rifkin: “The Third Industrial Revolution” (Rebroadcast)
          http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-10-10/jeremy-rifkin-third-industrial-revolution-rebroadcast

    2. Barbyrah

      “Changing the behaviors of the thousands and then millions of people, by going into the streets will make a change, the one that speaks without language, the one that says we can, and are walking out of your social order into a new one. If we keep leaving, there will be no one left to profit from.”

      Your whole post is remarkable, but especially appreciate this exquisite conclusion you offered.

      “…walking out of your social order into a new one…” is SO much of what is organically evolving from the Occupy movement.

      Brilliant.

      I know I’ve posted this Bucky Fuller quote before, but it seems made for these times and fits right in with what you’ve written:

      “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

      This is all about new model building while making the old one obsolete. And as Yves notes, the pundits, operatives, beltway bloggers and cable news personalities…don’t have a clue.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful, connecting-The-Big-Picture-dots comment.

        1. Barbyrah

          Interesting link, Jason…and exciting. Because what people are starting to do, organically, is look to everyday people rather than professional politicians…to help create a more democratic, supportive, refective, consensus-building way of decision-making.

          Prediction: Don’t know how fast this’ll transpire, but I really sense a major shift in the way we “do” politics (if we even end up “doing” them at all). So much coming to the fore re: global cooperation, resource sharing and conservation, vibrant community-building that honors the environment, use of technology as a life enhancer (rather than life destroyer)…within the context of tapping into the natural intelligence and creativity of ourselves, our neighbors, our friends around the world.

          Again, all without the need for even one professional politician.

          And the way cool thing? This new way…has already started. (As your link, just like others popping up all over the place, demonstrates.)

          Regards.

    3. Susan the other

      The Japanese are so unique among societies. They are absolutely reverent when it comes to nature. Yet so advanced as to disregard it altogether. It is instructive that they keep these two aspects of their own nature so cohesive in problem-solving. I’m sure It is why they are so remarkably successful as a nation. But I wonder if they dump their garbage in the middle of the Pacific like we do. And just never mention it. Regardless of my skepticism, the concept Yves talks about above: Nemawashi or “going around the roots” means something very, very profound to me. I’m an old gardener from way back. I know when I pull up a root and hear all its fine threads break, with a gentle sound almost akin to low level static, that I have left a lot of the weed behind. And I know that some resourceful weeds will grow back from those threads. So when the Japanese use this term they are stating the far deeper meaning – that being: get the whole root. Consider it. Don’t just pat it down.

    4. JPM

      Wishful thinking

      One of the things everyone is hoping for is a return to where the economy was in 2006 and 2007. The problem is that our economy was being propped up by not only hyper inflating home prices, cheap money, and hyper prices stock that were pumped up with stock splits and over priced mergers and acquisitions but we also were creating jobs where we would transport product one direction then bring the identical product the other directions. We would import logs from New Zealand then turn around and export logs to Japan. We would import lumber from Canada and ship virtually the same product just different stuff back to Canada. There was a lot of false economy going on to create jobs. We became a service economy instead a production economy and we are more like a carnival society versus a working society. We are trying to make money with money instead of working for it to produce a product. We now have Casinos, lotteries, sports, tourism, spas, hamburger joints and tractor pulls where money just changes hands with no lasting value other then pleasure versus producing a product that build equity and has a lasting value.

      One of the hardest facts to accept is that while we were building millions of homes in a race to get them to a market we hired millions of illegal’s who worked under the table without taxation and who shipped most of their incomes home to support their families in their homeland. We also temporarily created a false market for housing by having millions of illegals in our country. Now we have 19 million vacant homes and it will get worse as the illegal population heads back to their homeland now that our markets and economy is in the toilet.

      We may very well end up returning to 1990 home values and an economy worse then it was prior to 1990 albeit for many working folks it was a better economy then it is today just a much smaller and affordable one. A high end home in 1985 was priced at about 50.000.00 in rural America and now that home is over 300.000.00 even after the supposedly price correction of 30%. Our wages did not go up like that, my taxes on the nice home in 1985 were about 500.00 dollars a year and now it is 5 to 6 thousand a year. Where is all that money going? It pays for the good life that our Government worker expects. They get Medical benefits and defined benefit plans for retirement while working folk in the private sector are force to fund their own retirement now and now most private employers refuse to even offer family health plans.

      Lloyd Blanfien makes 78 million a year now as head of Goldman Sacks. His wages could support about 1600 jobs a year that pay 50.000.00 a year. Of the million of folks who are paying them selves way to much we could return their wages to a more normal price and be creating jobs for the millions who are unemployed and they could be producing things of value rather then destroying things like Blankfien has with GS which has lost 60 percent of its value in the last year. Bank execs are making way to much right down to the local bank manager. I have yet to meet one who had the mental acuity to know when to pour piss out of a boot. So lets pay a fair value for deposits to depositors for there hard earned money and less to the Banksters and Wall Street Gangsters and less to Politician who only know how to brown their thumbs by sitting on them and take that money to create jobs for working folks that know how to create a product of lasting value that can build equity for the future.

      It is time to scrap our tax system and go to a flat tax. It’s is time to scrap our political system and run our nation like a corporation where on a national level we manage our military and foreign policies and such and then turn back the bulk of government to the state level where people can have a more powerful say in politics.

      It is time to clean up our legal system by throwing out all the laws that don’t make sense anymore and by getting rid of the Judges and legal folks who are for sale.

      Our whole country is dysfunctional. Let’s tear down the Federal Government to a proper size and create a hundred state nation by dividing the likes of California and New York and other who are to big to manage effectively.

      Abolish the food and drug administration and create a private sector watch dog group that can really offer protection to the citizens of our country. Get rid of the rating agencies and the SEC. Get rid of Farm Aid and stop the Bio Diesel nonsense which only put a billion gallons out on the market last year while costing tens of billions in Government subsidies. Bio Diesel was costing my truck about 25% in mileage even when they were only putting 10 by volume into diesel by the fed mandate. Now they are over 15%. Stop trying to buy friends like Pakistan who seem to hate us as much as those folks in Afghanistan.

      It really is time to totally overhaul our country.

      And by the way folks. We had over nine trillion in debt when Obama took office and now we have 15 trillion trying to clean up the mess that Bush and our politicians and Banksters left us. But it really is time to stop Blaming Bush for all our problems. We need to place the blame largely on the Current Republican administration who is sitting on their brown thumbs refusing to be a part of the solution while trying to destroy the Democratic Party and Obama which is exactly what the Democrats did during the Bush administration. Both Parties need to knock it off for the sake of the millions who are losing their homes, jobs, life long savings and self esteem. Knock it off or you really will see class warfare like never before.

      JPM

      AKA: Johnny Lunch Box

      Have a wonderful day

      1. Jason Rines

        JPM your right, but what you should really add is “Knock it off Washington because continutation of the class war leads to the people suiciding themselves on the supply chains.”

        That is a known pyschological effect of extended political cruelty and oppression. The wealthy way of life in this country goes from glorious to hell overnight as no one is safe. Right now, the upper middle class got chewed out and spat out and are armed to the teeth as much as your local Ford 150 sporting redneck. Your next, for you see Fascism doesn’t end until all but yourself as the leader and a few of your friends are in the bunker like Adolph. Most of the Nazis that fled to South America were hunted down and exterminated or jailed.

        So OWS and this peaceful movement is doing all of YOU wealthy folks the favor. But the next stage comes on your dime whether you wish to support in a productive way or spending on securty while your wives bitch at you for such an abnormal life your putting your kids through.

      2. jonboinAR

        –”Abolish the food and drug administration and create a private sector watch dog group that can really offer protection to the citizens of our country.”–

        Yeah, that’ll really work. Sheesh.

    5. bluntobj

      “I did everything I was lead to believe was normal behavior.”

      The Key statement. You, and a great many others, were marketed and propagandized by people you thought you could rely on to be trusted. A great many people shut off their brains, and were more interested in the exploits of Paris Hilton then their own lives. It was indeed a great crime.

      It’s also a great injustice to excoriate people for personal responsibility failures when those people were subtly taught to turn their brains to mush by the elite.

      It’s cliche and a bad internet habit to occasionally quote “fight club” too, but this line applies:

      “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

      The real question then is how the whole OWS movement will be captured by the elite, offered a few sacrificial victims to satisfy it, and manipulate any resulting structural change to leave the same elite in pulling the strings.

      Just like Egypt, or Russia, the same masters are in charge once again.

      1. Moneta

        I’m 42. In Canada where debt is balloning, house prices are still soaring and people are convinced we are not going to suffer like in the US. Yet we have the same debt levels and probably more.

        I stayed frugal, refusing to drink the Kool-Aid, paid off my average house while all my peers were upgrading and going for the big life. Probably for nothing because boomers are pissed and will squeeze the lemon… and me and some savers are the only ones with money they can touch. But I’ve made my peace; sometimes there are just social movements you can not beat.

        All the money and energy of the last 20-30 eyats has gone into depreciating assets: real estate and cars. Boomers could have saved for their older years but they did not and it will be felt. This is the first inning. They still think there are lemons to squeeze but they will soon be suprised.

        Boomer pensions are unfounded and refusing to understand this reality they will squeeze Gen-X and Gen-Y for as along as possible.

        Healthcare and LTC are unfunded but they’ll aqueeze GenX and Gen-Y for as long as possible.

        Education costs are over the top and they still expect Gen-X and Gen-Y to cover the costs.

        If you’re Gen-X and Gen-Y you can see the walls closing in on you but for some reason boomers are angry and are still expecting someone to pay for their golden years. They still don’t seem to understand that there is no money.

        Sigh.

    6. nonclassical

      I totally agree with Paul Tioxin=just back from “Occupy Seattle”, only to report the entire event was about “process”, without anywhere near enough focus on goals
      and speaking truth to power…

      Simply goals; rescind “Citizen’s United”, then end ALL campaign contributions, as did Canada 5 years ago..then re-regulate banks, and perhaps tax HFT trades and derivative-futures “trades”…

    7. Richard Kline

      Many good points in the post Yves. I’m particularly struck by the element of open-source in the actions of the Occupiers which you identify and stress. Much of what they are doing is communitarian activism which actually has quite a long tradition behind it; literally before the US was settled. But the open-source aspect, a build-in-to-the-center, does strike me as something qualitatively new to this process. In past events, I’m not sure that those involved would necessarily have trusted each other to do their own thing _and_ have that cohere. People were parochial, that’s how society was; class structures where hard and sharp. Pulling together took a great deal of effort against that background. Well, the US in particular as of this generation is far less parochial than it has ever been. And we do have the example of open-source tech and online networks which have been quite functional processes. Hmmm. Interesting.

      On the subject of ‘demands,’ I have a lot more to say, but I think I’ll get to that in the coming days. And anyway, if the Occupiers decided to demand, that’s their decision, and theirs to make. I hope that they will pursue ‘questions,’ or better ‘concerns’ as first step, not least because that would drive the Powers That Be livid. Questions and street theater are very effective at undercutting the ‘we’re in charge’ elitism of authority; holding ones ground and taking such actions is the kind of process where David confuses Goliath, or the ant panics the elephant [nothing against elephants, they're great critters]. I’d suggest the following kind of town to any who wants to make use of it, paraphrased from remarks of another commenter here at NC:

      We don’t have demands, we have questions.
      We don’t want studies, we want answers.
      We don’t expect promises, we expect results.
      We’re not here for your money; we’re here for our society and we’re taking it back.

  2. psychohistorian

    Yves,

    I hope you get the chance to experience one or more GA or General Assembly meetings at the Occupy XX gatherings. Lots of energy and very little movement which is not to say a bad thing.

    I agree that the message WE ARE THE 99% is sufficient.

    Somehow I feel like we are all standing around no waiting for the music to stop…….

  3. Glenn Condell

    The wisdom of crowds versus the myopic greed of the elites..

    This guy John Robb has been approaching OWS from an open source perspective, and makes the point that OWS while similar to Arab spring protests, is aimed not at governments but at where power really lies in the US – banks and other financial entities.

    http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2011/10/occupy-insert-your-city-here-making-capitalisms-crisis-reality.html

    Discarding the idea of a charimatic leader, someone who embodies and best expresses the thrust of a movement, is difficult even for those of us who can see the obvious benefits of a non-hierarchical decision-making system. Part of me longs (in the absence of Peter Finch yelling ‘we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more’)for an Alan Grayson (in PJ O’Rourke-eviscerating form) to powerfully and concisely form a movemnet vanguard, but then while I cheered that performance, Grayson is still a pol though, and has some views (notably on Israel) which would knock him out of contention for me anyway.

    Speaking of direct democracy, why is it that this far into the age of the info superhighway, we still don’t have a political system which allows each registered voter a say on any issue they like, using a Google-ranking style mechanism? This would filter the most popular questions/issues, which could, once they reach an agreed critical mass, become mandatory for Congressional consideration. It may be such a system would prove impossible, but it would be good to know that before discarding the idea.

    1. lambert strether

      Is an Occupation a “crowd”? Why? Though I like Robb, and follow him, I’m not sure the analogy is correct.

      * * *

      Though in terms of scaling, if only we had a global platform that enables instantaneous communication, conversation, and collaboration between peers! Oh, wait….

      But seriously wait, because many of the open source projects I know of end up with a very steep power curve and one individual at the top: Not just Linus, but Larry, Dries, Guido, Rasmus, Jimmy… I’m not sure that’s a model we want to apply to the political realm. Then again, not all Internet efforts end up that way. It would be interesting if some sociologist or anthropologist had insight into scaling circles and not triangles…

      1. Glenn Condell

        ‘Is an Occupation a “crowd”? Why? Though I like Robb, and follow him, I’m not sure the analogy is correct.’

        Don’t blame Robb for ‘crowd’ – that’s me, but I’m not using it in a dismissive sense, I’m alluding to Surowiecki’s book. A partial list of characterics of the wise crowd from Wikipedia:

        # The three conditions for a group to be intelligent are diversity, independence, and decentralization.
        # The best decisions are a product of disagreement and contest.

        As you’d know Robb applies this ‘many better than few’ approach to his thought in conjunction with Tainter’s limits of complexity theory, Kohr’s ‘bigger is not better’ and Taleb’s black swans and what he comes up with works for me. Systems that grow larger while concentrating power in fewer hands become too complex and vulnerable to self-dealing (control fraud, etc) to be stable long term. The ‘efficiencies’ and economies of scale gained in the globalising phase which concentrates power and agency into an all-powerful centre are eventually outweighed by the loss of system resilience that a field of loosely connected but separate and self-sufficient nodes provide (or used to provide).

        Robb feels that all large enterprises reliant on abundant cheap energy and political stability are doomed, not just corporations but governments too (hollow states). Not only have they lost agency to the powers that have corrupted them, they can no longer provide the political goods necessary to obtain the consent of the governed.

        His expectations are fairly apocalyptic but he’s not a ‘cans of spam and an air raid shelter’ survivalist, he thinks we must move toward more local arrangements for food, energy, security, etc, while being interconnected to other communities via the net, so that ‘tinkering networks’ on all issues (growing vegies, storing generated energy, 3D printing of components, etc) can instantly provide best practice to the rest of the network. John has to this end (with others) formed a ‘resilient community’ blog (called miuu.com) where crowd-sourced wisdom helps to develop tools for community economic self-sufficiency.

        It’s admirable in that while he does spend some time on how we got to this place, he is really more interesteed in how we organise what comes next and takes practical steps to get to what he sees as the optimal destination. My only issue is that, if all large scale enterprises fail, how does the energy intensive and infratructure reliant internet survive?

        I’m struck by John’s observation that the postwar US boom where investment of American surplus wealth was stewarded by a large, prosperous and well educated middle class dispersed across the land in every town and city, funding local ventures or infrastructure via small, community focused local banks, avoided the malinvestment fostered by the shrinkage and centralisation of that decision-making portion of the whole into the FIRE sector. This crowd wisdom’s outcomes encouraged organic growth thru productive rather than speculative allocation of resources. Now we have ‘experts’ on Wall St deciding that profits made via offshoring or ‘innovative’ securities are the ideal investment vehicles, while small business and infrastrucure die on the vine.

        The Wiki list had a few other wise crowd characteristics:

        # Too much communication can make the group as a whole less intelligent.
        # Information aggregation functionality is needed.

        Don’t know how you avoid or even define ‘too much information’ but I can see the danger of it. The aggregation functionality is what I’m driving at, but I’d like to see it applied nationally, as part of the political goods delivered by government. I wrote a blog post on this when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I still had hair (two thirds down the page):

        http://blogorrhoea.blogspot.com/2003_08_31_archive.html

        ‘But seriously wait, because many of the open source projects I know of end up with a very steep power curve and one individual at the top: Not just Linus, but Larry, Dries, Guido, Rasmus, Jimmy… I’m not sure that’s a model we want to apply to the political realm.’

        I said ‘Google-style’, not Google. It would use the ranking technology, but it would be a part of the architecture of our democracy, like elections, provided by government. Utterly non-partisan, open-source to the point of absolute transparency of technical specifications and the audit trails of votes. This would require each citizen to be issued an ID which would be eternally and publicly traceable, so that no one’s vote could be used twice, or wiped, or otherwise messed with, because the person or any interested parties, could check the trail themselves.

        If 70% of the electorate violently disagreed with their government’s actions (invading Iraq for example) with this system in place, your Rumsfelds and Cheneys might still have gone in, but rather than simply dismissing ‘polls’ they would have to move forward in defiance of the clear will of the nation.

    2. JasonRines

      Great thoughts Glenn. The only flaw in your suggestion is piggy-backing on Google or any other ISP/content provider that is in bed with banking. Based on a decade of consolidation and scale these companies are towing the financeers line whether they want to personally or not. Once the Faustian Bargain ink is dry and all that…

      The flaw in the last forty years of our system is failure for the people to create and funs independent media which could provide revenue to an army of open source entrepenuars. Former liberty minded groups both left and right were easily co-opted or led off the cliff by the lack of independent media publishing company. The left are the natural defenders of the 1st Amendment but the reaction to even consider competing as a corporation causes vile revulsion. But not when I mention to the left that going after Higher Education market for the revenue piece ;)

      Sorry it took me four years to get this far in conclusions and implementation of a plan. The bankers were happy to fund my plan but I said no. So that left four years of begging to have enough funds to finish research. You on the left that are starving activists must now stop the pleasantries of begging for funds from wealthy leftists that also got far too reliant in ‘OPM’ and open that checkbook. All the pontificating means nothing if you don’t have an amplifier with that Kenwood stereo.

      1. didywa

        Mr Rines, not sure if it was you — I remember being interested in some similar points before on NC. Someone said, and you seem to be detailing, points about media failures in progressive circles.

        What you are saying here seems exactly to the point of the spear. I look forward to hearing more. Sometimes I have trouble connecting the ideas in different threads, and following through to learn more at any given time.

        I guess I just mean to encourage this line of posting, if that’s ok and not too close to ‘me too.’ If it can be persistent, it would help people like me, who are scattered but hope to understand more and maybe even do some good in the long run.

        Your comments seem very insightful.

        1. Jason Rines

          I appreciate your compliment Didyawa and took your commentary as exactly that.

          The reason I understand a lot of macro issues on markets and how they affect individuals is that as a media producer, I build technology platforms as utilities.

          The advantages of building utilities (arm a million bloggers for example instead of just one site) is that it forces me to remain neutral. That means the research I participate in for multiple market segments is not skewed. They tell me, I bring a big notepad either virtual or physical and I listen. I am told I am good at packaging the feedback into actionable analytics.

          I wanted to be a rock star but instead I was better at data then guitar :) I have put my own interests on the shelf since 2007 and serve the people in the absence of representation. Most of the intelligence type of people that are good with certain marketing technologies and data work for government or bankers.

          My cell is 603-953-3388 if you ever want to chat and that goes for anybody on this site, feel free to call me.

          One caveat though: Any ideas we discuss must be framed for Naked Capitalism only. For example. Got an idea for a landing page for Yves fundraiser? I’ll build the tech free of charge. Automating some manual functions would help, sweat-equity on content helps and last but most important, donations help the most! This arming of this critical steward must be the immediate focus then if you want to talk opportunities to make money together then that comes afterward. Please forgive my bluntness, consider it my eccentric side…

      2. Glenn Condell

        Thanks Jason

        Re Google, see my clarifcation to lambert above.

        Re independent media, I don’t feel that the answer lies in convincing more people to open their checkbooks. Liberals are no more generous than conservatives, and rich liberals are thinner on the ground and may not have much left in their pockets shortly anyway. Besides, it’s a bit like saying that we don’t need better tax or welfare policy to deal with poverty and homelessness, we need people to go back to he good old days when people were more charitable. Our ex-PM John Howard was a big one for encouraging giving to charities, this while strip-mining benefits for the poor and unemployed.

        Bring back the Fairness Doctrine and some decent cross media ownership laws. Rather than treat the symptom, attack the cause. It’s a bit moot anyway whether media as we know it will look anything like now in even 5 years. If genuinely open source politics becomes a goer, we might not need a dedicated mediasphere.

    3. Antifa

      What this ‘criminally-caused’ Depression has done in America is cast more people into tribes. Just like the last one did.

      Our consumer society divided everyone off into their own small world, their own house in the suburbs where every house had a riding lawnmower, two cars, a washer, a dryer, a barbecue, a set of credit cards and a mortgage and proplr only said hello to neighbors over the fence.

      No cooperation, just everybody separated out, each family living at the end of a financial tapeworm that relentlessly removed money from them and their community to feed the top 1%, to wage wars on credit, to build a global empire for the very few to own.

      Now, people are bonding and banding together in the various “stolen-from” tribes of the 99-ers, the students with debt but no jobs, the homeless, the underwater home-owners, the food insecure, the ones who cannot afford college at all, the ones forced by economics to join the military and lose their limbs and sanity Over There, the unions forced into conceding their health benefits and pensions — these are just a few of the many and various tribes of the Screwed Over, the 99%.

      And they are well and justifiably pissed. And they look around and recognize that they are not alone; they are but one among many sisters and brothers and children.

      And they nod, and they know themselves and one another, and they come together.

      E pluribus unum. There’s enormous power in that equation.

      Tribes make decisions by down-up consensus, as grumblings and sorrows are shared and everyone gradually realizes/agrees/decides that things as they are will not do, are not acceptable, there must be change.

      At that tipping point, it doesn’t matter who the chieftains are, who the medicine man is or what he says, who the elders are or how things used to be done. That all goes hollow overnight. People look around and say, “This is a crock.”

      Just as the 1% have effectively left America, the 99% have also left that divided nation. Maybe not by choice, but it’s all gone hollow for them, so they’re out. What was promised is now proven empty words from liars and thieves.

      What comes next will not be the way it is now. Change is here.

      1. Moneta

        There will be change for sure.

        However, it’s clear boomers did not pay enough for what they are expecting tor receive.

        So if most of us Gen-X and Gen-Y are working to serve the boomers and retired who can not pay for their services, how does that work?

        I am having a very hard time seeing a gentle outcome.

        1. Moneta

          I don’t think it’s only a 99% and 1% issue.

          I think there’s also the issue of the older folks who are clinging to their unfunded entitlements, expecting a lot out of the young.

          1. different clue

            That may be true in Canada, but in the United States context a statement like that is an outright Simpson-Peterson-Obama lie.

            We (I) have been pre-paying for our Social Security ever since 1983, for example. If the money “isn’t there” it is because the money was pre-stolen by goverbezzlement and especially pre-stolen in one massive operation known as Bush Tax Cuts. (Obama extended this ongoing theft on purpose through his sinister conspiracy with McConnell to extend the Bush Tax Cuts in hopes of getting a Republican Majority soon enough to make them permanent). Boomers who were tricked into wasting money on houses mis-labled “real estate investment”, tricked or co-erced into wasting money on 401ks which have since been looted of value, etc. So when media manipulators describe boomers as greedy seekers of GenX-Y funds, they do so to engage boomers and XYrs against eachother so that neither group will follow the stolen money to its present OverClass possessors. And many American XYrs are happy to buy the lie.

            But maybe it is different in Canada. Maybe your boomers really do have something that belongs to you.

      2. Tim

        “I’m a 99′er”

        I hope you don’t mind me stealing your idea, because the T-shirts alone are going to make millions, not to mention the baseball hats and bumper stickers..! and I’m only half joking. What a unifying thing for americans that would be.

        I’ve heard it many times from police officers on television talking about the gettos saing if only the good people in the area knew that they really were the majority, then they would be able to drive out the bad guys as fast as you can snap your fingers.

  4. Jane Doe

    If the ninety-nine percent is unwilling to fight the elite, the elite will continue to control through economic, legal and political action.

    Occupy Wall Street doesn’t need a list of demands, but they do need to understand that this is a fight.

    That part right now is missing.

    1. anon

      Yeah, OWS would be so much better if they would only start encouraging people to be violent!!!

      /snark

      1. Jane Doe

        How do you translate “fight” to mean violence?

        Here are the definitions:

        “1.
        a battle or combat.
        2.
        any contest or struggle: a fight for recovery from an illness.
        3.
        an angry argument or disagreement: Whenever we discuss politics, we end up in a fight.
        4.
        Boxing . a bout or contest.
        5.
        a game or diversion in which the participants hit or pelt each other with something harmless: a pillow fight; a water fight.

        http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fight

        Note the one closest to politics.

        I think you are deeply immature and part of the problem. Fight means being willing to do more than announce there’s a problem.

        1. anon

          “I think you are deeply immature and part of the problem.”

          I think you and I are both the 99%. Even if we may have differing opinions, we are both on the “loser” end of the equation, insofar as the 1% is allowed to define who and what the “winners” are.

          If you really are concerned about OWS having an inadequately fighting approach, probably your best bet would be to go and contribute more directly by participating in the Occupation that is geographically closest to you. Here’s a list:
          http://www.occupytogether.org/

          1. Sun Tzu

            He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.

            From:

            http://www.chinapage.com/sunzi-e.html

          2. Jane Doe

            (a) If, at the very least, you still, after decades of Reaganism, don’t get that you are in the middle of a long term fight, there is not much I can say to convince you.

            I am really stunned at the response here. If I had my doubts about the long term commitment before, this has not helped them.

            (b) Judging from the mere mention of being prepared to fight and a long term struggle here, I am not all that convinced that my opinion is wanted regardless of the generic since that we may share the same issues with the system.

          3. Sun-Tzu also says

            “If I determine the enemy’s disposition of forces while I have no perceptible form, I can concentrate my forces while the enemy is fragmented. The pinnacle of military deployment approaches the formless: if it is formless, then even the deepest spy cannot discern it nor the wise make plans against it.”

            It is clear that Wall Street, The Administration, and the MSM have no idea to do with OccupyWallStreet that appears to be formless. Their reaction is to complain that it has no meaning until it takes a form that they can attack directly.

          4. Joe Rebholz

            “… I am not all that convinced that my opinion is wanted …” Jane Doe

            Your opinion is wanted here, at least by me, and probably by many other people here. It is just that some people are turned off by some of the conotations of the word “fight”. You gave a proper definition and it covered what you said. But even though its literal meaning today does not necessarily violence, violence is where it comes from. The meanings of words evolve. It is very critical that any revolution we try to make must be based on non violence. This is because any revolution if it is to be effective in bringing about the kind of society I want — and I am convinced the vast majority of people want — that society itself must keep reducing violence until there is none at all. If we were to hsve a revolution that used violence to “succeed” most everyone would still be of the opinion that violence is OK, that violence works and thus the revolution will not have succeeded. This is probably why some people objected to the word “fight”. The phrase “work hard” means pretty much the same as “fight” without the suggestion of violence.

            We have many words in our language like “fight” that so to speak have a violent past. Even though they don’t literaly mean violence today, they suggest it to people. And these suggestions matter. Some people take up the suggestions. An example may be the person who shot my congressional representative Gabriele Giffords in January of this year. He may have gotten his idea from talks of guns and “targeting” of political opponents from candidates web sites. We absorb more than just the literal meaning when we hear a word.

            Please keep commenting.

    2. aletheia33

      i beg to differ. look deeper.

      what is camped out in liberty square and other squares worldwide right now is an army of the heart. the heart does not “win” or “lose” or celebrate “victory” over other people. it simply continues to act out of love and to care, knowing it already prevails all across the earth. its strength and courage are without limit. painted out of the picture here, it reappears over there. when you try to conquer it or win it over to your “side”, it smiles, at your mistaken apprehension of its nature. unlike a general, it does not calculate. unlike rulers, it does not manipulate. it doesn’t need to. it is all-powerful. it is the heart.

      “i care about you.” (naomi klein’s favorite sign at OWS.)
      these are the fighting words of the heart.

      1. anon

        Yes! All snark aside, I do think the willingness to march and sleep outside, the effort to try something different in the process, the shouldering of derision, already shows plenty of spunk and courage. And fight, although it’s fight of a particular kind.

        “Army of the heart” – that’s great!

        1. Nell

          Totally agree. OWS are fighting and the methods chosen are perfect. I for one love that they have no explicit demands. They provide us all (world wide) with inspiration, to stand with our fellow man, to join forces against a corporate elite that have completely lost all sense of reason. The ‘need for a leader’ is a reflection of the ‘celebrity/personality’ culture, which aggrandizes form over content. I look forward to hearing the ideas on social justice that will emerge from OWS.

      2. Jane Doe

        Showing up isn’t enough. Emotions aren’t enough. You need to be willing to fight over the long haul because the other side is just going to wait you out as they have already done in the past.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The fact that even the Obama Administration is being careful not to say bad things about them and is weakly complimentary, when it is seeking to curry favor with Wall Street, says otherwise. TPTB are used to the isolated demonstration model, this has them puzzled and a bit freaked out, and that started when only small numbers were turning out and proliferation to other cities had already started.

          Ruling depends on the consent of the governed. A sustained and broad based opposition to the legitimacy of the entire apparatus is a new avenue of attack, and one they seem very confused by. That’s a de facto admission of weakness. They wouldn’t even bother taking notice or engaging it they were not concerned. At this is with not all that many people turning out in aggregate.

          Put it another way: how many fights of the sort you are advocating have you been involved in that were effective?

          1. Jane Doe

            I think they will wait you out, and, therefore, you should be prepared to fight over the long term as other movements have fought before you

            When you say “sustained” what do you mean? The next few weeks? The next few months? Years?

            When I say be prepared to fight, I think you are looking at years.

            I am not convinced either the Democrats or Republicans care about “consent of the govern.” When you compare polling data of views of the public to views of the elite in DC (for example) there is chasm between the two. I can not imagine it is better with Wall Street?

            We are in the middle of a campaign cycle. I don’t believe a word coming out of their mouths. I believe their behavior up to this point when they had to make policy. Do you believe them?

            No one in America has experienced a years long anti-corporate campaign. Therefore, I don’t understand your question asking me whether I have.

            If Occupy Wall Street is an experiment, as seems to be the point, then now is a good time to suggest things that I have felt has been wrong with the status quo of dissent: (a) Political Short termism (here thats reflect in the idea that Obama’s statements on the subject mean anything versus what he does) and (b) An unwillingness to see democracy as a fight (that we are going to get what we want by merely showing up whether at the polls or in a protest).

            I can say that both the Black Civil Rights Movement and the Reagan Revolution were implemented over a number of years and decades rather than weeks and months. The former, with Jim Crow, started in the 1910s with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and they spent the next few decades eating away at it bit by bit.

            The Reagan Revolution got its start in the 60s, would not see power until the 70s, and gained a national platform, at last, with Reagan in the 80s, and only became the paradigm with Clinton’s election where he embraced centrism, which legitimized Reaganism as the guiding paradigm replacing the New Deal.

            These are my examples of campaigns that worked because they were long term sustained efforts (as in years and willing to fight) rather than short term (as in days or weeks etc).

            So, when you asked me, how many of the sort I am advocating- none of my life time because I was too young or would not have wanted to be a part of the activism that I describe above regarding the Black Civil Rights Movement and the Reagan revolution respectively.

            I am concerned by your defensiveness. Are you seriously not seeing this as a struggle that’s going to have to be sustained for years?

          2. Jane Doe

            If I am permitted one non-American example, on the economic front, as i understand it, single payer in Canada was a fight that began decades ago and was fought for over that period of time. All I am advocating here is what I have seen on the Right in America. They are prepared to fight us for years and decades to get what they want. I just hope and want the center and left to start to do the same thing.

          3. jonboinAR

            To Jane: Jane, you may be finding people argumentative here. Don’t be upset. The problem for you in this thread is that you didn’t define well enough initially what you meant when you said “fight”. You seem to mean or advocate pursuing the goal over the long haul, not with just a few demonstrations. I agree, and I agree with you that the Reagan Rev proved successful in achieving its goals by defining itself and by steadily pursuing that definition over many years. I agree that definition will prove important, eventually, as well as stamina, but give it time. What’s happening now is extremely heartening.

            Folks, where can we gather to hone our essential goals? Is this the place? This is a deep reporting site with some analysis. Carla suggested a place above. Carla and I have a little place we’ve tried to start, but I, at least have gotten distracted from it by various life distractions.

            Where should we go to discuss our priorities for change?

      3. Barbyrah

        Lovely post. Yep, taking it out of the old, dominator “win-lose” paradigm (a paradigm humanity has been glued to for a LOOOONNNNNNGGGGG time and all we have to do is take a look around to see how effect it’s been)…and into a new one, based in the Heart, getting inspiration from the Heart, caring from the Heart. And moving forward from the Heart.

        What a great place and space to co-create a New Model, New Way, New Civilization.

    3. lambert strether

      Of course they understand it’s a “fight.” It’s also a fight that’s been lost for thirty years, and so new tactics and new strategies need to be tried. That’s what they’re doing! Bold, persistent experimentation!

      1. Jane Doe

        Most people have not been fighting for the last 30 years. So, when you say that, I am not sure if it reflects what you are doing or what most of the American public has been doing.

    4. JasonRines

      Jane. What is missing is funding. The cause of stinginess by wealthy liberals to fund endeavors mostly comes from demographic imbalance. Older people prepare for decrepency by saving. They became rugged individualists at heart between the GD and WWII.

      If you want to raise funds from these folks be prepared to do some local activism on the ground as they once did serving their local interests but you must have a plan, build a good executive summary and tell them firmly the plan must be funded or the sword you built for them cannot be massed produced and the groups they are supporting die with them. if yiu cant be blunt and get a firm commitment in three months move on. Have several funding candidates and let them know the first-in decides what activist flavor the funder wants.

      Heck, I should write a manual on raising funds from Yankee liberals. It is becoming a rare art form.

      1. Jane Doe

        I agree funding is necessary, but first, and foremost, what I am really looking for is a sense, as I wrote to my friend early today, that the people pushing this are in it for the long haul rather than that this being a flash in the pan.

        Smith’s comment bothered me, and, I finally realized why: Our system is corrupt. That’s not because the elite and politicians aren’t listening. It is because they don’t care and don’t want to listen. Its a question of being heard. But again- our system is corrupt. That means anyone trying to change things is going to have to be in this for the long haul because the bad faith actors aren’t going to stop because we announce that we know there’s a problem with the system. It took decades to get into this mess. So, I would love to see that they understand that its a long term fight.

        I was telling the friend that I just finished reading Maus, a graphic novel about the Jewish Genocide. What was interesting to me is how much the Jewish people took before they realized how bad the problem was becoming. What it said to me is that its human nature to take a really bad situation and adapt back to the norm (the status quo). To imagine, things can’t get any worse.

        This relates to this subject in the sense of do people accept that our system is corrupt? To its core, that it’s corrupt? and therefore what that means? It means a long term fight to change things around.

    5. Darren Kenworthy

      Incorrect. OWS is already utilizing martial arts. Looking at Robert Greene’s survey of historical strategies we see that OWS is aware of the problems of “fighting the last war” and has adopted a “react to present reality” strategy. The focus on non- violence points towards the martial discipline of calmness amidst chaos. The overarching strategic concept of OWS is segmentation; each part shares a similar structure, but is adaptable to local conditions. Many of the strategies of war that the elite have been using against society (divide/conquer, seamless blend of fact/fiction, terror, advance while negotiating, destroy from within, false alliance and so forth) are not useful to a democracy movement because they are at odds with the ends sought. Strategies that rely on/ lead to concentration of decision making (command and control strats for example) will be self defeating. Some strategies that might be useful require creating a broader movement before they can be used; polarization strategies must be avoided, for example. The language of war is only one way to think about struggle. Using it has significant downsides. When the muslim world began organizing in the face of the imperial powers seeking to dominate the region, they had recourse to “jihad”, a religious concept that comprehends the whole of struggle (far more than the term ‘war’) but is also used in a specifically martial context. The powers that beset them used their own interpretation of this term to manufacture consent for a broader and deeper war against the islamic world. OWS would do well (and so far has) to avoid this outcome through very limited use of “war talk”.

        1. Jane Doe

          Abbreviated response

          (a) I didn’t advocate violence. So why the mention of nonviolence?

          (b) What’s controversial about saying that people should expect this to be a fight for the long haul because the powerful will not give up power easily? If you want to debate that point- the point I actually made- then do so.

          (c) I have no idea what’s new and innovative about people showing up to protest. What will be new and innovative for the American public is if they continue to fight when it gets hard and the elite starts to wait you out. If you are willing to do as both the Black Civil Rights and Reagan Movement did- keep fighting- you have a chance to produce change. Again, not sure why that’s controversial here.

          1. Darren Kenworthy

            Your points are cogent. The “incorrect” was aimed simply at the notion that the people giving the snowball initial mass and momentum aren’t ready to push it to the top of the hill. If your primary point is “we should be ready to go the distance” then consider your exhortation resoundingly seconded. Words that can be misrepresented as calls to violence can be avoided without detracting from the urgency of the message. Loose war metaphors litter our cultural landscape. Their power to inspire is compromised by the deceitful ends they have served, and we do avoid them. This concern is expressed primarily as a caution. Your concern that we express the urgency of our struggle, and demonstrate willingness to carry it on indefinitely and in the face of opposition that might indeed take the form of a sustained campaign of violence, is equally important. Thank you for your passion.

  5. stibbert

    i’ve attended 2 organizational GA meetings of #occupypgh (Pittsburgh, PA), but haven’t been involved w/ any of their working-groups.

    at these meetings, the facilitators adopted the OWS model of discussion & consensus. as a result, progress has been kinda glacial. OTOH, nobody’s been shut out of the discussion – dissenters & commenters got mike-time, the crowd was willing to hear & consider their contributions.

    individual & group temper stayed easy – certainly the planned agenda suffered, but no-one can say that they were denied an opportunity to speak. (except for planning-group spokesmen whose presentations weren’t heard, b/c of the endless discussion of prior presentations.)

    for my part, i was armed w/ patience & willingness-to-listen, & am rather glad that ‘charismatic leadership’ played little or no part in these meetings.

  6. Stefan

    Good post. You say that direct democracy doesn’t scale. I think it do scale (see what Glenn Condell wrote above ), but I also think it doesn’t necessarily need to.

    I think the value of discussing these things on a high level of abstraction, divorced from circumstances, is limited. What matters more is action and experimentation based on participation and guided by general principles and intuition.

    With that said though, we don’t need hierarchical systems at all, or any kind of relation of dominance. We don’t necessarily need centralized structures. Maybe there are arguments for hierarchical structures and relations – or even systems – of dominance under certain circumstances, but certainly not by default. Any system that has some level of complexity and size has to have some kind of representation, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be participatory in nature.

    In any case, I think what we see here at OWS, quite apart from the sentiment and urgent issues, is interesting, suggestive and beautiful. And of course, therefor very dangerous.

  7. Middle Seaman

    Politician, the media and other established parties live in a world in which protestors, e.g. picket lines, have demands. Although, documents are marginal in out political polical life, they look for written documents that define the protestors. For instance, both political parties have platforms that are by and large ignored. Nowhere is it written that the Republicans want to cause damage to everyone but the rich. Nevertheless, this is what the GOP is doing for 30 years.

    The message of the protestors is very clear. Every reader can form a list with little work. The message is not a demand, it’s a call to expel the current system and substitute it with a democratic system. The establishment will fight that call with all its might.

    There is a huge body of work about collaboration, management without hierarchy, grass root organization, etc. So far so good, but the current movement has risks as well. I wish us success.

    The comparison to the Egyptian uprising, so called Arab Spring, is another very iffy proposition. The uprising Egyptians deserve the highest possible accolades; it was amazing. They, however, fought a single dictator and his gang; it is much easier target than fighting an brutal oligarchy, where our protestors are starting. Furthermore, the Egyptian uprising has so far resulted in blood shed, threat of walking away from peace, killing of Copts and the military in control.

  8. Blunt

    I find it terribly ironic that the media and, given the tenor of some of the comments, a good bit of the 99% have difficulty with the practice of democracy. Not unexpected or strange, just ironic that in “the world’s greatest democracy’ that the very practice of democracy itself calls for “fights” or charismatic leadership.

    What exactly would be ineffective about group cooperation, about each one making proposals that might be effectively, eventually, accepted by many or all?

    We have apparently been so ingrained in oligarchic-style “representative rule” that we no longer think in terms of having good notions, good relationships without the mediation of some sort of elite opinion-makers or elite mediators making all of the decisions that we then complain about.

    Surely democratic participation requires some educating of the participants.

  9. rd

    As far as I can tell, there are some pretty clear demands, although they seem to be framed more as questions or bewilderment.

    There is an existing constitution with existing laws and an existing enforcement structure. I believe that they are requesting that the laws be followed and enforced by the existing structure. I know that this seems to be a very naive, and therefore completely unfathomable, concept to the current power structure so they have no idea what to do in response other than send the police in to mace and arrest people if they are not standing on a sidewalk (or even if they are).

    They appear to be asking why the elected politicians aren’t listening to the 99% who vote for them and instead are just focusing on the lobbyists for the 1%.

    Unfortunately, I think the powers that be are looking for a simple checklist of small things, like “free checking for everyone,” instead of big ideas that go back to the country’s foundation.

    This could be the beginning of the first revolution ever that occurred just to enforce existing laws and government structures!

  10. Diogenes

    Bravo! Your analogy to open source software is spot on. As someone who has moved slowly and decisively away from Microsoft based platforms to Mac OS X and Ubuntu Linux, I have been continually impressed with just how good, stable, and robust the open source Ubuntu Linux operating system has become. While it may not yet be ready for prime time for the typical mainstream user, I can easily envision the day three to five years from now when I trade in my last Mac for another Ubuntu Linux computer.

    The substantive point here which I stumbled upon sometime back is that on average the overall product (and certainly the resources for user assistance) are so much better in the open source community than they are in the closed for-profit community. The fact that Apache– an open source program I have been using for almost a decade– is the most widely used server software on the Internet is another telling datapoint about the failure of greed-based for-profit cultures at maximizing computing strength and flexibility.

    And unlike that friend with the organic farm in southwestern Vermont, open source software such Ubuntu Linux and Apache are totally twenty-first century.

  11. LeeAnne

    The demonstrations look like “I’m mad and I’m not gonna take it anymore.”

    At least two things have been clarified by these demonstrations for all the world to see: free speech in America is a myth; and NYPD is a brutal occupying force that attracts sociopaths from the head down.
    If any one issue could be unifying, it is the issue of everyone’s right to free speech without intimidation from police.

    Gary Knolls on WBAI seems to have done a credible job with a detailed investigation of 9/11, the criminal event precipitating this Patriot Act power grab against the American people.

    Police have also been effective. They’ve discouraged observers with their brute force from attending demonstrations while top cop Kelly shows his exhibitionist side, bragging on being able to shoot planes out of the sky with military ambition and envy while hob nobbing with celebrity envy in the Hamptons where ugly people heretofor were not allowed. Watch the behavior of his minions here. The real little people speak Think Progress.

    And, you may want to spend some time listening to Gary Knolls’ documentation of what actually happened on 9/11 that precipitated the Patriot Act to expand the police state.

    I read that some of those arrested were held while cuffed for 4 hours -that’s torture.

  12. frago

    #ows will show that we can create our own networks, infrastructure and economy.1% watch out, we don’t needz u no more.

  13. slim-hat

    I’m a little worried the OWS doesn’t have much long term purpose or goal. How does this link to political change which is ultimately what should make a difference for better society? Boycotting elections or intimidating the political system is not likely to have much of an effect unless you have money and goons (TPers). Can this activity be generalized to something like a primary debate or forwarding of 99% candidates?

    Yes, I hear you, some things I do agree are ridiculously unfair in the current system, other things I hear are meaningless to me.

    Me? I think we took a path that just hasn’t worked out well. We go through these times of acceptance of raging capitalism where government intervention does work to smooth the chaos. It can be fixed if people care to not be so removed from the decisions that are made in their name. Not sure how we came to be so complacent when the house started burning.

    1. lambert strether

      I’m sure that the people who invented democracy in the agora of Athens* faced exactly the same chorus of carping: “What are your demands?” “What is your message?” “Voting is slow!” and on and on and on.

      I think Stoller got it right the other day: What #OccupyWallStreet wants to do — and follow me closely, here — is “Occupy Wall Street.” Having done so, they’re working on some new political forms. Since the old political forms are a complete #FAIL, this is all to the good. IMNNSHO the best thing any of us can do is stop with the advice, already, and either go to an occupation ourselves, or report on one. Above all, ignore anything and everything our famously free press might say.

      NOTE * Here’s hoping I’m not called on any anachronism!

      1. slim-hat

        Not sure the old political forms are a complete fail. They have their weaknesses, they aren’t working well now as a representative body. It seems like this should be an easy fix if there is no representation for the 99% and a unity of desire within to make the system more representative.

        So — Wall Street is Occupied. Now what? Some new creation better than representative democracy? Heck we can’t even get out to vote. Would be great if 99% people voted. You’d see just what type of society we live in.

        If nothing else I hope the message they can convey is that they can influence the economic with the political. This is obvious. Progressive taxation has worked as investment in a society. With all the slogans of the right — the evidence of better functionality is mostly with the left. Trickle down was an interesting idea but it just didn’t work. Taxation and public investment has worked.

        1. Barbyrah

          “Not sure the old political forms are a complete fail.”

          Why some of us think differently:

          1. If you go back to the founding of this country and read the letters and writings of our “leaders,” you’ll see even then it was about power grabs, propaganda (some of the presidential campaign pamphlets were as bad as what we see now), manipulation (no one mentions, for example, that Mr. Franklin, as he was attempting to extract money from France to support the revolution, frolicked with the aristocracy and lived the life of a monarch – knowing full well any money he got would be coming, by and large, out of the pockets of the middle class and poor there), domination over commerce, divisiveness re: who was going to control finance and money, land, slaves, etc.

          2. With a few ups and downs along the way, nothing much has changed.

          3. Question: Are the “old political forms” currently working? Answer: Take a look around.

          4. Now study other decades, centuries, eras and ask the same question about those times.

          5. Added wrench into the mix: With electronic voting fast becoming “the norm,” it’s a lot easier to rig election results and leave no trace behind…stuffing ballot boxes or paying the poor to cast votes a certain way or using the mafia to “drum up” a little business…old-fashioned at this point. (FFI: See “King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell” to follow the court case re: highly probable rigging of the 2004 Ohio presidential election and yes, not surprisingly, the key witness who was due to give his second deposition “mysteriously” died in a small plane crash smack dab in the middle of the testimony giving…)

          Translate: I would suggest an “easy fix” ain’t in the cards. And would also suggest – this ain’t any representative democracy. Illusion of one? Yes.

          But illusions – just not the same.

          1. slim-hat

            I guess I’m just not in the nihilism camp. Yes, the founding leaders had issues and I would have loved to see the 17th century Polish government really flourish across the globe but the Golden Liberty didn’t last and Poland was removed from the map — twice. I’d say though that in response to #1 — there just aren’t governments that immediately suspend power grabs. The point of government is to convey and employ power. If you look for something else then I think you are naive and illused?

            #2 — much has changed and continues to change based on actions of people. It ain’t easy standing up and explaining what it is that is not just within the kingdom but there are leaders and regular people who have moved the nation and they weren’t aristocrats neither.

            #3. — I don’t see people being hung in the square or firebombed. I see the same problems reoccurring because we forget or get hoodwinked. The system can work as it did when others took interest in it.

            #4. 50-60-70s was a huge change in focus toward a commonness of the people. The New Deal was really quite a revolution to some extent for corralling profits and capitalism in duty for the public good. Wasn’t perfect but was better than 10-20s and the monopolies. But if you are saying there is no way to govern then I think we have a philosophical differences that aren’t worth arguing about.

            #5. I think that issue is overblown but it certainly isn’t a hopeless effort to vote or make voting safer.

          2. Glenn Condell

            ‘With electronic voting fast becoming “the norm,” it’s a lot easier to rig election results’

            Agreed. So it is either (a) paper based voting with secure storage for paper-trail audits, or (b) electronic voting with each voter assigned a personal ID which can be used to verify that their vote was recorded correctly, at any time after its been cast, the whole system on a trnasparent open source platform, checkable by any interested party.

    2. mac

      I don’t think capitalism has failed, it has been taken over by folks with an “Al Capone” outlook” The OWS should take care that theirs is not taken over by suck folks with a “crooks” outlook!

  14. friend

    Wrong questions. Occupy demonstration can just be a demonstration. That has value.

    It will never become an effective political force. That’s ok. But if you want justice, you need an effective political force.

    What is your narrative. What EXACTLY has gone wrong? (need a simple agreed story)

    What specific changes do we want?

    Many people agree we have driven into the ditch. How do we fix it?

    That is a hard question. Exactly why you avoid it.

    1. aletheia33

      yes. they are deliberating. as they say in their newspaper. this is the new “liberty tree” for all to come and get under and deliberate.

  15. friend

    Bernie Sanders has (to me) a respectable plan put up on Kos.

    The “Too big to Fail” issue seems core.

    Also core, it seems to me, is a tax on fast trading.

    Also limits on leverage, every institution.

    And I think that special advantages, and special compensation limits, for institutions with govt guaranteed deposits are sensible.

    Is it enough? What else is needed?

  16. don

    OWS is in fact making A demand: the complete overhaul of society. It is the universalism of this demand that many can’t except (for obvious reasons: they would lose their privileged position were it to materialize). So they respond by making their demand: for something pragmatic, so that it then becomes the central focus of debate, thus distracting from the need for a complete overhaul.

    1. friend

      What excites the public is that the demonstration might be the beginning of an effort to do something dramatic to turn things around.

      Not that everybody there is groovy and free thinking.

      Hope will die without a plan to do something real.

      real real

      not super groovy extraterrestial thinking

      1. silent scream

        He would wet his pants if he saw that American flag with corporate logos instead of stars, and PEACE scrawled over the stripes. That one word’s all they need. Now peace covers social justice too. It’s all there in the Santiago Declaration (or dozens of similar local ones), a coherent, complete, field-tested demolition package all rigged up with detcord.

  17. Schofield

    The “Ninety-Niners” do have a demand. It is for American society to recognize that for all to have personal autonomy/freedom there has to be genuine democratic constraint. It is a demand being made in the lair of the “1% Black-Holers” who scheme and manipulate to avoid democratic restraint so that 40% of all income made by Americans ends up being sucked into their ever voracious and sociopathic black hole of endless wealth accumulation.

  18. Schofield

    “friend

    great

    hurray

    now what?”

    I would suggest in your case turning over and going back to sleep. We’ll wake you when it’s over.

  19. Eureka Springs

    If it were just us NCers we could come up with declarations and or demands quickly. But if you spend any time whatsoever with the new occupados you know the people need time to talk among each other… to get informed, to get comfortable outside of the top down model, outside the idiotic talking point msm model. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly that’s happening in North West Arkansas this weekend.

    Patience grasshoppers… something i tell occupados and myself at this juncture most of all.

    I do hope this massive group can quickly develop an online secure mechanism for consensus building, polling and voting.

    1. friend

      I have read with sympathy comments about not wanting to be pidgeon-holed by the media as malcontents with stupid, petty or hostile demands

      Don’t you see that the next pidgeon-hole is as wooly headed pie-in-the-sky debaters?

      if you think reform will just happen as a natural expression of evolving wisdom, you are mistaken

      it has never happened that way. no reason to expect it now. many reasons to doubt it

      if a sensible plan for reform is so easy to name, name it

      1. Blunt

        Just curious, friend, are you well read at all in the self-government movement in the Indian sub-continent? Satyagraha in South Africa? Have you ever looked into the history of the work done by M.L. King, Jr and the SNCC and NAACP?

        Would you characterize any of those movements as “natural expression(s) of evolving wisdom…?”

        Indeed, all of the above had one overarching “demand.” To wit, things must change and people must be treated and looked at differently than they are currently treated and looked at.

        Seems like “we are the 99%” covers a lot of territory.

        1. friend

          Jim Crow was easy to see. The opposite was easy to conceptualize in concrete terms.

          Addressing Wall Street is harder. Not as clear what went wrong, and what response is needed.

          More like addressing the Depression in 1933.

          1. Blunt

            “Addressing Wall Street is harder. Not as clear what went wrong, and what response is needed.”

            O, puhleez. Are you serious regarding that second sentence? You sound like a pundit of the MSM or the Repugs at this point.

            Control Fraud and misbegotten criminal instruments to part the ignorant from their money in a Ponzi-con or the shell-game isn’t at all hard to understand. It’s been sliced, diced and spiced. If you’re still having a difficult time realizing this: beginning with Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein and extending through a couple of thousand corporate officers, traders, evaluators and even regulators will be handcuffed, Mirandized and perp-walked to waiting buses to be taken to Rikers for hoilding until trial and that the corporations they run should be forced to make restitution. There’s your first step, not kill all the lawyers, just arrest those who are criminal, give thewm fair trials and then jail them for thirty years. LOL

            Seriously, this isn’t that difficult to get, is it?

          2. craazyman

            what about the Wall Street corporate art consultants?

            why do they always seem to get a free pass?

            I say indict them for all that horrible inscrutable wall art! it’s posed to be so abstract and brainy it really is total chaos. Just total chaos. And you walk by it and you think WTF?? and then you convince yourself it’s brainy because you’re brainy while your sucking up all that 6 figure salary, everything in your world is brainy and rare and something worthy of idolatry.

            I’m not sure I’d put them in jail, but I’d give them at least a summons and a fine. And I’d make them stare at bouguereau prints as a form of community service.

            - Lord Randall Pembroke, Art Appraiser
            Pembroke & Shaft
            London

  20. MikeJake

    I swear, nearly every news report and commentary I’ve heard about the protests has insisted on making some reference to “hippies.” Can somebody explain to this 30 year old why a cultural archetype from 40 years ago is still being referenced? Because “hippies” have never had any relevance during my lifetime.

    Do you have to look like a television dad from the 1950s to be taken seriously in this country?

    1. friend

      This is a truly excellent question, and important.

      People perceive the world through filters (culture). In politics, the most important filter is “identity politics.” We only listen to people from our own tribe.

      The 60s were a watershed period because tribal loyalties were shattered. War, racial injustice, persistent poverty shattered a superficial consensus that WE were good. Counter culture (the hippies) arose as an alternative definition of tribe.

      The political realignment of 1968 turned in large part as a realignment of tribal loyalties. The anti-hippies in the South moved from Democrat to Republican. Many working class Dems in Northern cities also realigned loyalties.

      Repubs have run against the hippie stereotype ever since.

      Hippie 1.0 was to opt out of the system. Hippie 2.0 must do better.

      We must help. To do so, we need a plan.

      1. lambert strether

        Actually, no. We need a process. Otherwise the planners get bought or killed, as soon as their “demands” get made. It’s the elite that’s demanding the demand! Why fall in with that?

        * * *

        The best thing that could happen right now is that the TV reporters get bored and go away. Ditto the advice givers.

    2. sgt_doom

      They can call this American who fought the wars and did the chores a “hippie” all they want to, but they’ll never have my combat medals…

    3. alex

      “Can somebody explain to this 30 year old why a cultural archetype from 40 years ago is still being referenced?”

      No, but this 52 year old is endlessly amused by it. By the time I was in high school they were a thing of the past, and by 1980 at the latest any such reference was laughable. Why not beatniks?

      The fact that people using the term hippy can’t think of any other reference than a short lived phenomenon, which never consisted of many people anyway, and which (as you point out) died away forty years ago is hysterical. Come on folks, don’t you read the news (oops, I mean history books), time you get a new reference.

      23 skidoo!

    4. Sutter Cane

      There are two reasons, really:

      1.) Constant propaganda/brainwashing since the 1960′s that hippies were bad, and

      2.) The fact that after the activism of the 60′s ended, the people who self-identified as “hippies” have generally done their best to live up to the worst aspects of the hippie stereotype, and have done a great deal to alienate working-class people and turn them against left-ish causes.

      For a look at #1, I would suggest David Sirota’s recent book “Back to Our Future” which examines the issue, and addresses a lot of the pop culture we (I’m also in my 30′s) grew up with. I had really forgotten about shows like “Family Ties” but in retrospect the indoctrination was really overt and incredible. I think the establishment really feared what almost happened in the 60′s, and worked overtime to create negative memes about hippies. I also think there was some bitterness from subsequent generations regarding how much the hippies sold out and abandoned their ideals later on. I think this led to the general apathy and cynicism of Gen Xers.

      As to point #2, just a personal anecdote: one of my first encounters with the trustifarian hippie set was my first job in college working as a stage hand at a local venue that hosted a Phish concert. Interacting with the Phish fans (and having to hear a Phish set) would be enough to turn Gandhi into a fascist. I’ve met many of these types since, and they often fit the stereotype of having a trust fund or rich parents who foot the bill for their lifestyle. I’ve tried to get over it, but even though I probably agree on many issues with people who would be described as “hippies” at first glance, I will generally cross the street to avoid interacting with them.

    5. different clue

      The media mindmolders call the OWSers “hippie” in order to make you laugh at them. If you laugh at them, you won’t think about what they are saying and doing. That is what the media mindmolders want to prevent you from doing. If you do end up taking the OWSers seriously, then the media mindmolders have failed right there to mold your mind they way their owners pay them to mold your mind on behalf of the people who own the media.

      Do people have to look like Dads from the 1950s to be taken seriously? If you discover that some of the OWsers or other thinkers who don’t look like Dads from the 1950s still deserve to be taken seriously as far as you are concerned, then you will have answered that question for yourself in the negative. And if enough other people also take seriously people who do not look like Dads from the 1950′s , then looking like Dads from the 1950s will no longer be a requirement for being taken seriously at all by anyone.

  21. JasonRines

    Good piece, thank you. Emerging leadership has another model open source model to avoid recreating the wheel so to speak. That model is Open Space research developed in California in the late eighties.

    Part of what I do is research and I have experimented with many models. This one is the best and their are already a ton of groups already formed.

  22. Hugh

    It is actually funny in a surreal kind of way to see mainstream media types try to convey at the same time their political savviness and the line that what OWS is doing is really hard (for “right” thinking Americans like them) to understand. I mean how much wriggle room is there in the concept of the 99%? If a name like Occupy Wall Street doesn’t tell you what they are about what will?

    The OWS movement has had both positive and negative models to learn from. Among the positive, have been the Arab Spring with its presistence and social networking and previous grassroots organizing based on cooperative decision making. And there have also been negative models, like the Democratic party, elite political blogs, and liberal organizations with their hierarchical top down structures and blank unresponsiveness to the vast populist anger and dismay in the country.

    Most of all what I like about OWS is that they gave this some thought and then went out and did it. Many of us look at the Tea party and see how quickly and completely it was coopted. But we fail to remember that the organizations on the left, the unions, the standard liberal organizations, the elite blogs and virtually all their spokespeople had already been coopted and dissent on the left shut down. OWS shows the power of what even a few uncoopted people can do by remaining uncoopted and by expressing the simple truth of the 99%, that we exist and that we are the country.

  23. Siggy

    I like OWS. I like the absence of demands; I like the fact that there seems to be a ground swell of assembly. If there is to be a demand I would like to see some prosecutions of the rampant fraud that the Administration and the Congress has foisted upon the production sectors of the economy. All in the name of keeping the insolvent banking system afloat.

    The power of government ultimately derives from the consent of the governed. It’s time to remove that consent.

    1. friend

      Why was FDR loved?

      Because he declared that he hated economic royalists, and he was identifying with the 99% ?

      Or because he tried to help? He had plans. He was active on the side he was trying to help.

      A lot of it didn’t work terribly well. Some of it did.

      There is a hunger in this country for practical measures. It has not been addressed by either party. Unfortunately, it is being addressed by T Party crazies.

      If you do not offer a plan, then moment will drift to the rightwing activists.

      We must organize.

      1. different clue

        Its a big country, Friend. We have enough space and population that You can go forth and find people to join you in your Organize for Demands model at the same time as the OWSers pursue their Gather Together and Consider model.

        Now go thou forth, therefore, and Organize even as the OWSers gather, meet, and Take Counsel Together. And may the best approach win.

  24. sgt_doom

    “I’m fascinated by how many political operatives..”

    A thousand thanks for identifying the players most succinctly.

    And to those who continue referring to “the media” when five corporations — in a most collusionary fasion — control the vast bulk of the message in America (whether one listens to Foxtard, CNN [Citigroup Noose Network], NPR [Nat'l Petroleum Radio], CBS, ABC, AP, PBS [Petroleum Broadcasting System], the same propaganda memes spew forth!

    The people are well aware of what’s taking place: for every $1 of debt, the banksters turned it into $100 to $1,000 dollars of debt, profiting in fees from peddling trillions and hundreds of trillions of dollars in debt, then shoveling that debt onto the rest of us in neverending “austerity” programs.

    The people realize that when President Obama claims the banks haven’t broken any laws, he is lying just the same as those previous presidents lied to us. (And as Yves Smith’s blog posts have amply demonstrated, many many laws were indeed broken.

    The noosies have failed — and are well paied to do so — to convey what Neil Barofsky, Phil Angelides and Elizabeth Warren stated over and over again.

    When one has absolute corruption in a completely fraud-based society, there is only one solution.

    Thank you.

  25. Jack Straw

    The case against “hippies” isn’t that clear to me. Not to be terribly naive about it, but the places where I have seen the spirit at work have also been some of the strongest and enduring “landmarks” of the last 40-50 years.

    1) Music sharing, was essentially invented by Grateful Dead fans, while the band itself essentially invented touring for profit (touring rock bands used to be notorious money-losers);

    2) Apple Computers;

    3) The Simpsons;

    4) and very indirectly, Hip Hop.

    Also, notable is the fact that each of these has largely resisted co-opting by those who exist to co-opt.

    Exploitation of stereotypes works both ways?

    What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?

    1. friend

      I am not against Hippies. They are my people.

      But to win we must reach other people who do not identify with them.

      We need a broader identity — one shared by people who agree something must be done to corral Wall Street.

  26. Jackrabbit

    OWS has a PR problem.

    Many people think it’s about Wall Street greed.

    Its really about power and the political process. Wall Street is just the biggest offender. Other industries also abuse the political process.

    In my view, the key to OWS success is getting that other disgruntled movement, the Tea Party, to understand the OWS point of view.

    Tea party sympathizers AGREE that Wall Street behaved badly but they remain steadfast in their belief that big government is the problem. They see OWS as a negotiation for (more) government benefits that they (Tea Party-ers) will have to pay for.

    They don’t (yet) seem to understand the implications of a system that grinds down the middle class and rewards the uber-wealthy. They don’t have a problem with wealth as they see it as a reward for hard work and “good choices.” In many, this view is very much like the ‘prosperity gospel’ that wealth=gods love.

    But OWS is not anti-wealth (it is against ‘looting’ by using wealth to gain undue advantages) and is not looking for a special handouts. When the Tea Party understands what OWS is really about (democratic principals and economic fairness – not handouts/redistribution), many of them are likely to be supportive.

    This is TPTB’s worst nightmare. That is why it is crucial for TPTB to bring OWS into the fold of the democratic establishment. And why its equally crucial for OWS to reach out to the Tea Party.

    1. Jackrabbit

      I meant to say “into the fold of the Democratic Party establishment”.

      Its crucial for TPTB to keep OWS and the Tea Party apart. Its crucial for OWS to appeal to the Tea Party.

      1. Jim in MN

        Many teapartiers understand this perfectly well, especially the disaffected ones (due to the obvious astroturfing by koch et al to attack health care and climate change policy). The ‘true independents’ are taking this all in very carefully.

        More troubling is the complacency and too-easy cozying up to a standard anti-globalization menu by the protesting class. Events have moved beyond that. It seems we cannot evolve rapidly enough at a personal level.

    1. friend

      Around 1972, Hunter Thompson reported that the 2nd choice of George Wallace was George McGovern. And vice versa

      why?

      High information voters?

      Hunter also said that, in politics, action runs away from the middle. I think that is true in crisis times.

      News flash. The extreme right is vastly better organized and better funded than the left at the moment.

      Practical politics is a necessity.

      Nice guys don’t always win. See the 20th Century, and the millons murdered.

    2. silent scream

      This is the new canned Dem scare for immediate release: stick with Dems or else you’re gonna be floundering around in muck and skulls like Dith Pran. Dems are panicking now that they have no role.

      1. friend

        Stick with the Dems?

        Who said that? The Dems have sold out to Wall Street.

        But stick to affecting the government. Kumbaya is not enough.

        There is an opening. Pols follow; they rarely lead. If you create a left populist groundswell OF VOTERS then pols will show up to lead the parade.

        Ok, lead it where? What do we want?

        So far, all we have achieved is some press. Now everyone is drunk, thinking they are 99% of the country. Ok. And when you sober up, think about how you could actually help someone with a mortgage under water, fearful of losing his or her job, kids getting in trouble because of the pressure . . .

        This is not charades. There are people suffering.

        We owe it to try to be practical and fix the problems.

      2. silent scream

        Still waiting in the elevator, pushing that close door button, harder and harder, the longer it takes? Hey, the button doesn’t work. There’s a huge difference between affecting the government and voting in rigged forced-choice elections that exclude anything but incremental tinkering. You vote, and all you do is give an unresponsive state your “consent of the governed” seal of approval. Then the state will do what it’s going to do anyway, and say, BUT YOU VOTED FOR THIS! Hell with that. When the time is right, civil society and the international community will hold this state to objective standards of governance. Maybe you should find out what they are, so you’ll know what’s going on.

  27. Jim in MN

    While I appreciate the thinking going into this post and related ‘no demands’ memes, I think it is incorrect. The movements that OWS purports to emulate did have demands. Personally, I have been involved at the genesis of several movements, such as the ‘rainforest movement’ (before Sting and Ben & Jerry’s showed up) and while the vibe may make the tribe, just witnessing or having a Rainbow Gathering DIY anarchist moment with more chips (crunchy and semiconducting) isn’t going to do much for us 99%ers. I have by the way also been to five Rainbow Gatherings. So, yes, been there.

    Demands, or an agenda, or at least some analysis and diagnosis are all critical for the coherent response to the financial crisis and it’s governing psychopathic corruption.

    OWS may not be the avenue to move an agenda. Fine. What is? Furthermore, are the visible commentariat using the ‘no demands’ meme to duck the big questions themselves?

    This is the financial and political equivalent of war. What will tell your children you did to protect them? I posted a very serious set of potential actions here, Zero Hedge, scribd, Facebook etc. the other morning. Just trying to help…so if OWS is just moral support, now what?

  28. ForeclosureHamlet.org

    Most of the attendees at our local Occupy General Assemblies are not knowledgeable on the political & financial sector facts behind their own personal economic ruin. Most see nothing but lies and false hopes. Most are eager to learn, devour information.

    Most don’t know Citizens United, or TARP, or REMIC securities fraud, or municipal bond fraud, or fed window lending, or cap on social security payroll tax, or the Levin Report, or Criminal Affirmance paper by Mary Ramirez at Washburn University, or massive property record fraud, or Fed/FDIC/OCC fraudclosure consent orders, or Lee Farakas conviction, or MERS fraud, or pension fund losses due to MBS/CDO/CDS, or bailout included “saving” AIG, the “house” that couldn’t payoff off financial sector gamblers.

    Most know of failed loan mods, failed employment searches, failed attempts to find affordable health insurance, failed small businesses due to refusal, debt collection harassment, foreclosures, crushing medical/education/housing debt, lower pay, higher prices, public sector bearing brunt of economy, threats to social security and medicare, veterans losing homes, on food stamps for the first time in their lives, etc.

    There’s a learning curve.

    1. alex

      “Most are eager to learn, devour information.”

      Good. Tell them to read this blog (seriously). The more you learn about the details the angrier you’ll be.

  29. Namazu

    Hello? How can anyone claim to speak for 99% of the country? Maybe 90% should be pissed at the 10% who were insulated from the downside of globalization and successfully surfed the waves of asset inflation. Is 99% of the population going to agree on a definition of a “more just society?” While I’m pretty sure we enjoy the right to assembly WITHOUT petitioning our government, at some point doesn’t one have to decide whether policy makers are going to read between the lines or whether the situation calls for a more detailed agenda? Are there no specifics worth making a stand for:an end to the war in Afghanistan? No more bank bailouts without bondholder haircuts? On the flip side, who will try to rush in and claim credit for precipitating paradigm shifts that were long in the making?

    1. Ian Ollmann

      There are a lot of folks in the top 10% who are not in the oligarchy. Doctors, attorneys, engineers and small business owners. When they say the 99%, they have it right. It is not the top 10% who are causing trouble. It is the less than top 1%, the vanishingly few people who actually wield power to the degree that they have the ability to influence things.

  30. JTFaraday

    Well, I think there are two time lines here. Because OWS, or at least many of the actual occupiers as opposed to the larger protests, trends young, I think they are trying to imagine politics another way.

    They have an absolute right to do this, and I am just happy to see some young people out in pubic space doing something other than selling their sexuality to every media outlet under the sun or being Ezra Klein.

    In the nearer time line, that with regard to which some here seem so impatient, it is probably less likely we will be able to launch a proactive campaign *that has any chance of success in the current environment,* than we will be RE-acting to whatever the eff-ers have in store for us next.

    In that scenario, what OWS has provided for us is a network of sites *across the country* at which protest can actually HAPPEN, with relatively little on the spot preparation at any future point in time.

    This is true even if the eff-ers “wait us out” until the current occupation disbands (due frigid weather or whatever) because these sites are aggregated and information is available. (Which means this information should be secured, so it can’t be “disappeared”).

    Given how disconnected, isolated, and passive we all are, this IN ITSELF is no small contribution to our public life. Blogosphere protesting, e-mailing lists, petitions etc have been to no avail, in and of itself.

    That I imagine this playing out this way, is why I think the more appropriate analogy is not Tahir Square, but Athens. (After all, there the super-congress austerity commission remains ahead).

    So YES, “occupying Wall Street” (and spreading it out across the nation) IS the point.

    I don’t know of course, but right now that’s my intuition on how this plays out. Meanwhile, there’s no real reason for OWS to overly narrow cast an agenda.

    We are the 99%.

    1. JTFaraday

      Maybe the pro-active plans are on a more medium term time line, but right now I have a feeling we are still playing defense.

      So, we should start actually DOING it.

  31. emptyfull

    I think the founding OWS members were just the really smart, ironic late-gen-X, early-gen-y descendents of the hippy movement. They’ve learned from the mistakes and failures of the 60′s hippies, as well as the 90s-style anti-globalization protests. They are the students of the commedy of Stewart and Colbert, with both its ironic detachment and underlying aching sincerity. And they care about our democracy. Unlike earlier Hippy movements, they are genuinely eager to let people who are not-like-them into their lives and spaces. So they are primarily trying to create those spaces (actual, physical spaces where you can meet a stranger in-the-flesh, instead of just conversing on discussion boards) and inviting everyone to come and ask “what do we want?” To make everybody’s voice heard (and echoed) so we begin believing our voices matter again. This is a movement of radical democracy in which every voice counts, blooming in the middle of our increasingly corporate-owned plutocracy. It is the spiritual awakening of a new Civil Religion, a religion whose first prophet was a deeply ironic ad-man for corporate America by the name of Barack Obama. Obama was preternatually able to smell the changing generational shifts in American civil religion, to repeat them in public, and to get large numbers of Americans to project their sincerest political beliefs onto him. So he thought he could use this identity advertising to serve his brand and (back in the back offices) serve the corporate masters who he knew really had all the power. But the new generation whom he intially mesmerized refuse to give in to his cynacism.

    Did you really think we could reclaim our democracy without a peaceful, and hopefully loving, “cultural revolution?” Technoical fixes are not enough anymore. But our country DOES, at a deep level, believe in democracy and equality of spirit (if not always material). This core belief CAN, if we let it guide us, help us navigate the ominous economic waters that keep making us feel like we might drown, and hopefully rebuild a better, even happier America and world.

    So yes, let’s make this the point. What do WE want?

    [Please repeat after me: “This revolution will spawn many longwinded, somewhat silly comments about what it is all ‘about.’”)

  32. aeolius

    Late as usual but thanks for the wonderful post.
    [quote]And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? [/quote]
    Perhaps it is out of desperation, but somehow I intuit that OWS is an expression of the Spiritus Mundi and that of all things cell phones and twitter have helped us make a quantuum leap.
    Innately when group behavior was needed we gave up our individuality and were guided by mob behavior.
    But now we are able to act collectively but still maintain our individuality.
    It may not succeed this time.But it is exciting to watch

  33. Brian

    Yves, you must feel great right now. You have been blogging about unpenalized fraud and theft in the banking system for several years now. Tptb never grasped the fact that the populace would not agree to ignore the problems that they and the bankers created. Your blog has been one of the best to keep the issues focused and in the forefront. It is a real pleasure to read the comments under this article. It is heartening to read that there are a lot of intelligent people who are willing to go around the status quo and make change happen. Whether you foresaw this or not, you have been a stalwart to this cause. Thank you

  34. freedomny

    There was this post on Huffinton that I wanted to share with you…it’s a quote from Eve that I think sums up OWS in all its beauty…

    “It is a spontaneou­s uprising that has been building for years in our collective unconsciou­s. It is a gorgeous, mischievou­s moment that has arrived and is spreading. It is a speaking out, coming out, dancing out. It is an experiment and a disruption­.”

    I have hope.

  35. freedomny

    “It is a spontaneou­s uprising that has been building for years in our collective unconsciou­s. It is a gorgeous, mischievou­s moment that has arrived and is spreading. It is a speaking out, coming out, dancing out. It is an experiment and a disruption­.”

    Personally, I like the concept of being mischievous…how about you wonks?

    I am a banker and I support OWS and ethical capitalism.

  36. DanielX

    99% is a lot better sound bite than “those of us who can’t afford to write a $5000 check to a candidate or party or PAC”, but that’s what it comes down to. And if 99%s really want an answer to why more people aren’t in prison for fraud and the like, that’s why. People who can write such checks, and who went to school with other such people, and have lunch with them…don’t get prosecuted for felonies; at worst they’re charged with civil offenses or regulatory violations. Case in point being Angelo Mozilo…

    From Wikipedia:

    On Friday October 15, 2010, Mozilo reached a settlement with Securities and Exchange Commission, over securities fraud and insider trading charges. Mozilo agreed to pay $67.5 million in fines and accepted a lifetime ban from serving as an officer or director of any public company; it is the largest settlement by an individual or executive connected to the 2008 housing collapse. Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in a statement that “Mozilo’s record penalty is the fitting outcome for a corporate executive who deliberately disregarded his duties to investors by concealing what he saw from inside the executive suite.” By settling the SEC charges, Mozilo will avoid a trial that could have provided fodder for future criminal charges. [20][21]
    This fine represents a small fraction of Mozilo’s estimated net worth of $600 million. Countrywide will pay $20 million of the $67.5 million penalty because of an indemnification agreement that was part of Mozillo’s employment contract. The terms of the settlement allow Mr. Mozilo to avoid acknowledging any wrongdoing.
    In February 2011, the U.S. dropped its criminal investigation into the facts behind that civil settlement.

    So….here’s a guy whose net worth is estimated to be $600 million. He is fined $67.5 million, or 11.75% of his net worth, of which $20 million is paid by his former company. The acquisition of which, let it be noted, is now considered to be one of the proximate causes of the prospective downfall of Bank of America. Let’s even say that his net worth is overestimated and he was only worth $300 million at the time the fine was assessed, so he only has $232.5 million with which to console himself. What real consequences has he suffered, since he didn’t have to acknowledge any wrongdoing and isn’t subject to criminal prosecution? It’s not like he’s going to lose his home, or not be able to send his children to school, or not be able to feed them. Much less end up doing hard time in a Federal joint where after five years someone like Angelo would have an anal orifice the size of the Lincoln Tunnel…

    Compare and contrast: treatment of Angelo Mozilo versus treatment of your average bad guy who robs a bank or something.

    That’s one of the many “whys” that OWS is asking, and one of the reasons that OWS makes the 1% so uncomfortable. Defending the indefensible tends to cause discomfort.

  37. DanielX

    It may also be noted that lack of accountability (it’s not an operating bug, it’s a feature!) is a given in the top ranks of government as well as corporate America. In the latter case, how many times must one read about the severance packages given to CEOs after they’ve run their organizations into the ground – besides Angelo, see O’Neal, Stan; Raines, Franklin; Nardelli, Robert…etc. In the case of government, compare and contrast:

    After Pearl Harbor:

    Admiral Husband Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet
    Major General Walter Short, in command of Army defense in Hawaii

    Both relieved in disgrace.

    After 9/11/01:

    :::::crickets::::::

    After Robert Nardelli fired as head of Home Depot: $210 million severance package.

    After Stan O’Neal fired as head of Merrill Lynch: $160 million in contractually obligated compensation.

    Sidebar: “Contractual obligation” sure is interpreted differently between, say, union auto worker compensation and Wall Street employee bonuses, no?

    One MIGHT draw the conclusion that if you rise to the top of the heights in present day America (corporate or government either one), failure and incompetence have no meaning and no consequence.

  38. D

    I have frequented this site for some time now and have remained mostly silent, as I enjoy merely taking in what all of you brilliant commentors have to say.

    I found this post and discussion so exhilerating I felt compelled to jump in, though it may be a bit late in blog time. Oh well.

    As for my take, please allow me a somewhat fanciful metaphysical speculation:

    I think the OWS crowd is absolutely right to caution against hierarchy and concrete formation. Democracy is essentially a recurring phenomenon that can be seen as a creative process, a physical reaction when conditions are right, such as when a high amount of pressure is placed on a population. What we have to do is keep it hot and keep it moving and free. It is good to take time, to make sure the shape is right before it cools. Don’t worry, the organizations and the hierarchies will form. And they will by necessity displace the rot that they are now poking through. We just want to be absolutely sure that it is the shape we want when it solidifies. Soft power can be applied to retain this flexible, creative, improvisational character. We have to be sure that we carefully remove intellectual impurities and contradictions so that the system that arises and hardens is consistent and just. Because once it hardens, it will be more difficult to alter. Of course, making the system flexible and resilient and conducive to change is one of the fundamental goals. But nevertheless! Keep it as malleable as possible as long as uncertainty prevails. Be sure it is what you want when the hierarchies begin to take shape.

    That said, thank you for this wonderful platform Yves! Your blog has reached this critical point in which it is attracting all sorts of brilliant minds, coming together to deliberate some of the great issues of our time. Grateful to be witness to it.

  39. different clue

    If some significant fraction of the people who join (or even visit) one or another OWSer assembly or protest were to exchange names and numbers and addresses, they could keep in touch with eachother after they have gone back home.

    They could keep discussing all these things with eachother and arrive at whatever conclusions they arrive at; and then decide to pursue and apply these conclusions (or not, as the case might be). Such networks of people could call themselves “Committees of Correspondence”. They might share ideas about what to do in their normal hohumdrum
    daily lives to advance what they are deciding and discovering.

    ” What did you do beTWEEN the Great Protests, Daddy?”

    Perhaps people get upset with Jane Doe because they confuse the word “fight” with armed terrorism/insurgency; and they don’t want to recieve the government firepower which armed terrorism/insurgency would quite rightly draw.
    Perhaps Jane Doe might calm their fears in that regard, if she even cares to be bothered to do so. Or perhaps she might use the phrase “protracted struggle”.

    One way to wage the “protacted struggle” might be diffuse leaderless economic rebellion. How can millions of motivated people, strictly within the letter of the law; arrange their getting and spending so as to deprive certain
    Flagship Black Hat entities of the revenue streams to which those Black Hat entities have become accustomed?

    Every dollar is a bullet on the field of economic combat. Lead the money around by the nose. Food will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no food. etc.etc.

  40. Eric the evil

    “Why aren’t there indictments for fraud and worse?” “Why are we firing nurses and teachers when corporate profits will hit a RECORD this year?

    Lets be clear. There have been indictments for fraud, and corporate profits are not at RECORD levels this year. Sure, take facts out of context, and you will get the story you desire. Im sure there is ONE COMPANY out there that will have RECORD profits this year, but in AGGREGATE COMPANIES are not HAVING RECORD profits THIS YEAR. WHY DO YOU THINK GDP GROWTH IS sub 2 PERCENT?

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