I have blogged before about what I see as zombie groups united more by rage than any particular ideals. I think some aspects of what I said then could be applied to the Occupy groups, but I also recognize that most of the members of the Occupy movement have been somewhat better behaved than the mobs that committed sweeping acts of arson and destruction in London in August. Regrettably, some have been just as bad, but I will give the Occupiers the benefit of the doubt and assume that was not the wishes of the larger group.
What I have observed from both sides of Occupy debates, from the fiercest advocate to the most tenacious opponent, is that the groups seem to lack any shared context of cultural references, history, or even terminology. It is truly frightening to me that we have groups in this country angry at each other who aren’t even discussing things from the same frame of reference.
Take political ideologies, for example. The Occupiers have been bashing capitalism and their opponents have labeled the Occupiers as socialists. Clearly then, socialism and capitalism must be opposites, right? I disagree. The opposite of any functional system of government is tyranny. Socialism has worked for some, generally small, communities united by some ideal or purpose; religion or shared ethnic history has generally been that purpose rather than socialism itself. (It is the elevation of socialism itself to the status of a great ideal or religion that makes it so appalling to some of us.) Capitalism has brought great economic gains to many, and astonishing gains to a few, through a sometimes indiscernible blend of corruption, ambition, and genius. Though different in theory, in practice both socialism and capitalism have allowed power to concentrate into the hands of few, be it due to extraordinary service to the Party or concentration of wealth. Power held by the few, unchecked, will always turn into tyranny. What you call the group that holds the power is really irrelevant. The fact that the Party is the only permitted ideological entity in a socialist country explains why socialist countries have always had a government collapse before any real change can occur. A capitalistic, representative democracy like the U.S. was intended to be is rather built for change, and has been through many changes through the years.
Yes, the sway of money through lobbyists and other leverage is powerful, but the power of an IDEA is still highly valued by the people of our country almost universally. How that idea is given legs can sometimes make all the difference between it being embraced or discarded. Physically occupying a place where you are not wanted for prolonged periods of time simply makes you a disordered nuisance. It is, in essence, a confession that your idea is so weak that it can not stand on its own. A truly peaceful assembly of people with a shared idea and goals could appear en masse for a few short hours at strategic locations and be taken seriously. An unorganized group of homeless dreamers camped out among their own filth in parks with no common ideology or demands will never be taken seriously.
Let’s look at property rights as another area where the Occupiers and their opponents seem to lack any common ground. The Occupiers have stated that they believe the 1% unjustly hold that wealth, and so much or all of it should be taken and redistributed. They are not protesting outside government offices, which makes it seem they do not wish this inequality to be rectified through the tax code, trials (in the case of the assertions of criminally-gained wealth), or any other channels our system of government offers. Yet, knock down a few tents and throw a few of their possessions in the back of a trash truck, and they become livid at the affront to their “rights.” They are willing to destroy the lives of the working rich by cutting off their businesses (the NYSE, the Oakland ports to name a couple) and deprive the even wealthier of generations of accumulated wealth, yet their right to occupy a park in perpetuity is sacrosanct.
Though power in a capitalistic country such as ours does show a concentration to the few in the form of wealth, true capitalism can only exist alongside freedom. Capitalism does dissipate as fast or faster as freedom, and I believe this can be seen in both the recent bailouts (depriving business of the logical freedom of failure) and in expensive regulatory burdens to business such as government-mandated health insurance. In some cases, the Occupiers are right in pointing out problems in our system, but what they would identify as the flaws of capitalism can be more accurately explained as the creeping effects of tyranny. Governmental favors to private business (Halliburton, Solyndra?), bailouts, and most other attributable causes of our nation’s economic decline are corruptions of capitalism that eat at freedom. The great irony is that the Occupiers, in various de-centralized statements, have asked for guaranteed health care, secure retirements, and other socialist that can only come in the form of big government, redistribution, and severely limited freedoms. The fact that their proposed solutions require the imposition of new tyranny is one of many reasons I must oppose them. I still believe in freedom.
The real problem with Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Denver, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Washington, Occupy *? So far, they have shown no interest at all in working within our system to change it. They ignore our shared culture, history, and values, and wish to bring down the whole system for their own vision of utopia. They are revolutionaries and radicals. We can not even communicate with them because their perversions of words such as freedom, capitalism, democracy, and property are so severe as to be irreconcilable with our own. They make hollow requests for dialogue while ignoring hundreds of years of our history. We don’t need dialogue because our principles are well-known and enduring. It sure would be nice to hear a cogent set of arguments and demands from the Occupiers as to why we should throw it all away at the demand of people in a homeless encampment.
I’m not part of the 1%, but I would not feel any guilt if one day I were, through hard work and persistence. Strangely, I think that is what separates me most from the Occupiers. Their only ambition seems to be “if I can’t have it, you can’t either.” That seems to me a strange basis for a system of government.