From CHARLES HUGH SMITH
Here are some semi-random notes on the Occupy Wall Street movement, based partly on some “insider” contacts.
I am honored to have long been in email correspondence with David DeGraw of Amped Status, one of the key initial organizers of the Occupy Wall Street movement. As a result of our mutual support society/correspondence, I am also honored to be included in an email group of people I consider the leading lights in the movement to restore democracy and fiscal sanity to this nation, people like Matt Taibbi, Barry Ritholtz, William Black, Max Keiser, Dylan Ratigan, Karl Denninger, Yves Smith, Michael Hudson, Nomi Prins, David Cay Johnston, Paul Craig Roberts, “George Washington” and Tyler Durden, to name some whose work you have probably read.
I want to start by saying that David DeGraw has acted under extreme pressure with integrity and grace at every step of this amazing journey. He is an American hero in my book, along with all the other initial organizers of the OWS movement: someone who cannot be bought, someone with the uncommon courage to act (virtually alone at times) against the united forces of oppression, exploitation and thuggery that is the Wall Street/Washington, D.C. Power Elite.
The OWS story appears to begin in late September, but it actually started in March, when David, Anonymous and other activists began organizing a June 14 “occupation” of Liberty Park: Acts of Resistance: What Are You Going To Do To Rebel Against Economic Tyranny? (June 1, 2011), Prepare For Revolution: The Empire State Rebellion Begins on June 14th (March 31, 2011), The A99 social network group, etc.
David has summarized his 19-month experience on the front lines of the movement: Report from the Frontlines: The Long Road to #OccupyWallStreet and the Origins of the 99% Movement.
What few people know or recall is that the June 14 occupation attracted a total of four citizens: David and three other brave souls: event organizer Gary Roland, Oren Clark and Kevin Dann. (Other sources say 16 people showed up but only these four were prepared to occupy the park.)
Here is David’s statement after the disappointing turnout: Back home from Liberty Park (June 15, 2011).
David does not try to take credit as a leader; rather, he repeatedly states the movement is decentralized and leaderless, mentioning the key roles played by Anonymous, A99 OpESR, US Day of Rage and the NYCGA (New York City General Assembly) among many others:
There are definitely other significant groups that played a key role. In such a decentralized movement, it’s hard to keep track of all the efforts being put forth. We will feature other perspectives in the days ahead.
As Anonymous A99 wrote in response to questions about their movement:
“We are a DECENTRALIZED non-violent movement. If you are looking to contact one of our leaders, go to the nearest mirror and peer deeply into it. It may take some time, but, eventually, one of our leaders will appear with answers to all of your questions.”
This lack of identifiable leaders and shadow financial backers is driving the Power Elites and their Mainstream Media lackeys crazy. Since they are all pimps or prostitutes for one special interest or another, the storm troopers of the Elite cannot believe there isn’t some interest group behind the whole thing. A decentralized, self-organizing mass protest movement against their rule simply doesn’t compute.
I have also been honored to be included in another small email group formed by an anonymous Elite insider who uses the nom de guerre Guy Fawkes. I won’t divulge this list for reasons of confidentiality, but the key point made by Mr. Fawkes is that Washington D.C. is a bath-house/whorehouse where everyone is for sale and/or hustling:
The key to understanding Washington is to understand that the whole place is for sale. It’s not just politicians. It’s interest groups (right and left), media, foundations, lobbyists, etc.
Companies/foundations/labor all essentially manufacture “public opinion” from thin air simply by routing money to the right mouthpieces — public interest groups, non-profits, academics & universities, analysts. It’s hugely sophisticated and the budgets are enormous.
They are all competing (and paying) to either get the government to screw their competitor or convey some government benefit to them.
The voice of the electorate — the real “grassroots” — gets completely lost in the din. As soon as a “movement” picks up steam (e.g. Tea Party, MoveOn.org) it becomes completely co-opted… Tea Party becomes about “Guns, God & Gays” as Denninger rightly points out. Huge sums of money are dangled in front of the movement’s leaders and the original purpose of the movement is transformed into something that the status quo can tolerate.
There’s no room in this town for anyone who challenges the status quo — be that a Ron Paul, a Dennis Kucinich, a Noam Chomsky, etc. (Republicans ridicule Ron Paul just as much as Democrats do… It’s NOT his ideas that they are afraid of, it’s that he’s a huge threat to their power and perks.)
We all know this, and some try to dismiss it as “business as usual”: politicos have always been corrupt, money is the mother’s milk of politics, etc., but these are excuses, not explanations. A nation ruled by a deeply, pervasively corrupt political/financial class is not a democracy or a haven of free market capitalism: it is a neo-feudal kleptocracy organized along a neo-colonial “plantation economy” model with debt-serfs kept in line by the toadies, lackeys and apparatchiks of government, media and finance–a class of enforcers, propagandists and regulators that constitute a Technocratic Caste, a caste with a taste for power and the big bucks that flow to those willing to sell their souls and bodies in service to extreme concentrations of wealth and power. (All of this is explained in depth in my book Survival+.)
The corporate media is bought and paid for, and “journalists” toe the line or they’re fired. It’s really that simple.
That’s why the Web/blogosphere drives the Power Elites crazy: they can’t co-opt it with cash. You want to buy this site’s content and message? Sorry–I already have enough money. It really doesn’t matter how much money I have–it’s always enough. This is something else the Power Elites and their prostitutes/pimps simply cannot understand: how can someone not be bought? Doesn’t everyone crave the “Elite status” of special passes, big salaries, shiny gew-gaws and luxury possessions? Those who have sold their souls for a few beads and bangles are unable to understand those for whom integrity and independence are the only types of “wealth” they recognize. All that the pimps and whores of Washington value so much–the access to corridors of power, the fancy cars, the costly cozy dinners, and all the other perks of servitude–are meaningless to us, crass, ugly baubles marking depraved, lost souls.
Though it’s early, there are a number of lessons to be drawn from Occupy Wall Street. Others have already filed excellent reports, for example Chris Martenson-Occupy Wall Street: What’s Really Going On, and David Graeber, via Yves Smith (Naked Capitalism): On Playing by the Rules.
Here are my observations.
1. As an old activist myself (circa the early-mid 1970s), I learned that timing is everything but it is out of our control. A well-publicized mass demonstration in June draws 16 people (or four), and one three months later draws thousands of people. The difference is a change of awareness/ consciousness crystallized in the broader culture.
Concepts and phrases that placed me and other bloggers firmly in the farthest fringes of American society in 2005 and 2006 are now mainstream, bantered around on thousands of blogs and social media sites. People usually gain an awareness of propaganda and servitude slowly, and often only when their servitude and the dominance of self-serving Power Elites actually start impacting their own lives. That is now happening to more and more people.
The key to this process is having explanations and models which make sense of what’s happening. As the Status Quo unravels/devolves, the propaganda becomes less and less persuasive as an account of how the world actually works. Alternative explanations suddenly “make sense.” For me, the neo-colonial “plantation” model of financial/political exploitation and oppression neatly explains how America functions in the real world: debt-serfs, a Technocratic Caste of enforcers/managers, etc., just like on a colonial plantation ruled by a distant, cloaked, unreachable Elite. Others have different models, but the key feature is that each alternative explanation disrupts and subverts the Status Quo narrative.
This process cannot be co-opted or stopped. The only question left to be answered going forward is how much pain and suffering the Status Quo Power Elites and their armies of technocrat toadies, lackeys and prostitutes will impose on the nation before their grip on power is finally relinquished.
2. Given the vast armies of toadies, lackeys and prostitutes at their command, the Power Elite likes nothing better than “illegal action” which it can then ruthlessly suppress (truncheon-wielding cops, media smears, financial harrassment via the agencies of regulation/enforcement, etc.)
This is why I favor direct, perfectly legal action by individuals and households to divest themselves of servitude/complicity in the Status Quo. Max Keiser’s campaign to cripple Power Elite speculators in silver is one example: if 100 million households each bought 10 ounces of physical silver, that would completely disrupt the speculative game played by Wall Street.
One way to take direct action is to avoid student loan servitude: whatever it takes, get an education and degree without burdening yourself (and enriching Wall Street) with huge student loans. It can be done, but it means moving outside the Status Quo propaganda and narrative.
There is no law (yet) requiring citizens to have a mortgage, or credit card debt or an auto loan. Imagine what would happen to Wall Street’s ponzi financialization schemes if there were no mortgages to slice and dice and sell. Removing your interest payments and debt from the system is a direct action against servitude and the dominance of the Wall Street/Washington Power Elite.
Debt forces our complicity and servitude. The first step to true independence and freedom is to owe Wall Street and the other systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) nothing. Owing them nothing is still perfectly legal. Once their income streams collapse, then buying the pimps and prostitutes of Washington becomes much more difficult.
The storm troopers of the Elite in Washington will protect their interests at every turn; that is why “reforming the system” is essentially impossible.
There are three ways not to have a mortgage:
1. don’t get a mortgage
2. pay off your existing mortgage
3. If you are insolvent, declare bankruptcy and dismiss the mortgage debt via the legal process of bankruptcy.
Others have taken the route of strategic default.
Other direct actions include:
–remove your money from Wall Street firms and “too big to fail” banks, opting for credit unions and online securities accounts.
–closing credit card accounts and/or minimizing your use of credit cards, which generate vast fees and profits for Wall Street and TBTF banks–what William Black calls systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs).
– don’t vote for either criminal gang–the Demopublicans or the Republicrats. Vote for an alternative, or the non-incumbent, or at least someone who refuses to play the game (for example, Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich). Not voting plays right into the Power Elite’s hands: the passivity and complicity of the average citizen is their greatest ally in maintaining their neo-feudal power.
There are other direct actions we can take in the privacy of our own lives and homes. The basic idea is simple: stop being complicit in an exploitative, oppressive Status Quo, and stop passively accepting the governance of prostitutes and pimps and the lackeys they appoint (Geithner, Bernanke, et al.) It is perfectly legal (so far) to be debt-free, to own silver and to vote against the two criminal gangs that run Whoretown (Washington, D.C.)
Demonstrating is a good way to join in common cause and to raise awareness within the passive public, but being debt-free and thus a free citizen is even more powerful. Removing your debt and interest from Wall Street and the other systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) will cripple their power in a way that toothless political reforms cannot.
Becoming a free, independent citizen won’t solve all our nation’s problems, but it will certainly enable solutions that are now impossible in the current neo-feudal, neo-colonial plantation run by Wall Street and Washington.