Universal Translator

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One More Tiny Bit of Kvetching

Referring once more to Andrew Sabl's recent foray to Liberty Plaza Park, I was also struck by this expressed statement, which I have seen in various forms before coming from OWS:

[OWS’s] official blog disavows the right of any working group to produce demands.  On the contrary, saith the blogger, “[w]e are our demands. This #ows movement is about empowering communities to form their own general assemblies, to fight back against the tyranny of the 1%. Our collective struggles cannot be co-opted.”  (Jed Brandt and Michael Levitin in the Occupied Wall Street Journel echo this: “What it is, the demand the 1% can’t comprehend, is us. It is the individuals and villages, the cities and peoples across the world who are seeing each other on the far side of appeals and petitions. It is the world we are becoming.”)
I don't know precisely what the protesters mean when they say things like "we are our demands" or "our demands are us," and I don't know what they think that sounds like to outsiders.  But I'm pretty sympathetic to the OWS movement and to me it sounds like the "collective narcissim" about which Sabl complains, or the "self-centeredness" about which I have complained before that seems to lead so many OWS protesters to believe that the point of protest is to attract attention even if the protesters themselves are incapable of articulating why they deserve that attention.

Because, see . . . I always thought the point of a protest movement was to articulate something bigger than the individuals involved.  The Civil Rights Movement was bigger than the individuals who marched for Civil Rights; ending the Vietnam War was bigger than the people who marched to end the Vietnam War.

But . . . "we are our demands"?  "Our demands are us"?  I don't know what the OWS protesters really mean when they say such things, but these ideas certainly don't sound like anything particularly noble.  And so I've got to think that OWS trying to explain itself to others along such lines is not going to be particularly helpful.


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