From a proposal to "occupy Wall street," a global movement has grown. The impressive reach of demonstrations is represented in this interactive map provided by The Guardian.
Although the precise nature of each individual, "local" instance of protest has its own distinct character, there is no doubt that they share a common concern: the tremendous, catastrophic damage that the global financial crisis has unleashed on already vulnerable populations (the sick, the poor, the elderly, the un- and underemployed, children), as well as the newly-created vulnerable (laid-off, asset-depleted, individuals). One might postulate many further consequences produced by what Naomi Klein has called the "Shock Doctrine": measures taken to re-inforce privilege smuggled in under the pretext of a state of emergency.
But just as common, and deep-seated, in the Occupy movement is a sense of moral outrage—not only at the culprits directly responsible for the financial melt-down, but also at the supporting players: civic, political, academic leaders who have not only not done their jobs, but have, many suspect, actually gone over to the other side (in fact, from looking at the boards many of them serve on, they are the other side).
It seems both poignant and pathetic that one of the root causes of the crisis was the exploitation of the "American Dream" to own a house. Subprime mortgages were bundled with derivatives, junk, and other high-risk investments. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall provisions by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 had years before already broken down the protective wall between investment and commercial banks, and allowed the viral spread of the contagion of bad loans and shifty financing. It was a perfect storm. For one of the most complete reports, see that of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.
It is a huge and horrible irony then that another key part of the American Dream—education—is likely to be the next source of even greater financial devastation. For one of many studies, see this article in The Atlantic.
The blogs that appear in Arcade are especially concerned with the recent events on our university and college campuses, in other words, at precisely those institutions that are dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, the development of critical thinking and reflection, and the training of tomorrow's leaders. And let there be no mistake about it—acquiring an education is also one of the classic means by which class and social mobility are facilitated. Conversely, taking access to education away allows elites to remain in power, it allows the effective reproduction of those whose vested interests are counter to that of progressive reform.
In order for their missions to be met, universities and colleges must of course guarantee the safety of their communities, so that debate can flow in all directions freely. Some carry their beliefs into action in the form of passive resistance. They can expect (and do expect) to be legally prosecuted if they violate the law. They take their right to conscientiously object, knowing the legal price they must pay. Nonetheless, the methods of "removing" demonstrators have been, in all too many cases, brutal and excessive, punitive rather than peace-keeping. Those that have perpetrated these acts of violence are acting as not only as law enforcement officers—they are acting as well as judge and jury.
This repression has, of course, a terribly chilling effect on the university's mission. It is not enough to say to students that as long as they do not demonstrate, do not even attend demonstrations, nothing will happen to them. For saying that has the effect, first, of inadvertently showing the lack of faith those who offer this view have in the police and, second, of discounting the importance of the protest itself, or, indeed, acts of conscience. What is being protested is nothing less than the crippling of the educational mission of the university—through the withdrawal of funding, and of placing the burden for replacing those funds on those least able to bear it. It is to the credit of these protestors—students, staff, faculty alike—that they do not wish to stand idly by and wait for their administrators to act. I believe they have waited, and seen what the effect of their patience has been.
The campus protests take these issues as their most immediate focal points, but they attach these issues to the breakdown of our nation's commitment to fairness and democracy, and the global concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the very few. There is the overwhelming feeling, globally, that yes, things have gotten this bad. But what is heartening is that now more people than ever, all over the world, are speaking the same language of empowerment and solidarity. They, we, are not asking for a lot—economic justice, the restoration of participatory democracy, leaders who have the best interests of the people in mind. These were the promises of the great revolutions of the eighteenth century, and the ideas upon with liberal democracies were founded, and defended.
These blogs in Arcade all help us draw on our "local expertise"—reading literature both for the truths it yields and the critical capacity to imagine it exercises; understanding cultural semiotics and rhetoric; our roles as institutional citizens and teachers—to understand and act in this historical moment.
—David Palumbo-Liu, December 2011
|Poetry, Politics, Plasticity, Re-imagination||David Palumbo-Liu||04.20.2012||Post|
|The Spin||Paula Moya||11.23.2011||Post|
|Public Ad Campaign||Irakli Zurab Kakabadze||11.23.2011||Post|
|Arcading around (U.S. Thanksgiving edition)||Natalia Cecire||11.22.2011||Editors Blog|
|What Bartleby Can Teach Us About Occupy Wall Street||Lauren Klein||11.21.2011||Post|
|Petition to assure right of dissent and free speech zones on US campuses||David Palumbo-Liu||11.21.2011||Post|
|The Silence of the Presidents||Roland Greene||11.19.2011||Post|
|100% Caddyshack||Christopher Warley||11.17.2011||Post|
|Cathedrals and Ivory Towers--Occupations and Shock||David Palumbo-Liu||11.15.2011||Post|
|Occupy Wall Street and a Polyphonic General Strike||Irakli Zurab Kakabadze||10.20.2011||Post|
|Wendy Brown - Porous Sovereignty, Walled Democracy||Anonymous||02.03.2011||Audio|
|Performing Occupation||Aaron Siegel||03.07.2010||Post|