Sunday, October 9, 2011

An open-letter to my teachers... to #occupy

Here was the interview I was a part of yesterday morning.  We are young.  We represent the faces and voices of a very small part of the 99%.  But its a start...    

And below is an open letter i've written to some of my former teachers and mentors as i've thought about what the #occupy movement is and means.


We need mentors... An Open Letter to my Teachers

As someone whom I have learned much from I needed to take a moment this morning to ask again for your time and guidance.

As both a participant in some of the early #occupy events here in Atlanta and someone that's been attacking the rot within the Goldman Sachs center-right Democratic Party from the inside for a number of years now I think there is massive confusion about what #occupy is.  My fear is that many of those whom I've learned from and have inspired me will sit back rather than participate at a time when they are needed most.

Its a demotic- moment in history.  Which means its messy, awkward, and will not manufacture the easy photo-op moments that well meaning Democratic Party/"progressive"/Move-On activists desire.  Massive social and economic inequities are bubbling to the surface. Many of the people getting involved are anti-politic to a fault; distrustful of institutions be they party politics, unions, or any long term institution that could and must be harnessed, maintained, and nurtured for long term reforms to occur. 

U.S. imperialism has rotted the social fabric of our communities.  It has corrupted the internal political process and created an illiterate and irrational citizenry fixated on bread and circus. This is a moment in history where reforms will require long term commitment by individuals to network, develop skill sets, and form new alliances.  This will take nurturing and time.  The media's focus on what "this all this means" in the short term and efforts by well meaning political and labor machine activists to force the moment is short sighted to the the massive long term challenges we face.

Sheldon Wolin noted in his book Democracy Inc. that, "Demotic action is typically triggered by felt grievances--not, initially by a yearning for political participation.  Because of the exhausting demands of making "living," surviving under harsh circumstances, dedication to a political life is hardly a conceivable vocation.  While governing is a full-time, continuous activity, demotic politics is inevitably episodic, born of necessity, improvisational rather than institutionalized." 

If I'm reading him correctly I think that right now is a moment where #occupy is the demos becoming self-conscious of itself and that the challenge for those who see potential in this moment is to act...

to recover lost ground, to "popularize" political institutions and practices that have become severed from popular control.  It involves renewing the meaning and substance of "representative democracy" by affirming the primacy of Congress, curbing the growth of presidential power, disentangling the stranglehold of lobbyists, democratizing the party system by eliminating the barriers to third parties, and enforcing an austere system of campaign finance.

I truly hope that those in the professional class recognize the moment for what it is, get involved sharing their knowledge and perspective, and feed positive energy to the well meaning participants--not to mention some good logical lashings to right-wing talking points being churned out as we speak in well financed think-tanks.

The expertise that comes from the time and training of philosophy and economics as elite professions are a privilege that many on the streets have never been able to enjoy.  Most of these people will never again have an opportunity to cross paths with experts and elites whom they can learn and grow from.  But right at this moment they are organizing events right down the road, down the block, down the hall from you and they merely need you to show up.

A strange mixture of utopianism, institutional naivety, and conspiracy theory is feeding some of the most energetic activists and only engagement and dialogue can address this problem. Be it going to a rally to talk to people in the crowd, volunteering to give teach-ins, or taking a moment to put thoughts to paper so that others can spread them across their social networks to churn up debate--all of these actions help build positive demotic- momentum that is greatly needed.  

The demos is acting and its in great need of mentors and positive energy to push this moment in history forward.  Many of your colleagues will follow your lead in word and action. Please let them know there are many of us participating in #occupy events who are desperate for guidance and engagement and want them to join in this moment as participants. No one can be neutral on a moving train.



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