Posted by: theodorecosmosophia | November 8, 2011

The Gifts of the Occupy Wall Street Movement: Buy Someone a Book for the Holidays

While I have written before implicitly supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement, I’d like to spell out what I think is the essence of the movement’s philosophy and offer a suggestion about how this relates to the literary world.

Although it is true that the movement is diverse and without a clear hierarchy, I do not believe that this means it has no true philosophy. In fact, I would argue that there is a fallacy in our apparent belief that only isolated individuals can craft a philosophy. Philosophy arises not merely by the expression of clear and distinct ideas but through action. The movement itself is bringing forth its philosophy through its actions on the street. Moreover, this action is collective. A philosophical movement arises out of this shared action.

It is important, however, for writers to begin the process of synthesizing and articulating the movement. Clearly, the mainstream media will not do it; for their narrative is that because the movement is bringing together various viewpoints it is “disjointed.”

But having various viewpoints does not mean a movement is disjointed. In fact, there is a central economic argument that has brought so many people in the street; if it has been articulated anywhere in the media I have not heard it.  Essentially, the Occupy Wall Street Movement is arguing for a Real Cost Economy–that is, an economy in which we pay for the actual effect of our economic actions. This is why corporations and banks are targeted. Regular people–that is, 99% of us–already mostly suffer the consequences. (I say “mostly” because I do not think that any American can say he truly pays the true global cost of his economic actions).

Corporations, however, are seldom held responsible for their ecological impact. If a corporation, say, spills oil into the Gulf of Mexico, taxpayers suffer.  Ecosystems suffer. Local economies suffer. If their factory gives my daughter respiratory problems, I have to pay the medical bills. If, to protect my family, I firebomb the factory at night when no one is there (so no gets hurt) I will be locked up for a long time.

This is not unlike the bank bailouts. The problem with the focus on bank bailouts is that it makes it seem this issue is a one-off, when in fact, it is systemic.

In addition, the impunity with which corporations wreck our ecosystems and our economy is fed by and feeds the political system. That they are allowed to essentially buy politicians makes it nearly impossible to regulate them; that they are hardly regulated allows them to make the profits with which they buy the politicians. (For more of my ideas about our political situation, see Deep Democracy). It is a vicious circle that only can be addressed through direct action, not within the political system, because it has become an integral component of the system itself.

I do not believe it is fair to suggest, as many who are unable or unwilling to recognize the basic philosophy of the movement do, that the protesters are hypocritical because they sometimes use products made by corporations.  The movement’s argument is not that economic exchange is wrong, but that industrial capitalism creates systemic injustices. There are, however, many ways we can start to avoid the excessive use of corporate products. Nowhere is this more significant, considering the need to articulate the movement itself, than the media, particularly the publishing business.

My own publisher, Hiraeth Press, was created for the explicit purpose of transforming our way of thinking about the world through literature. In supporting them, you not only spend your money at a business that won’t be buying off politicians, you will also be learning and sharing ideas that use “creativity to transform consciousness, both individually and socially.” They were committed to revolution through poetry long before the Wall Street protests. This is where the role of the writer comes in: while the philosophy is brought forth through collective action, it is synthesized through the philosopher, the poet, the writer. Indeed, the Wall Street protests cannot and will not survive without poets. For the new paradigm they seek can only be expressed through the poetic voice. (You may want to consider my friend Darrin Drda’s work, The Four Global Truths, just re-released.)

This is because, above all, it seems to me that this is not only a political and economic movement, but also a spiritual one. Perhaps this is why the mainstream media finds it so difficult to grasp. The Wall Street protesters are seeking a more meaningful existence, not merely a more just order. Many of their ideas will be rejected as impractical and, indeed, there are some ideas for which the world is not yet ready. It is a movement with an affinity–ironically, considering how many Christians seem to think Jesus was a big business Republican–with the teachings of Jesus. Alternatively, many on the Left have tried to co-opt these teachings as an argument for more just economic and social policies.  And, in fact, they are closer to these Leftist policies than the politic of greed from the Right.  But I think this misses the central focus of the synoptic gospels. Jesus was calling on us to live more fully, more deeply. It is an argument that addresses economics but ultimately transcends it. And this is something that everyone occupying Wall Street can agree on.

So, as the holidays approach, perhaps we could consider the gift of revolution. Click here for more on Hiraeth Press’s Nourish Yourself initiative.

For more on why not to buy diamonds, stay tuned for my next post.

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