Friday, October 14, 2011

The 99 Percent And A Restatement Of Principles

The other day, I saw the following comment on a post at The Daily Howler. I linked to it on Facebook. It reads in part:
The problem with our rank and file is that they get off on being what they regard as morally and intellectually superior to THOSE OTHER PEOPLE--a superiority which they demonstrate by demeaning mainstream Americans, especially white men, while screaming about how THOSE OTHER PEOPLE are bigots. It's insane, but that's what they're doing.
Today, Somerby wrote the following. He links to two different Hullabaloo posts, one by David Adkins, the other by Digby, then writes the following:
Who on earth would ever have thought that “the entire 99 percent” was ever going to “rise up against the rest?” Who would have thought that the Occupy movement “is going to sweep the country without any substantial opposition from average Americans?” Using Atkins’ silly construction, who would have pictured “an agreement on rational, sensible policy on which we can all come to consensus?” Who would have thought that this movement’s new math amounted to such a prediction?

In her post, Digby was playing the set-upon victim, as she increasingly likes to do; she pretended it wasn’t “fashionable” to make her statement, which was in fact simply fatuous. Politics is never about getting everyone to agree, and the Occupy movement’s insightful new math doesn’t mean that we are trying to win 99 percent agreement. It means that blue tribal members might approach reds with a broader perspective—might even help some reds come to see that they're part of the 99 too.


Poor Digby! She is subjected to so much static for her daring posts. It isn’t just the billionaires who will resist—average Americans will resist too! For ourselves, we have no idea who would have doubted this obvious fact; of course, many average Americans will choose to stay with the reds. The question as one builds a movement is of course different from that.

No one tries to win everyone over. The real question turns on "how many."

How many people in the red tribe might end up seeing themselves as of the 99 percent? There’s no way to know until you approach them—and that’s what tribal tribunes, all through history, have always inveighed against. As she continued, Digby noted that the Tea Party Express was dissing the Occupy folk—and Tea Party Nation was dissing them too! We have no idea why that would be a surprise to any sentient person.


Digby’s favorite word is “they.” It’s a word which denies that even one of “those people” could have the human qualities which define our own wonderful tribe. Yes, we know—she doesn't say “all.” But as as you read, where is the emphasis?

Projection is also a mark of such tribals. Those people “have a deep need to see themselves as better than somebody. It’s just who they are,” Digby explains. But that’s pretty much the feeling we get from the headstrong strivers at Hullabaloo, who tell us, in sweeping terms, that those people are “morally repulsive,” “disgusting and shameful,” unable to “feel basic empathy” on the basis of the fact that they saw they've seen a lot of kids squandering student loan money.

As always, the haters have been Where the Wild Things Are. On the basis of their travels, they want you to know that “those people” won't be on your side!
All of which leads to a simple observation - the biggest hurdle the the OWS folks face isn't ignorance, or ridicule from the mainstream press, or detractors on the right. It's potential ideological allies who will dismiss, deride, and defame potential allies for one simple reason - they don't think like "us"! The Hullabaloo posts make that pretty clear.

I've been blogging for five years, and have yet to make clear I am not the least bit interested in arguing. With anyone. Nor do I make any claim to superior insight, or wisdom, or understanding. I will most certainly call out blatant bigotry when it rears its ugly head; as my policy regarding Holocaust deniers, creationists, and global-warming deniers should make clear, I don't waste time dealing with nonsense, either. Factual error is just that, and I have no real need or inclination to waste time or space with folks who insist on the rough equivalent that 2+2=5.

I am interested, and have always been interested, in how folks view the world. How those views effect the way they live their lives. Even if the choices are such that I could never make them. That was the reason I first attempted, so many years ago, to converse with Neil Simpson. I couldn't care less that he believes I am some kind of non-Christian; I am interested in what he believes and why. He couldn't seem to understand that. It was far more important to him to criticize what I was saying than to take the time to actually read and understand it.

Political, religious, and other differences are important. They are not personal. I have disagreed with folks I respect a great deal, and here's the thing - I still respect them! As I wrote on Facebook, I have friends who are supporting Newt Gingrich for President. I have friends who are Marxists. I have friends who are clergy. I have friends who are atheists. And I think it's wonderful! I read their links and posts and marvel at the differences, and celebrate it.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, with its chant of "We Are The 99%" is an opening to really talk about the real problems we all face. Some of the folks I've seen interviewed sound an awful lot like libertarians. Others sound like, and probably are, various shades of socialists, communists, and anarchists. Rather than label them, or set up some ridiculous notion that even a majority of people will identify with the movement, it might be wise to shut up, listen, and think about the message. Even if we differ in how we understand how we got here, and what to do about it, it might be nice to sit and talk, together, about the simple reality that we all seem to share something in common - we're all, equally - red state and blue state, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat - screwed.

Virtual Tin Cup

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