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POLITICS IN THE AGORA October 11, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Democracy, US Politics.

I do not know where the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon is going, but it strikes me that it turns out to be authentically democratic, or at least resonant with democratic tradition.

So let us not forget that Egyptians have a Greek legacy. Public squares and public discussions are probably as typical of civilizations as they are of tribal societies, which are perhaps more geared to consensus and conflict resolution.

The fact that Jeffrey Sachs appears at Zuccotti Park rather than a television studio evokes to my mind the Athenian Agora:

Steve Kates at Cattalaxy dismisses the Occupy Melbourne set up. He writes:

. . .There are no doubt such movements popping up everywhere across Australia and the world, just as they have popped up everywhere across the US following the Occupy Wall Street “protest”. Amongst the strongest characteristics of anti-Americans is how slavishly they follow every American trend on the left. Here is yet another example.

Once again I am reminded that the left does not argue from reason but from sentiment. There is nothing there. It is all at the bumper sticker level of depth and sophistication. There must be some definition of greed, for example, that I might subscribe to – such as when applied to any of these “socialist” Presidents-for-life who squirrel away hundreds of millions, sometimes literally billions, in foreign bank accounts while their populations sink into poverty. But an actual ability to argue out a point, of this there is next to nothing. Whenever representatives of the people with the sentiments of the brain dead who show up at these protests actually take power, the misery that follows is unparalleled. That they never learn from history is just another part of the syndrome.

These people can know nothing at all about how things work, how economies create wealth or how individuals become free and more secure. . .

Both as a model of democracy and as a process, the Occupy Wall Street development is, as I see it, a significant development. Professor Sachs happened by, and gave an impromptu you tube interview. There is a role for journalist, as Amy Goodman demonstrated on Democracy Now, of going out and interviewing marchers and showing, for example, the doctors calling for a universal health scheme.

New media makes a new politics possible that is, for example, transnational. Obviously, we discover Australians and Americans have much common understanding, but the question whether we can extend that to others. I am optimistic that will happen. There are the possibilities that Jeffery Sachs mentions in terms of political change, without going to the issue of electoral systems and processes such as redistricting.

There may, for some, be an unhappy synergy between the new forms of communication and publication and the old. At Club Troppo, Ken Parish quotes Anne Summer’s essay on Andrew Bolt in The Monthly:

Media and politics today are less a contest of ideas and more a continuing conflict of opinion. “Bolt’s genius is that he’s always finding the fault lines and finding an argument,” Lachlan Harris, press secretary to Kevin Rudd when he was prime minister, told me. The resultant toxicity of our politics is only going to get worse. “In 2004, we estimated that people were getting 70% of political information from news outlets, television or papers,” says Harris. “Now it is flipped: most people get most of their political information from opinion, from a medium that is dependent upon division of opinion.”

OWS has a live stream.

Democracy Now provides updates and commentary on the OWS movement and its diffusion across the US.

The second issue of Occupy Wall Street Journal is available.

At Tikkun Daily, Dr Michael Lerner introduces Henry a Giroux’s essay on Class Warfare from Truthout.

David Swanson reports the permit for the Freedom Plaza protest in Washington Square has now expired, so now they will be relying on the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

We will have to see how that goes, or maybe just some clauses of the Constitution have lapsed, and others remain active. Who knows? Still if evicted, arrested and imprisoned, the remainder can still move down to join McPherson Square.

Iceland, a member of the EU, is evidence that democracy works best at the human scale. There have been interesting developments following it’s GFC bankruptcy. Deena Styker argues that Iceland should be in the news.

NY Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, via Common Dreams, says that the protesters can stay as long as they want in their encampment. This is a view not shared by he owners of the privatised park. This occupation is not just about symbolism, and that gives it great edge.



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