Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: democracy or farce?

The WS protests have spread to a thousand cities (that’s a lot of unhappy people). Select unions have joined them; the media has taken up coverage. The 99% campaign is visual and personal, which tends to draw support. Over $4,000 has been raised on Kickstarter to fund their “paper”.

Today in Cairo the military/police drove armored vehicles into the protesting mobs and started shooting. Domestically, we hear that our WS protestors are defecating on police cars and dancing topless. Both sets of protestors want jobs and a voice in government. Or maybe not.

No one seems to have articulated what the protestors want. What do they want? You can’t be both against corporations and pro jobs (look at how well that worked in the USSR). Being anti-Wall Street is great…I joke we should just shut all of the banks (stop using credit or debit cards, checks, pay back your mortgage or other loans now, etc.).

And, then there are the analogies to kids with no adults in charge.

But isn’t that the point exactly? Where is the leadership? And I don’t just mean in the protesting parks around our fine country I mean in all of those cushy elected ofices in our capitals. Why are people in our country having to mass together to finally be heard…even without a leader or a message?

And to be clear, most of our “leaders” hire experts who craft and write their messages. They practice delivery and talk to reporters to expand their audience. So these protestors haven’t found that charismatic leader yet…they will. I just hope they chose wisely.

I’ve been writing the sequel to my thriller, Captive. The first book addressed a terrorist plot. The second one heads to the streets of Cairo and New York and into revolution, riots and a call for democracy. So to me, these Wall Street protests are very interesting. What I’ve learned about revolution is: it often starts small, creates turmoil, which is then exploited by a savvy and ruthless group to seize control of the momentum and take political power. Not to sound paranoid….

To quote Steve Jobs, a great leader: “It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.” Is it the protestors? While we may not be sure what they want we do know that it’s different from what they have. And they aren’t turning to elected leaders to drive change but are rather joining together to complain. To state the obvious - it’s easier to be heard in numbers.

With any mob comes a group think element. Much like going to a rock concert being a part of a communal event is fun. But so are a lot of other things. Voter turnout in elections can go below 10% for local ones, and rarely gets to 50% even in a presidential election. Are we seeing an increase in activism as it becomes local and personal? Are people more willing to get involved, sacrificing other activities, when they can work together for change (hope versus a rote task)?

I’ve been reading Tocqueville’s book, Democracy in America. It should be required reading for all in our “democracy”. He makes an interesting point, that any wise ruler will shift the social order periodically to lower those in power and empower those lacking to secure his own job. Basically, no other group is able to mass enough power to challenge the ruler.

Is that what’s really happening here?

I really don’t know; but when I don’t know my rule is to go back to what I do know. So here’s my best shot.

People in this country are starved for an inspirational leader that is willing to make tough choices and improve the lives of the most not a few. What steps that leader should take are highly contested.

A leader will fill that void. If he/she doesn’t self select an organized political group will find someone.

Equity is a subjective term.

To the WS protestors, find someone who can write and come up with a mission statement. No political change will come about without a practical platform that people can support. If you want something be specific and articulate what steps will get you there. Personally, I find that if I tell people exactly what I want them to do – they might say yes or no – but at least I get an outcome. “Help,” means little to nothing.

As Lewis Carroll says, if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.

We really need to pay attention to the social messages in our country. Look at the turmoil in the Arab world and let’s hope we don’t end up there. Revolution is losing control; it isn’t like democratic and orderly change…but rather too easily devolves into chaos and a despotic government (only way to control the out-of-control people). Our demographics are risky: too many educated young are unemployed and have time to congregate in parks. Dangerous. Unnecessary.

Class warfare, the us against them mentality and attack rhetoric are all political tools. Don’t just believe what you think you hear…do the research. Our country is a great and blessed one so let’s pull it together and not tear it apart.

In our democracy people shouldn’t have to protest in over 1,000 cities to be heard. I’ll continue to write on this topic (and am writing a book on it) and am glad to be in America where the related news stories aren’t about torture, imprisonment without charges and death.

One more way in which our system – democracy – works? We’ll see

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