Occupy: on Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibi and the wisdom of no set agenda

October 19, 2011

My oldest friend in the world, Roxanne Reynolds (nee Green), who lives in Houston, turned me on to Matt Taibbi’s commentary on Rolling Stone‘s website about Occupy Wall Street. It’s worth reading — you can check it out here.

He notes that the images that have emerged so far of OWS have been misleading stand-offs with the police and nothing truly iconic. “That, to me, speaks volumes about the primary challenge of opposing the 50-headed hydra of Wall Street corruption, which is that it’s extremely difficult to explain the crimes of the modern financial elite in a simple visual,” Taibbi writes. “The essence of this particular sort of oligarchic power is its complexity and day-to-day invisibility: Its worst crimes, from bribery and insider trading and market manipulation, to backroom dominance of government and the usurping of the regulatory structure from within, simply can’t be seen by the public or put on TV. There just isn’t going to be an iconic “Running Girl” photo with Goldman Sachs, Citigroup or Bank of America – just 62 million Americans with zero or negative net worth, scratching their heads and wondering where the hell all their money went and why their votes seem to count less and less each and every year.”

He goes on to offer some thoughtful suggestions about demands that might be made to address out-of-control corporate dominance and economic injustice. But to me, the most ingenious thing about a constitutionally leaderless movement with no stated list of demands is that it puts the responsibility on all of us to transform ourselves from passive observers (O Leader, here’s what you need to do!) to active participants in citizen democracy. If you think something needs to be done, well, what’s stopping you from doing something about it? Did you have a response when you heard that Bank of America’s revenues took a big leap last quarter? Did your income take a big leap last quarter? If you have something to say about that, don’t wait for somebody else to say it for you. Occupy Wall Street is giving us all notice that it’s possible to have these conversations and ask these questions aloud.

It’s as much about cultivating a world-view as ticking items off a list, and the model that is emerging is person-to-person, which is really how consciousness gets raised.


It’s also fascinating to watch how apologists for corporate culture (not to mention any names…David Brooks) are reacting to the emergence of Occupy Wall Street. Someone sent me a link to an article from Investor’s Business Daily titled “Tax the Rich? Good Luck with That” whose basic point makes sense to me — that when you shift the tax rates, people with higher incomes simply report less (and nobody complains). But the language of the piece, which liberally refers to “leftists in general,” reflects the kind of paranoid thinking that sees correcting economic injustice in terms of rounding up the country’s 400 billionaires and confiscating their possessions (a short step to, you know, shooting them in the street). We’re going to see a lot more of this.

One Response to “Occupy: on Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibi and the wisdom of no set agenda”

  1. Steve V. Says:

    Very useful cultural commentary (using culture in the broader sense). Thanks for linking to the pertinent articles.


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