SlutWalk, Occupy Wall Street and other sparks of resistance: let’s fan the flames!

Finally this morning The is paying some attention to the Occupy Wall Street protests.  But the tone is still highbrow and dismissive–Charles Blow, who really should know better, labels the protesters “hippies and hipsters” and the movement overall as “a spark set down on wet grass,” with “no where to go.”

He also finds space to inform us that “a New York Times/CBS News poll released two weeks ago found that a third of those who make $30,000 a year or less don’t believe that the government should raise taxes on the wealthy to lower the budget deficit.”

Could that be because those who are living on the edge are so beaten down by a variety of forces, including lousy education and the constant scorn this country shows the poor, that they could care less about “lowering the budget deficit”?

I bet that the pollsters would get quite a different response if the question were worded more directly, as in: Should the government raise taxes on the wealthy to help the poor get a better education, promote job growth and tighten the social safety net?  Hell yes! they’d say.

Meanwhile, up in Union Square, another protest is brewing today: SlutWalk, a new, international protest movement against “rape culture.”  In a rape culture like ours, the SlutWalkNYC site informs us, “sexual violence is made to be both invisible and inevitable; and these two practices are what normalizes rape, harassment and assault….The forces that normalize rape culture are not examined; rape is not seen as a culture or “practice” and if it is ever discussed, sexual violence is seen as an isolated act that occurs between individuals.”

SlutWalk began in Toronto last year, in response to an incident where a police officer told a rape victim that she had been “asking for it” because of the way she was dressed.  That the movement has caught on so quickly, especially among young women, is testament to the validity of its argument that no woman, no matter how she is dressed, is ever “asking” to be raped.

Both Occupy Wall Street and SlutWalk are driven by young people who are frustrated with the status quo and know that a better world is possible.  Their elders should know better than to dismiss these young folks as idealistic dreamers.  Hasn’t all change in human society, both positive and negative, been driven by those who dare to dream differently?

Lately I’ve been reading Derrick Jensen‘s latest book, a huge tome called simply, Dreams.  In it he argues that one of Western civilization’s crucial fallacies is our collective tendency to ignore and dismiss our dreams, as well as the possibility that through our dreams we may connect with “supernatural” forces that we don’t understand and cannot control.

Derrick sides with indigenous cultures who believe that the natural world is alive (“animism”) and can communicate with us.  His big question in Dreams is a weighty one: why hasn’t the natural world fought back harder in the face of the sustained murderous onslaught of humanity?

I would not presume to speak for the natural world.  But this question can be applied to a lot of other contexts today.

Why has it taken so long for Americans to get out and protest the takeover of our country by the corporate elite?  Why has it taken two weeks for the New York Times to deign to notice this gadfly protest on the flanks of the giant Wall Street bull?  The New York unions are finally stirring and considering joining the protesters–why has it taken so long for the American working class to awaken?

I think it might have something to do with the way we in the U.S. are caught up in a media-induced waking dream/nightmare, with a storyline that repeats over and over the following all-pervasive mantra: c’est la vie, there’s nothing to be done about it.  No fundamental change is possible.  The contamination of our environment is inevitable, and necessary if we want to maintain our comfortable fossil-fuel-driven lifestyle. The ever-growing gap between rich and poor is inevitable, as natural and normal as rape culture–boys will be boys, and you can’t expect rich boys to care about the poor.


Someday analysts may look back on this period as one of remarkably successful mass indoctrination.  That is, if there are any shreds and shards left of our culture to examine after climate change is done with us.

To answer Derrick’s question, climate change is Nature fighting back.  Has anyone noticed that it’s been raining practically non-stop in New England for weeks now?  Here we are almost in leaf season, and our once-glorious maple trees are barely able to muster some mustardy brown color.  If this rain were snow, we’d be buried.  It may be an interesting winter season, to say the least.

However, resistance movements, both human and natural, are stirring all over the planet.  Like Occupy Wall Street, they may seem small, fragmented and disorganized to people who are accustomed to watching the huge, well-funded, tightly organized spectacles of mainstream political parties, or even mainstream-funded resistance movements like the Tea Party.

But it’s possible that dispersed, small-scale resistance may just what is called for under the present circumstances, when anything more obvious would simply be crushed by the iron fist of the corporate capitalist ruling class.

Resistance is happening when people take the time to relearn ancient human practices like small-scale biodynamic agriculture, bee-keeping, and storing food for the winter.  Resistance is happening when people refuse to let the dominant narratives ride rough-shod over their dreams of positive change.

Resistance is happening!  Let’s prove Charles Blow and the other naysayers wrong. It may be a rainy season, but let’s be the dry tinder for the spark of protest to fall on. It just takes one spark to start a wildfire, after all.

American-style debt bondage–how much longer can we go on this way?

A propos of this question of what the Occupy Wall Street protest is all about, I would like to raise the issue of debt bondage.

Usually when someone says “debt bondage,” we flash to images of Indian rice farmers or child brick carriers or trafficked women from Southeast Asia.

There is horrendous debt slavery in South and Southeast Asia, and the conditions under which men, women and children labor there are far worse than anything we face here in the U.S.

But at the same time, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to call the average American middle-class lifestyle a form of debt bondage.

This graphic does a good job at giving us the picture:

In case you can’t read the fine print, the end of the “game” shows that Americans will pay about $600,000 in interest alone during their lifetimes.  [Source: Visual Economics.]

Working to pay off debt has become so commonplace that we scarcely even notice it anymore.  But it’s a relatively new phenomenon.  And all that interest, plus all those fees, are among the prime ways that the Wall Street bankers have gotten so phenomenally rich in the past 50 years or so.

What can be done about this?  For starters, a quality education should not so expensive that a middle-class student has to go into debt to attain it.

And we have to think much more deeply as a society about the job question.  We should not make it so easy for corporations to outsource jobs to cheaper labor markets.  Just as we are beginning to think about localizing agriculture and energy, we need to think about localizing jobs.

That’s the way human beings have made their livings for the past millennia, after all.  Only in the last 30 years or so has the world become so small (thanks to cheap fossil fuels) that it was conceivable to export manufacturing and other basic services to the other side of the globe.

Is outsourcing really more cost-effective, when you add in the costs of social welfare for all these displaced workers?  And the costs of millions of foreclosed homes?  And the costs of warehousing millions of poorly educated young people in jail? Not to mention the costs of global climate change?

Well, it depends on who is footing the bill, doesn’t it.  The Occupy Wall Street protesters are speaking for all American taxpayers in declaring that we should not have to pay for the greedy, short-sighted mistakes of the global corporate elite.

If they had to pay the true costs of the agendas they’ve pursued since World War II, well–it would be quite a different world we were living in, friends.  Maybe we would still be able to make a living that didn’t involve constantly adding more links to the chains of our debt bondage.

Unthinkable, you say?

Think again!

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