I think Matt Taibbi is right when he says this about the Occupy movement:
This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it’s flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.
As I’ve said before, I like the Occupy movement for the questions it raises, both explicitly and by its very existence.
I have no opinion about whether the movement is sustainable; I just heard a report on NPR describing how a similar popular uprising (the Bonus Army in 1932) came out of nowhere, captured the American imagination for months, and then was squashed by the US Army in one brief night. But there were aftereffects.
The hope I have for the Occupy movement is that it will lead more people to ask: how much of what we assume about the proper way to live life follows from morality or nature, and how much is simply arbitrary—or even against morality and nature?
I like Taibbi’s observation that, even though the meaning of the Occupy movement goes far deeper than modern finance, it was a stroke of genius to focus on it:
There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. Or maybe you wake up one morning and your car is gone, legally repossessed by Vulture Inc., the debt-buying firm that bought your loan on the Internet from Chase for two cents on the dollar.
This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of. [Emphasis added]
Many folks who are successfully walking this tightrope assume that this is the way God would have it, that their very success demonstrates how good and right and reasonable the system is, that the punishment for slipping off fits very well with the crime committed.
But those assumptions may be wrong. And it may be necessary to step back from it all for an extended period—to go on strike—in order to see other possibilities.