Friday, May 4, 2012

American Exceptionalism - Mic Check

Today I picked up the new book of Noam Chomsky's speeches and conversations about the Occupy movement, but only had time to read the introduction by the editor, Greg Ruggiero.  On its first page Ruggiero writes that Occupy "began in New York City on September 17, 2011, and rapidly spread to thousands of locations world wide" (9).

I suppose that's one way to look at it, but another way is that Occupy is part of a worldwide movement that started in another hemisphere, and finally spread to the US.  During some inspiring demonstrations by students in England during 2010, which used occupation as a strategy and a method, numerous writers wondered when Americans would start doing something.  Then in January 2011 demonstrators occupying Tahrir Square in Egypt brought down Hosni Mubarak, and there were other uprisings in the Arab world.  Egyptian activists sent encouraging and supportive messages to Occupy in October 2011.  One even visited and addressed OWS personally.  So while I don't want to be too picky about this, it is false, and typically US-centric, for Ruggiero to write about the occupation movement as something that began in New York.

Just after I picked up this book, I noticed that my Right Wing Acquaintance Number One had written something on his dry-erase board:
Nor should we listen to those who say, "The voice of the people is the voice of God," for the turbulence of the mob is always close to insanity
--Alcuin, ca. 800 A.D.
It's easy to guess what brought that on!  Subtle as a truck, that one: RWA1 was surely pissed off by the May Day demonstrations a few days ago.  (Nor was he alone in Bloomington: there was an editorial in the local newspaper which dwelt on the few incidents of violence in the demos nationwide, while tactfully ignoring the more widespread, indeed routine police violence.)  Of course the voice of the people isn't the voice of God, because there is no God.  But organized protests are not "turbulence" except for those devotees of the Great Chain of Being who want the lower orders securely tethered; and the college students and other intellectuals who've spearheaded the Occupy movement are not "the mob."  As you can see, RWA1 was wearing his elitist cap today, not the populist cap he wears at other times. 

He may also have been worrying about the primary challenge to longtime Republican Senator Richard Lugar by a Tea-Partyish Christian-Right loon, which if successful could lose the Republicans another seat in the Senate.  (I'm not quite as sanguine about that as some Dems I've talked to, who are sure Lugar's opponent will be easy to defeat in November.  I'd have been more optimistic about that in 2008; this is Indiana, after all.)  As for "insanity," though, the Republicans have a lock on that condition these days, despite the Obamabots' best efforts at bipartisanship, and RWA1 has shown abundantly how drawn he is to that wing of the party.