Occupy Wall Street

This article discusses the difficulty Occupy Wall Street protestors have had in coming up with a series of demands.  One sees in their meeting minutes the difficulty (and frankly absurdity) of democratic processes that refuse structure.  Coming up with a list of demands is hard enough (especially when they are so keen on not marginalizing anyone that they want 90% consensus), but even the call for demands is controversial.  My favorite remark was this:

“Inherently, in asking for demands, you are accepting that there is a power greater than yourself, which is something that this movement is categorically against.”

Good luck with that whole “brotherhood of man” without any structure thing, what Occupiers are calling “this beautiful society we are creating in this park.”  This is a perfect example of why John Lennon’s song Imagine is so stupid. He asks us to imagine there is no heaven, no hell, no countries, no property, no religion too.  The assumption is that without these “alien forces” of civilization, life would all come up roses.  Sut such a view is utterly naive about human nature.  Wisdom of the ages – whether it be religious wisdom or the wisdom of the Greek tragedians like Sophocles and Aeschylus – knows that something has gone wrong with the human condition.  The cookie jar has been broken, things are not “all good” and won’t be fixed y just getting rid of things like the civilizing forces of things like rule of law and culture.

So yes, Lennon is a “dreamer”, as he admits in his song.  But a hopelessly idealistic one, idealistic to the point of absurdity.  For my part, in the city of man I prefer the structure of the rule of law.

Anyway, when I think of these movements and the issue of demands, I immediately think of this classic scene from Life of Brian.  After all, “What have the Romans [capitalists] ever done for us?!”  I love the demand made: “We are giving Pilate 2 days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the roman imperialist state.”  I wonder if the Occupy Wall Street demands are any less absurd.

Author: Kleiner

Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.

5 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street”

  1. My brother in law emailed me with this important bit of perspective:

    According to the U.N., “Nearly half the world’s population, 2.8 billion people, earn less than $2 a day. The poorest 5% of Americans are better off than more than two-thirds of the world population.” For example, “only about 3 percent of the Indian population has incomes higher than the bottom (the very poorest) U.S. percentile.” According to the World Bank, 95% of those living in the developing world earn less than $10 a day.

    Here’s an excerpt from a recent Wall St Journal article: “Linda Frakes filed for bankruptcy after accumulating over $300,000 in credit card debt. Ms. Frakes is now unemployed, living on $330 a week of unemployment benefits and odd jobs. Frakes struggled to rent a home and buy a car after bankruptcy. A used-car dealer ultimately gave her financing on a Jaguar. No one’s hardship should be belittled. Becoming unemployed or losing a home aren’t just financial problems. They’re social and emotional problems that strike at people’s sense of being. But things always need to be kept in perspective. Only in America can someone be driving a Jaguar and portrayed as living in an impoverished underclass. Context is crucial with these issues. Today, of Americans officially designated as ‘poor,’ 99 percent have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and a refrigerator; 95 percent have a television, 88 percent a telephone, 71 percent a car and 70 percent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these.” Nor does much of the world

    In reality, most of those protesting in the Occupy Wall Street movement would be considered extraordinarilywealthy by much of the world. Many of those protesting the 1% are, ironically, the 1%.


  2. I am on the record for having dissed the Tea Party plenty. There is very little about the Tea Party (which is just Locke + Jesus) that I find attractive other than their honesty about math (the entitlement crisis math really can’t be argued with). But I think the Tea Party and Occupy movements (and more generally the left and the right in America today) are both wrong because they both begin with the same inadequate anthropology.


    1. I just want a 1)fiscally stable country that 2)keeps its obligations and 3)enforces its laws.

      Maybe I am asking too much.

      Locke + Jesus is the perfect description of what the Tea Party has become.

      Meanwhile a large portion of OWS has embraced the philosophy of Diogenes of Sinope.


  3. Dr. Kleiner, I hope you’ll use some of the hand gestures for moderating classroom discussions on ethics, particularly the gestures for “approve” (jazz hands) and “disapprove” (squid-like fingers).


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