Thursday, October 20, 2011

What Occupy Wall Street can learn from the Singing Revolution

In lower Manhattan, they have been out there in the street for more than a month and winter is starting to approach. Last night it was 48°F (8°C) and drizzling. Surely it must warm some of those huddled under grimy blankets to hear they have been adopted by the President, the Tea Party, Baby Boomers and Birchers, but whether tepid and self-serving endorsements, or grueling vigils, can sustain their movement a year from now is still anyone’s guess.

Drawing strength from the rage of the masses is not a formula for longevity, especially in a consumer culture, where rage shifts seasonally.

Tom Hayden and Mark Rudd in 2007
 Just ask the veterans of the great uprisings of 1968. We still wonder, what became of our revolution? Rather than being adopted by everyone, it unified the opposition, and while it made some milestones, especially in the popular culture, it missed its political mark by a wide mile. Some of the heroes of the Strawberry Rebellion went on to become politicians and pundits, and while they could lay claim to some modest, incremental gains, the dragon they tilted against grew exponentially more horrific, and now looms over us like a scene from Revelations.

In a recent piece for CounterPunch, Mark Rudd wrote:
While reading I’ve Got the Light of Freedom (Charles M. Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: the organizing tradition and the Mississippi freedom struggle, University of California Press, 1995), I realized that much of what we had practiced in SDS was derived from SNCC and this developmental organizing tradition, up to and including the vision of “participatory democracy,” which was incorporated in the 1962 SDS founding document, “The Port Huron Statement.” Columbia SDS’s work was patient, strategic, base-building, using both confrontation and education.  I myself had been nurtured and developed into a leadership position through years of close friendship with older organizers.   
However, my clique’s downfall came post-1968, when, under the spell of the illusion of revolution, we abandoned organizing, first for militant confrontation (Weatherman and the Days of Rage, Oct. 1969) and then armed urban guerilla warfare (the Weather Underground, 1970-1976). We had, in effect, moved backwards from organizing to self-expression, believing, ridiculously, that that would build the movement. At the moment when more organizing was needed, in order to build a permanent anti-imperialist mass movement, we abandoned organizing.  
This is the story I tell in my book, Underground. It’s about good organizing (Columbia), leading to worse (Weatherman), leading to horrible (the Weather Underground).  I hope it’s useful to contemporary organizers as they contemplate how to build the coming mass movement(s).
We came across Rudd’s retrospective in the midst of teaching a Permaculture Design Course in Estonia last week and it occurred to us that Rudd’s lessons were well grasped in important — though perhaps least expected — places. An October 13th AP interview with Poland's former President and Nobel laureate, shipyard striker Lech Walesa, touched on some of those lessons learned.  If political communism could be toppled by strategic protest, is capitalism immune? "We need to change, reform the capitalist system," he said, because we need "more justice, more people's interests, and less money for money's sake." Walesa said he supported the Occupy Wall Street movement and intended to join the protesters.

Lech Walesa
Walesa, looking today like a cross between Captain Kangaroo and the Monopoly oligarch, founded the Solidarnosc labor party in 1980, inflicting fatal wounds upon both the Soviet Empire and on communism as a political system. He found himself thrust onto the world stage but was smart and humble enough to recognize that it was the moment, not him personally, that was the pivot point for the brewing revolution.

As we described in our post of May, 2010, White Nights and Chicken Skin, the Estonians seized on Solidarnosc’s momentum in 1991, with The Singing Revolution. As Soviet tanks attempted to roll back Estonian progress towards independence, the Estonian Supreme Soviet together with the Congress of Estonia proclaimed the restoration of the independent state of Estonia and repudiated Soviet anti-freedom legislation. Surrounding the Parliament building in Tallinn, Estonians of all walks, using the social networking tools of the day, spontaneously dropped their activities and converged, linked arms, sang and forced the hardliners out. By serving as human shields to protect radio and TV stations from the Russian tanks, these singing revolutionaries brought Estonia its independence without bloodshed. A counter-coup attempt failed amid mass pro-democracy demonstrations in Moscow.

Teaching permaculture at a newly formed ecovillage outside Tallinn, one cannot help but be struck by how creative and fully engaged Estonian young people are now. In one session we related to them how the Wall Street protesters had circumvented the New York City police ban on loudspeakers to keep an open dialog going between thousands of people engaged in reinventing civilization. Henrick Hertzberg, writing for The New Yorker, described the process:
[T]he General Assembly [is] a daily mass meeting, open to all, which is the closest thing OWES has to a governing body. Because any kind of amplified sound in forbidden, bullhorns included, the meetings are conducted in an ingenious way. A speaker says a few words, then pauses; the audience repeats them, loudly and in unison; the speaker says a few more; the chorus repeats; and so on. If the group is unusually large, the repetitions radiate out, like a mountain echo. The listeners register their reactions silently, with their hands. Four fingers up, palms outward: Yay! Four fingers down, palms inward: Boo! Both hands rolling: Wrap it up! Clench fists crossed at the wrists: No way, José! There is something oddly moving about a crowd of smart-phone-addicted, computer-savvy people coöperating to create such an utterly low-tech, strikingly human, curiously tribal means of amplification—a literal loudspeaker.
Something equally creative happened amongst our hip translators who were struggling to keep up with the unusual words our teaching cadre was using. There is already a term in Estonian for permaculture. It is the onomatopoeia, 'Permakultuur.' That didn’t really cut it for these inventive youth. They came up with a new word that more expressed the essence, instead of the English-sound. It was Jåtkuloomine – literally, evolving nature; continuing creation. The example sentence the translators offered was “The key for the survival of Estonia is creation of the continuous creation.”

Other words they coined to capture deeper meanings:
Toidusalu — food forest; literally, a more beautiful forest. Example: My table is abundant and it is provided for by my food forest, that does not feel hurt by my pruning.

Metsaviljelus – agroforestry; literally: a cultivated forest – holistic forest farming.

Lohmu — swale, but not just a contour ditch. Literally: hollow-bump; empty and fill; scoop and mound. Example: Its cool to pick the strawberries on the hollow-bump and listen to the frogs singing.

Åkk — humanure, literally: “the good stuff;” pure organic. Example: The most convenient way to dig out the åkk is with a pillkopp, but alas! it is missing from the toolkit of continuous creation! Perhaps this is an Estonian contribution to Jåtkuloomine (a pillkopp is a bucket used to clean outhouses, having a 2 meter handle, sometimes with a rope)!
To the stalwarts in Zucotti Park and around the world, the Singing Revolution, and the veterans of other freedom movements, might provide this advice:
  • Have a vision of a positive, compelling, realistic future.
  • Work towards cultural sustainability, resilience, and regeneration. The politics will follow.
  • Educate others, especially your oppressors, in the need for fundamental change in the face of peak energy, climate chaos, environmental degradation, overpopulation and the economic upheaval and restructuring that is merely a symptom of all those converging crises. It ain’t about the rising cost of tuition, or your rent or groceries. It’s much deeper that that.
  • Tell the stories of your vision, and your willing sacrifices, to anyone who will listen, and do it colorfully, with poetry, art and music.
  • Motivate, inspire, organize, and network among all the youth, using open space technology, social media, and any other tools you can muster or invent.
Above all, choose peace and non-violence and let the world be your witness. The key for the survival of not only Estonia, but Jeffersonian democracy, is creation of the continuous creation. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Getting to 350 with a $2 Pocket Knife

In September we attended the Tenth International Permaculture Conference in Amman, Jordan, and met a fellow who became one of the surprise hits at the event. His name is Tony Rinaudo and he works for World Vision in some of the most impoverished parts of the world. Had we known about Tony and what he has been doing when we wrote The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change, he would have gotten a full chapter to himself. His work is that remarkable. 

His full talk at the conference was captured to HD video by Craig Mackintosh and is available for free viewing at the Permaculture Research Institute's website. His method is very simple, mostly involving walking through arid landscapes while looking down at his feet. In most places he finds small remnant stubbles of tree stumps with living roots, nibbled away by goats but still alive. Bending down with his pocket knife, he clears the area immediately around, prunes the dead material away, creates a water pocket and exposes the green wood. Voila! Protected from goats, the old tree sprouts new growth — no nursery stock and watering systems required. FMNR has now spread to over 5,000,000 hectares with an estimated 200 million fully revived  trees in Niger, at the edge of the Sahara Desert, and it has recently been introduced into Senegal, Mali, Chad, Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia and Myanmar. Here is the description of his method, written by Tony himself in 2008.

The Development of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration

by Tony Rinaudo,
Natural Resource Management Advisor, Integration Team,
World Vision Australia. Originally published on Leisa

Children helping to source firewood
Photo: Author

Conventional methods of reforestation in Africa have often failed. Even community-based projects with individual or community nurseries struggle to keep up the momentum once project funding ends. The obstacles working against reforestation are enormous. But a new method of reforestation called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) could change this situation. It has already done so in the Republic of Niger, one of the world’s poorest nations, where more than 3 million hectares have been re-vegetated using this method. Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration involves selecting and pruning stems regenerating from stumps of previously felled, but still living trees. Sustainability is a key feature of the programme which requires very little investment by either government or NGOs to keep it going. The story in Niger can offer valuable insights and lessons for other nations.

The situation in Niger

The almost total destruction of trees and shrubs in the agricultural zone of Niger between the 1950s and 1980s had devastating consequences. Deforestation worsened the adverse effects of recurring drought, strong winds, high temperatures, infertile soils and pests and diseases on crops and livestock. Combined with rapid population growth and poverty, these problems contributed to chronic hunger and periodic acute famine. Back in 1981, the whole country was in a state of severe environmental degradation, an already harsh land turning to desert, and a people under stress. More and more time was spent gathering poorer and poorer quality firewood and building materials. Women had to walk for miles for fuel such as small sticks and millet stalks. Cooking fuel was so scarce that cattle and even goat manure was used. This further reduced the amount of fodder available for livestock and manure being returned to the land. Under cover of dark, people would even dig up the roots of the few remaining protected trees. Without protection from trees, crops were hit by 60 – 70 km/hour winds, and were stressed by higher temperatures and lower humidity. Sand blasting and burial during wind storms damaged crops. Farmers often had to replant crops up to eight times in a single season. Insect attack on crops was extreme. Natural pest predators such as insect eating birds, reptiles, amphibians and beneficial insects had disappeared along with the trees.

Conventional approaches

The severe famine of the mid 1970s led to a global response. Stopping desertification became a top priority. Conventional methods of raising exotic tree species in nurseries were used: planting out, watering, protecting and weeding. However, despite investing millions of dollars and thousands of hours labour, there was little overall impact. Conventional approaches to reforestation faced insurmountable problems, being costly and labour intensive. Even in the nursery, frogs, locusts, termites and birds destroyed seedlings. Once planted out, drought, sand blasting, pests, competition from weeds and destruction by people and animals negated efforts. Low levels of community ownership and the lack of individual or village level replicability meant that no spontaneous, indigenous re-vegetation movement arose out of these intense efforts. Meanwhile, established indigenous trees continued to disappear at an alarming rate. National forestry laws took tree ownership and responsibility for care of trees out of the hands of the people. Even though ineffective and uneconomic, reforestation through conventional tree planting seemed to be the only way to address desertification at the time.

Discovering Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration

In 1983, the typical rural landscapes in the Maradi Department in the south of Niger, were still windswept and with few trees. It was apparent that even if the Maradi Integrated Development Project, which I managed, had a large budget, plenty of staff and time, the methods being employed would not make a significant impact on this problem. Then one day I understood that what appeared to be desert shrubs were actually trees which were re-sprouting from tree stumps, felled during land clearing. In that moment of inspiration I realised that there was a vast, underground forest present all along and that it was unnecessary to plant trees at all. All that was needed was to convince farmers to change the way they prepared their fields. The method of reforestation that developed is called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). Each year, live tree stumps sprout multiple shoots. In practising FMNR the farmer selects the stumps she wants to leave and decides how many shoots are wanted per stump. Excess shoots are then cut and side branches trimmed to half way up the stems. A good farmer will return regularly for touch up prunings and thereby stimulate faster growth rates.

The method is not new, it is simply a form of coppicing and pollarding, which has a history of over 1000 years in Europe. It was new, however, to many farmers in Niger who traditionally viewed trees on farmland as “weeds” which needed to be eliminated because they compete with food crops. There is no set system or hard and fast rules. Farmers are given guidelines but are free to choose the number of shoots per stump and the number of stumps per hectare that they leave, the time span between subsequent pruning and harvest of stems, and the method of pruning. 

FMNR in practice

1. FMNR depends on the existence of living tree stumps in the fields to be re-vegetated. New stems which can be selected and pruned for improved growth sprout from these stumps. Standard practice has been for farmers to slash this valuable re-growth each year in preparation for planting crops.

2. With a little attention, this growth can be turned into a valuable resource, without jeopardizing, but in fact, enhancing crop yields. Here, all stalks except one have been cut from the stump. Side branches have been pruned half way up the stem. This single stem will be left to grow into a valuable pole. The problem with this system is that when the stem is harvested, the land will have no tree cover and there will be no wood to harvest for some time.

3. Much more can be gained by selecting and pruning the best five or so stems and removing the remaining unwanted ones. In this way, when a farmer wants wood she can cut the stem(s) she wants and leave the rest to continue growing. These remaining stems will increase in size and value each year, and will continue to protect the environment and provide other useful materials and services such as fodder, humus, habitat for useful pest predators, and protection from the wind and shade. Each time one stem is harvested, a younger stem is selected to replace it.

Species used in this practice in Niger include: Strychnos spinosa, Balanites aegyptiaca, Boscia senegalensis, Ziziphus spp., Annona senegalensis, Poupartia birrea and Faidherbia albida. However, the important determinants of which species to use will be: whatever species are locally available with the ability to re-sprout after cutting, and the value local people place on those species.

Acceptance of this method was slow at first. A few people tried it but were ridiculed. Wood was a scarce and valuable commodity so their trees were stolen. A breakthrough came in 1984, when radio coverage of an international conference on deforestation in Maradi helped to increase awareness of the link between deforestation and the climate. This was followed by a Niger-wide severe drought and famine which reinforced this link in peoples’ minds. Through a “Food for Work” programme in Maradi Department, people in 95 villages were encouraged to give the method a try. For the first time ever, people in a whole district were leaving trees on their farms. Many were surprised that their crops grew better amongst the trees. All benefited from having extra wood for home use and for sale. Sadly, once the programme ended, over two thirds of the 500 000 trees protected in 1984 – 1985 were chopped down! However, district-wide exposure to the benefits of FMNR over a 12-month period was sufficient to introduce the concept and put to rest some fears about growing trees with crops. Gradually more and more farmers started protecting trees, and word spread from farmer to farmer until it became a standard practice. Over a twenty-year period, this new approach spread largely by word of mouth, until today three million hectares across Niger’s agricultural zone have been re-vegetated. This is a significant achievement by the people of Niger. The fact that this happened in one of the world’s poorest countries, with little investment in the forestry sector by either the government or NGOs, makes it doubly significant for countries facing similar problems. 

Reasons for the rapid spread

Aside from simplicity, early returns and low cost, other factors contributed to the rapid spread of FMNR. Introducing the method on a district-wide basis with a “Food for Work” programme eliminated much of the peer pressure that early innovators would normally have to endure. As villagers experimented, project staff who lived in the villages were supportive, teaching, encouraging and standing alongside farmers when disputes or theft of trees occurred. This support was crucial, particularly in the early days when there was much opposition to FMNR. As trees began to colonise the land again, excited government forestry agents nominated lead farmers and even project staff for regional and national awards. Often these nominees won prizes, lifting the profile of FMNR. As news began to spread, national and international NGOs, church and mission groups received training and began promoting the method across Niger.

During the development of farmer-managed natural regeneration, farmers did not own the trees on their own land. There was no incentive to protect trees and much of the destruction of that era was linked to this policy. After discussions with the head of the Maradi Forestry Department, project staff were able to give assurances that if farmers cared for the trees on their land they would be allowed to benefit without fear of being fined. These laws were only changed in 2004 after much negotiation by entities such as USAID. Farmers began to access markets without undue hassle. And as trees on farms switched from being nuisance weeds to becoming a cash crop in their own right, this was good motivation for farmers to cultivate them. Over time, locally agreed upon codes and rules with support from village and district chiefs were established. Without this consensus and support for the protection of private property, it is unlikely that FMNR could have spread as fast as it did. 

The benefits of FMNR quickly became apparent and farmers themselves became the chief proponents as they talked amongst themselves. FMNR can directly alleviate poverty, rural migration, chronic hunger and even famine in a wide range of rural settings. FMNR contributes to stress reduction and nutrition of livestock, and contributes directly and indirectly to both the availability and quality of fodder. Crops benefit directly through modification of microclimate (greater organic matter build up, reduced wind speed, lower temperatures, higher humidity, and greater water infiltration into the soil), and indirectly through manuring by livestock which spend greater time in treed fields during the dry season. The environment in general benefits as bio-diversity increases and natural processes begin to function again. With appropriate promotion, FMNR can reduce tensions between competing interests for landbased resources. For example, as natural regeneration increases fodder availability (tree pods and leaves), farmers are in a better position to leave crop residues on their fields and are less likely to take offence when nomadic herders want to graze their livestock in the dry season.

Harvesting millet amongst the naturally
regenerated trees in Niger
Photo: Autho
Since 2000, World Vision has been promoting this method in a number of other African countries. Malatin André, a Chadian farmer practising it for just two years reported: “Thanks to the new technique our life has changed. Food production has doubled and many people who were laughing at us, have also adopted the techniques for soil regeneration. As a result, there is always good production, the soil is protected from erosion and heat, and women can still get firewood. We have been using the same plot for more than 30 years and without such natural fertilizing possibility, we would soon stop getting food from it”. Khadidja Gangan, a 35 year old Chadian mother of six said: “This year is very exceptional for me because I have been able to get enough sorghum. I cultivated one hectare and harvested 15 bags of sorghum. Generally, I could get three to five bags when working this land in the past. This would have been impossible if I was not taught the new technique of land management”.

Conditions for success and future challenges

There are, however, still many gaps in our knowledge of natural regeneration. Farmers adapt it to their own personal needs and have different reasons for practising it. Further investigation is needed into various technical aspects, such as the most beneficial spacing, species mix, age to harvest, or type of harvesting, for specific purposes. In addition, legal and cultural considerations and historical relations between stakeholders need to be taken into account. For example, the major difficulties faced in Niger included:
  • The tradition of free access to trees on anybody’s property and a code of silence protecting those who cut down trees. It was considered anti-social to expose anybody who had felled trees. This tradition was hard to break and those who left trees were often discouraged when their trees were taken by others. This situation was successfully addresses through advocacy, creation of local by-laws and support from village and district chiefs in administering justice. Gradually, people accepted that there was no difference between stealing from someone’s farm and stealing from within someone’s house.
  • Fear that trees in fields would reduce yields of food crops. Field results put these fears to rest over time.
  • Inappropriate government laws – if the farmer does not have the right to harvest the trees she has protected, there will be little incentive for her to do so. Farmers feared that they would be fined for harvesting their own trees. By collaborating with the forestry service, we were able to stop this from happening.
Other factors also affected the spread of the technique, for example, where language may reflect deeply held attitudes. In Hausa the word for tree (itce) is the same as the word for firewood, and therefore trees were seen to have little value of their own, apart from for firewood. Cultural factors may also work against adoption. Traditionally, Fulani cattle herders saw their lifestyle as the best in the world. Initially they found it humiliating to consider harvesting and selling wood, the way sedentary farmers did.

In addition, the practice of FMNR depends on having living tree stumps in the fields to start with. However, in many cases, farmers can successfully broadcast seeds of desirable species which, once established, become the basis of a FMNR system. The number of trees to be left in a field will depend on the number of stumps present and the farmer’s preferences. Some left over 200 trees per hectare, others not even the recommended 40. The “correct” number of trees to be left will be a balance between farmers’ needs for wood and other products, optimal environmental protection and minimal negative effect on crop yields. In areas of low rainfall, growth rates will be slower, and harvest or cutting regime should be reduced accordingly. Also, in low rainfall areas, establishment of direct sown seeds will take longer and be more difficult than in higher rainfall areas.

In areas where existing species are predominately thorny, or they compete heavily with crop plants, farmers may have second thoughts about FMNR. Where existing tree species are palatable to livestock, the increased effort required to herd animals or protect trees is beyond the reach of many farmers. In many cases however, the species are not palatable and there is no need to exclude animals from the field during the dry season.


What most entities working in reforestation have failed to recognise is that vast areas of cleared agricultural land in Africa retain an “underground forest” of living stumps and roots. By simply changing agricultural practices, this underground forest can re-sprout, at little cost, very rapidly and with great beneficial impact. In other words, in many instances the costly, time consuming and inefficient methods of raising seedlings, planting them out and protecting them is not even necessary for successful reforestation. Presumably, the same principle would apply anywhere in the world where tree and shrub species have the ability to re-sprout after being harvested.

Farmer managed natural regeneration is a cheap and rapid method of re-vegetation, which can be applied over large areas of land and can be adapted to a range of land use systems. It is simple and can be adapted to each individual farmer’s unique requirements, providing multiple benefits to people, livestock, crops and the environment, including physical, economic and social benefits to humans. Through managing natural regeneration, farmers can control their own resources without depending on externally funded projects or needing to buy expensive inputs (seed, fertilizers, nursery supplies) from suppliers. Its beauty lies in its simplicity and accessibility to even the poorest farmers, and once it has been accepted, it takes on a life of its own, spreading from farmer to farmer, by word of mouth. 

Tony Rinaudo. Natural Resource Management Specialist, World Vision Australia. G.P.O. Box 399C, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia. E-mail:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Posting from the Road

We're in Estonia, teaching a permaculture design course with a backyard mushroom growing seminar thrown in, and before that we were in Spain teaching an introduction to ecovillage design, and before that in Jordan, Palestine and Israel touring permaculture conferences and projects, and so now it has been more than a month since we last posted and apparently Blogger has bolted our entry door to the site. So we are sending in this post by email and hoping it finds its way up onto The Great Change. If you can read this we were successful.

On Oct 11, 2011, at 11:14 AM, Rick Ingrasci M.D. wrote:

Here's a great collection of photos to give you a sense of what's going on across the country. 


On Oct 11, 2011, at 12:12 AM, Tom Atlee wrote:

Three excellent articles on Occupy Wall Street - the last one is greatly inspiring.


Occupying Wall Street: What Went Right?
By J.A. Myerson:

Truthout | News Analysis

"Of all the criticisms being hurled at Occupy Wall Street, the most substantively interesting is the issue of scale. How large can the living-society portion of the occupation grow, dependent as it is on a reasonably small living space and an inspiringly simple if limited amplification system? Questions like this are worth pondering, and I'll be taking some of them up here at Truthout in the coming weeks, but let us pause for a moment to consider how astonishing it is that this is a concern at all."

rest of the article....



Where the 99 Percent Get their Power
By Sarah van Gelder

Executive Editor, Yes! Magazine


"Powerful movements build not on a laundry list of policy demands, but on principles and values.... Powerful movements create their own spaces where they can shift the debate, and the culture, to one that better serves. That's why showing up in person at the occupy sites is so critical to this movement's success. In hundreds of communities around North America, people are showing up to make a statement and to listen to each other. They are also teaching one another to facilitate meetings, to take nonviolent direct action, to make their own media. They are taking care of each other, gathering food supplies, blankets, and clothes that can allow people to remain outdoors even as the weather gets wetter and colder."

rest of the article.....


Ambiguous UpSparkles From the Heart of the Park (Mic Check/Occupy Wall Street)

By Eve Ensler 

Author of 'I Am An Emotional Creature" and "The Vagina Monologues," Founder of V-Day

I have been watching and listening to all kinds of views and takes on Occupy Wall Street. Some say it's backed by the Democratic Party. Some say it's the emergence of a third party. Some say the protesters have no goals, no demands, no stated call. Some say it's too broad, taking on too much. Some say it is the Left's version of the Tea Party. Some say its Communist, some say it's class warfare. Some say it will burn out and add up to nothing. Some say it's just a bunch of crazy hippies who may get violent.

rest of article....


Even more if you want....

On Oct 10, 2011, at 12:24 PM, Rick Ingrasci M.D. wrote:

Panic of the Plutocrats

New York Times

Published: October 9, 2011

It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America's direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.

And this reaction tells you something important - namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called "economic royalists," not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.

Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police - confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction - but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.

Nonetheless, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced "mobs" and "the pitting of Americans against Americans." The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging "class warfare," while Herman Cain calls them "anti-American." My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don't deserve to have them.

rest of article...


Why the Elite are in Trouble

Published: October 9, 2011

Ketchup, a petite 22-year-old from Chicago with wavy red hair and glasses with bright red frames, arrived in Zuccotti Park in New York on Sept. 17. She had a tent, a rolling suitcase, 40 dollars' worth of food, the graphic version of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" and a sleeping bag. She had no return ticket, no idea what she was undertaking, and no acquaintances among the stragglers who joined her that afternoon to begin the Wall Street occupation. She decided to go to New York after reading the Canadian magazine Adbusters, which called for the occupation, although she noted that when she got to the park Adbusters had no discernable presence. 

The lords of finance in the looming towers surrounding the park, who toy with money and lives, who make the political class, the press and the judiciary jump at their demands, who destroy the ecosystem for profit and drain the U.S. Treasury to gamble and speculate, took little notice of Ketchup or any of the other scruffy activists on the street below them. The elites consider everyone outside their sphere marginal or invisible. And what significance could an artist who paid her bills by working as a waitress have for the powerful? What could she and the others in Zuccotti Park do to them? What threat can the weak pose to the strong? Those who worship money believe their buckets of cash, like the $4.6 million JPMorgan Chase gave* to the New York City Police Foundation, can buy them perpetual power and security. Masters all, kneeling before the idols of the marketplace, blinded by their self-importance, impervious to human suffering, bloated from unchecked greed and privilege, they were about to be taught a lesson in the folly of hubris.

rest of article...




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