Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, congruent thinking, and an excerpt from David Mamet's "The Secret Knowledge"

  
  David Mamet is a prolific playwright and director who created quite a stir in 2008 with his Vanity Fair article, “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal.’” Also in 2008, Mamet released Redbelt, a film I believe to be his underrated masterpiece. As an artist and avid fan with Conservative core values, I’ve enjoyed entertaining the notion that Mamet’s paradigm shift and the textured, confident filmmaking of Redbelt were not mutually exclusive. So many of the people I revere artistically seem to be, ideologically speaking, my polar opposites. So it’s nice to win one once in awhile is all. On the other hand, perhaps ideological and political narcissism works both ways. It’s fair to say many to most politicians are public sector tacticians invested in their own career longevity. Without term limits and within the confines of human nature, how can they not be? But what of us in the electorate who continually choose representation who most remind us of ourselves? I guess it’s our damn fault.

  Mamet opens his Vanity Fair article with the John Maynard Keynes quote, "When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?" How many of those professed to be radical Liberals today would perpetuate the cause absent from the comforting camaraderie, shelter, and political correctness of The Tribe? Technology and an increasingly rigid ceiling of tribal doctrine have given people with little experience or perspective in this country the ability to tear it down. The “Occupy Wall Street” protesters are rallying against exorbitant profits and bonuses, in general corporate greed. They voted to make sleeping bags rather than purchase them premade from a corporation. But a rational mind must consider the organizational funds provided to them by billionaire George Soros, their networking on billionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, and their use of products created by a billionaire, the late Steve Jobs, and wonder, “Okay, um, what are they protesting again?”

  The group’s online extension, “Occupy Main Street”, is attempting on a large scale what Senator Schumer perpetrated on California’s IndyMac Bancorp in 2008, a bank run that was one of the catalysts of the 2008 financial meltdown. In Washington, politicians become rich, slush funds like Social Security waste our tax dollars, wars and nation building in tough economic times supersede free trade, and the very things “Occupy Wall Street” participants are protesting are made possible by lobbyists, lack of Congressional term limits, and a ballooning federal bureaucracy. So where’s “Occupy Constitution Ave”? Oh, right, that was The Tea Party. But they’re all racist obstructionists. 

 
  The fast-paced surface sheen of online social interactions and reading habits have contributed to the unfortunate practice of truly judging books, people, and issues by their covers. I was wary of then candidate Barrack Obama in 2008. I had read “Audacity of Hope”, sections of “Dreams of My Father,” and watched him unload his fiery rhetoric in numerous interviews as a junior senator already on the Presidential campaign trail. Even by today’s standards of media bias and corporate news conglomerates, I was taken aback by how many well spoken, seemingly well researched people like me were dismissed outright as racists. For further insight into this technique, I highly recommend Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals".

  The following is a poignant excerpt from David Mamet’s “The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture”:

  “It has taken me rather an effort of will to wrench myself free from various abstractions regarding human interaction. A sample of these would include: that poverty can be eradicated, that greed is the cause of poverty, that poverty is the cause of crime, that Government, given enough money, can cure all ills, and that, thus, it should be so engaged. These insupportable opinions (prejudices, really), that function, in the West, much like a routine of magic tricks. The magician pulls a rabbit out of a supposedly empty hat, and while one wonders, ‘How did he do that?’ he’s already diverting the audience to a new trick – for he cannot give the audience time to dwell upon the effect. Neither can he repeat it – for the trick is a confounding of cause and effect. We watch the trick, and, in our surprise at its conclusion, remember it as the demonstration of a proposition. (I will cause a live cockatoo to appear from the front of my frilly shirt; watch.)

  That is what the mind remembers, but that is not what actually occurred; for, had the magician said, ‘Watch my shirt to see if you can find the cockatoo’, the audience would do so. No, the magician makes a magic pass or two, and the shirt, upon which we had previously devoted no attention, gives forth the cockatoo, AS IF FROM NOWHERE. But the cockatoo did not come from nowhere, it was the frill on the shirt.

  The trick of the politician and his fellow mountebanks, ‘Earn big money while never leaving your house!’ is an inversion of the above: the dupe is told the proposition (I will now change the frill into a cockatoo; I will raise productivity and, thus, wealth, by taxing everyone to death, and driving capital out of the market), and then he is distracted from the fact that the trick has no conclusion. The politician says, ‘Watch closely, watch closely,’ and then ‘Wait, wait, wait...’ and, while our attention is diverted, he makes off with the money.

  What did he just do, the opposition asks? He ruined the economy, took our savings, destroyed our ability to do business, and indebted our grandchildren. ‘Wait, wait, wait,’ say the believers, ‘You fool: didn’t he say ‘it might take time?’’ And should the believers grow restive, a new effect (crisis) is right around the corner...

  Perhaps ‘you can’t cheat an honest man’ because the struggle to live honestly has of necessity created the habit of honest observation. The honest man might observe, for example, that no one gets something for nothing; that politicians go in poor and come out rich; that the Government screws up everything it touches; and that the Will to Believe is best confined to Religious Venue, as, to practice it elsewhere is just too damned expensive.”

2 comments:

  1. One of the most glaring problems with the supporters of Occupy Wall Street and its copycat successors is that they suffer from a woefully inadequate understanding of the capitalist social formation — its dynamics, its (spatial) globality, its (temporal) modernity. They equate anti-capitalism with simple anti-Americanism, and ignore the international basis of the capitalist world economy. To some extent, they have even reified its spatial metonym in the NYSE on Wall Street. Capitalism is an inherently global phenomenon; it does not admit of localization to any single nation, city, or financial district.

    Moreover, many of the more moderate protestors hold on to the erroneous belief that capitalism can be “controlled” or “corrected” through Keynesian-administrative measures: steeper taxes on the rich, more bureaucratic regulation and oversight of business practices, broader government social programs (welfare, Social Security), and projects of rebuilding infrastructure to create jobs. Moderate “progressives” dream of a return to the Clinton boom years, or better yet, a Rooseveltian new “New Deal.” All this amounts to petty reformism, which only serves to perpetuate the global capitalist order rather than to overcome it. They fail to see the same thing that the libertarians in the Tea Party are blind to: laissez-faire economics is not essential to capitalism. State-interventionist capitalism is just as capitalist as free-market capitalism.

    Nevertheless, though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. So far it has been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

    To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

    “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What It Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies”

    THE LEFT IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE LEFT!

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