A look at solidarity

Solidarity brother! (image from mymilktoof.blogspot.com)

The title for this post posits a prime example of the recurrent gap between expectations and outcomes throughout the historical record of the human race. Even with the distraction of a flippant dalliance with alliteration, what we have here  is clearly a tangled barrel of ideas prime for those who are Still Thinking.

Let’s step off the high-and-mighty horse of Disinterested Observer (DO) for just a little while, and consider the practical rough-and-tumble involved in bringing expectations into outcomes – because this is a gaping chasm that emerges whenever broadly held ideas and concepts attempt to enmesh themselves into existing hegemony. Various movements have a greater or lesser understanding of this stumbling block to success, yet those who achieve their ends have not always solved the riddle of implementation – so is it really just one big roulette wheel of possibilities – or is it the case that it actually IS possible to chart and navigate the pathway to a desired outcome?

As a long-term DO of the dynamic interplay between Equality and her Shiva-Brother, Inequality, the current strength of fringe political groups would suggest an environment fertile for budding germs of change thinking.

From Japan to Slovakia and Australia to the United States, the greater populations are being forced to lend a more compliant ear to marginal opinions than has been the case for many a year. In this environment, single-issue pressure groups and minority players have a much greater say, owing to their ability to be “the vote that counts” on issues for which the society is evenly divided. This is the world in which a group such as the “Tea Party” in the United States can guide national directions – even if these are in conflict with logic or the best likely outcomes for the majority. In Greece, we have a government (by the time this reaches the virtual world, there may be a ‘new’ government) that rules with a majority of 2. All over the planet, governments are being driven by the dictates of the marginal players. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as fringe thinking can help by being a catalyst for change, and the removal of entrenched cronyism. “Can” being the operative word in this sentence.

Although this site is more interested in persistent human issues than transient current events, there is an idea that has taken hold and for which many feel some empathy – even if they do not quite know what they are agreeing to. The idea is the one of inequality, and that there exists a group of “elites” for whom there has simply been too much support from the public purse – at the cost of the “many”. The vaguely defined “movement” has been given or has adopted the name “Occupy Wall Street”.

Occupywallstreet.org (#1 in “further reading” below) postulates this clever reason d’être on it’s website…Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

Why is this clever or even appealing?

Look more for what it is NOT saying than what is IS actually saying.

  • “A leaderless resistance movement”. Great phraseology. No leaders, hence no figureheads to discredit the “group” objectives. As soon as you have leaders, attention is focussed on their full scope of ideas. Suddenly you have room for disagreement of association with existing groups that may have their own specific imperatives. You also reduce the chances of fundamentally flawed characters of the Strauss-Kahn (#1.1 in “further reading” below) ilk from wreaking havoc on your movement.
  • “resistance movement”. Great phrase that one. “We resist”. No mention of what is being resisted, just a push “against”. All of a sudden, there is no need to identify the “other”. We simply resist. And there is something appealing to the common mind in the concept of the individual pushing against an entrenched “something”. All the better to NOT identify just what the something is, as that would create a need to justify your position. So long as you are resisting something, you can join our little group.
  • “many colors,genders and political persuasions”. For an Australian this creates an immediate issue, in that we need to support the illiterate. “Colors” isn’t spelled  (spelt?) that way in Australia. The word has a “u” and is spelt “colours”. It’s rather funny, don’t you think, how we set out to be all-inclusive, yet simply cannot extricate ourselves from our environment? Hence, an Australian perspective is that this is a United States movement – because they spell differently “over there”. Still, there is no doubt that this is a call for inclusion. The United States homeground point is made all the more obvious by the reference to “Wall Street”.There is no Wall Street or “heart of the financial district” in Australia. Sydney has competed with Melbourne, while the nation’s capital – Canberra – has a lot of influence but no practical dimension. Australian stock exchanges are generally electronic, so there is no “trading floor” where fops parade around in flashy suits, yelling their buy or sell orders. There ain’t a lot of areas to focus a disenfranchised rage against Downunder…
  • “We are the 99%”. This is my personal favourite. 99% is one hell of a majority. What single issue would exist that you would find 99% agreement on…? What single downtrodden group would you find that makes up 99% of any single population? My wild stab-in-the-dark is that you won’t find a 99% majority on any issue, anywhere. There must be more than 1% that are “undecided”, “disinterested” or “unaligned” on just about any point you want to highlight. That’s clearly a subjective statement – but i’m comfy with the odds that it holds more validity than an opposing position. Here’s a simple version of that little idea.

The US population is currently


US Population Clock

US population as at October 2011

 1% is therefore going to amount to 3,124,329 people.And here is where it all becomes a bit of a tangled mess…Does this mean that there are 3,124,329 “greedy and corrupt” people?

Just how many of the greedy and corrupt work on Wall Street? If we agree with wallstreetrun.com (#2 below) then as of August 2011 the figure is 168,300. mmmm… that’s way too short of our required 3,124,329 people. The much maligned but ever reliable Wikipedia (#3 below)  suggests that 1% of the US population is in prison and the figure is boosted to 3.1% if we include those on parole or probation. That makes the cut but we aren’t marching to the local penitentiary, are we? We’re marching to Rupert Murdoch’s home or the homeground for JP Morgan. How about taking the position that my rebuff of this figure is unfair denigration of people who simply want to identify a broader community malaise?

mmm… ok. If we refer to US IRS statistics (#4 below) then we can see that the top 10% of individuals (314,600 people) submitting tax returns have an average income of $113,799. To get to our 3,124,329 greedy and corrupt individuals figure, we are clearly going to have to cast our net far wider than the top 10% of taxpayers or the characters inhabiting Wall Street to get to our 1% of the population figure.

  • “We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring (#4 below) tactic to achieve our ends”. Tricky, that particular piece. Which particular version of Arab Spring are we referring to? The Libyan version, which relied on enthusiastic French, background US and a grudging German operation for military support of its political aspirations? Maybe the Syrian version, which has seen thousands of casualties as the ruling power elite enforce their position? How about the Egyptian Arab Spring, which has seen a popular rising coalesce into something rather unsure and unknown? Now i am lining myself up for a jolly good bollocking at this point, as the Arab Spring has clearly entered the vernacular as  the nom de plume for a ground-roots popular rising against an entrenched power… but one must always be wary of the fallacy of association (don’t look it up, i made it up). A call to authority based on an external role-model is no basis for acceptance of a statement of position. At least, not if you really want some sort of support for the proposition.
  • “…and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximise the safety of all participants”. That particular point is a very good idea. There are are many folk around the world who are quite happy to piggy-back on the latest trends to further their own violent or anti-society ends. Anarchists, Jihadists, right-wing, left-wing and unaligned extremists are all keen to bring their own version of violence and wanton destruction to any disruptive operation. It is handy to state your opposition to these groups, so that you can decrie their evil intentions when you are bemoaning the extra publicity and attention that their wanton tactics bring to your group. Take it as a given that i am completely aware of the impossibility of my position on this point. If a group decries violence then what else can they do other than make a bold statement against it? Surely they are in a “no-win” position in this regard – invalidating my belittling of the official position? Maybe and maybe not. If you are going to make a broad call to action then there are going to be those who will bring their own version of action to the table. If you aren’t aware of that then you aren’t really prepared to run a high profile, high impact campaign. My real point is that this is dangerous ground. Allowing the dispossessed and disoriented equal access to your cause is the equivalent of inciting dissention, and that just brings about heartache for all involved.

Income (In)Equality

Let’s start here.Income inequality is always a favourite of the crowd. When the sonorous sea of sweaty, screaming sycophants follow their latest sound-bite, it is most often the effects of income inequality that they are giving voice to. It’s just that they do not know it. The problem they face is that such a poorly delineated Magna Carta of demands can never achieve the Great Seal of even the most ineffective and incompetent King John.

As discussed in a previous post, http://www.stillthinking.org/the-anarchists-handbook/the-absurdity-of-representational-government/, achieving consensus between any more than two humans will, by definition, bring about a win-lose situation. Change Managers, managerial consultants and analysts may think up new ways of portraying consensus as a win-win but that is just wrapping a pretty package around the word “compromise”.The starting point for this problem is that income inequality is a great calling card but there are high levels of differentiation in meaning for this phrase. When you are suggesting that there is something wrong but cannot clearly state what that “something” is then there is room for others to define your problems away. It’s a little like the issue of poverty and poverty line. Redefine the poverty line and you redefine poverty. All of a sudden, you can show that there aren’t as many people living below the poverty level and thereby reduce the momentum for change.

You could also look at the relativity of income disparity, and choose which data set you include or do not include – again reducing the disparity and momentum for change. This can cut both ways, of course. Here’s the German online media group Spiegel’s graphic of income disparity comparisons between the USA and Germany (# 6 in further reading below).

Spiegel International graphic on income disparity

Spiegel International’s graphic on income disparity

You can see that income disparity is not just a USA phenomenon. Hence the global popularity of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Further Reading

1. www.occupywallstreet.org – “semi official” website for the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

1.1 http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Strauss+Kahn+admits+sexual+grabbing+writer+Banon/5555482/story.html
2. http://wallstreetrun.com/wall-street-employment-falls-in-july.htm
– one version of Wall Street employment levels.
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States – a bit more information on just how US justice works to better the overall community.
4. Arab Spring – a vaguely defined grass-roots movement for self-government. The German online publication Spiegel has quite possibly the best overall tracking for this idea http://www.spiegel.de/international/topic/the_arab_revolution/. And the Guardian reports on Al Jazeera’s approach to this topic… http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2011/oct/07/al-jazeera-cityuniversity?newsfeed=true
5. http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/

6. Income disparity – again, Spiegel includes  a great graphic of the changes in income disparity between Germany and the United States. http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/bild-793896-276987.html



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