I mocked the Occupy Wall Street protesters
not because of their aims but because they were protesting. You might
reasonably conclude from that that I consider their efforts misguided
and pointless. This is not, however, the case, and understanding why
involves explaining just how weird things are in my head.
One of my many core philosophies is one which I suppose is called
Humanism. I believe (among other things) humans must do what humans
do. A big part of self-actualization is simply doing that which you
are compelled to.
From my perspective, I don’t think the protesters are accomplishing as
much towards their goals as they might by, say, starting local
businesses which create jobs in their home towns. On the other hand,
the experience of simply being at OWS may be a turning-point in a
lot of their lives. That experience will stay with them to the end of
their lives, shaping their thoughts, coloring how they see themselves
So what is, from one curmudgeonly perspective, a waste of time, is
also an absolutely vital point in the personal growth of thousands of
From one perspective, they “should” doing something else. From another
perspective which I hold equally valuable, they are exactly where
they should be, doing exactly what it is best for them to be doing.
This sort of thing goes on in my head all the time, and it makes
debating points… interesting. Most of the time I just automatically
pick out one perspective that clashes with that of the person I’m
talking to. What most people (understandably) don’t get is that the
one thing I’m really arguing against all the time is failing to see
the world from many angles at once.
Ah! So you don’t actually think they are wasting time, you just wish
they’d realize that they are really there for themselves.
No, and that’s where it gets really hinky inside this brain box of
mine. I think an essential part of many formative experiences is the
beliefs we bring into them. Go to the mountaintop believing you will
be transformed, and you will come down a new person. Otherwise you
might come down as simply “a person with blisters”. Go to OWS
believing you are part of changing the world, and your whole
perspective about the world and your place in it may be shifted and
So forget what I said a couple paragraphs ago; I don’t even want
everyone to see the world from many angles! Sometimes it is essential
to their humanity to see it from only one. Sometimes it is essential
for me to be only one of the many different philosophers living in
I’m just using OWS as an example; for all I know they turn the tide of
public policy and prove my assertions about the outward utility of
their movement completely wrong. More power to them.
The point I’m making is a more general one, which is just that my head
is a confusing place to be, and I often find my full perspective on
anything impossible to express.
And there are the meta-level perspectives, for instance: the
realization that this is an incredibly fucking pretentious piece of
writing I’m typing out right now. And so on… but I’ll cut it off at
a thought for your many perspectives…If I remember correctly–when the the tea partiers were busting out all over in 2009-2010–your initial reaction towards them was pretty uniformly positive–as they seemed-to you-to be a group of anti-big-government libertarians.. (they didn’t seem that way to me.. but whatever…)now.. I don’t think they’ve shown themselves–over the long run to have followed through on that point exactly–but I do wonder why for them, initially–you didn’t seem to be in this state of mind–but with regard to OWS–you are..is it your background? Is it being 2 years older? Is it because you’ve had too much coffee today?TELL US AVDI, WE NEED TO KNOW!
@Josh: First of all, very happy to see you can comment here again!Secondly: STOP REVEALING MY BIASES ;-)I don’t have a thoroughly introspected answer for you. I will say I see a lot of similarity in the two movements; it’s one of the first things I thought of when I started reading about it. Then I thought better of saying “hey, aren’t you guys saying the same things as the original Tea Party?” It’s all populism at its root, as far as I can tell.I think if I failed to point out the non-utility of rallying back then, I was remiss. I’ve held that opinion for a lot longer. I know I’ve trotted it out before now, but I can’t remember the context(s).Oh man, now that you mention, I need more coffee.I have cultural biases, as you know, and they do color my perspective. Sometimes I notice this happening. I hang out with a lot of redneck pagan libertarians, and the more uptight brand of liberalism has always just rubbed me wrong; so I think that creeps into my views. Basically, I tend to automatically have sympathy with anyone who thinks barbecuing and drinking beer and shooting guns (maybe not in that order) is damn good times, and suspicion for anyone who doesn’t.I don’t like movements where I’m nervous the person standing next to me may renounce me when I order a roast beef and swiss. Of course, I also don’t like movements where I’d get renounced for wolf-whistling at a hot guy; so there ya go. By reflex, I’m for whoever seems the most laid-back at any given time, I guess.In other words, I wish more progressives were like you, Josh.
Interesting introspection that. Of course everybody’s mind is like your mind in this way, full of contradictions, vectors of varying magnitudes pointing in every direction. It’s just many people aren’t intellectually honest or self aware enough to even realize it, let alone admit it publicly. So I don’t think it is a pretentious piece of writing, just self centered, but hey, that’s where the center is, so what can you do. I’ve marveled again and again at my own capacity to hold and express radically opposing opinions depending on my level of magnification. At superficial depths I’ll judge a man based on nothing more than my mood, and at the other end of my mind there is an understanding that nothing exists but perception itself, right and wrong and good and bad are just swirling smoke that exist only fleetingly, not facts of nature built into the framework of existence. It’s a strange feeling to realize in the middle of some assertion of ones values or opinions or general purpose judgement of human activity the absurdity of the thought that anything is some certain way and only that way, yet continue anyway, and with sincerity!But the capacity for such dramatic internal inconsistency is probably what make us human and allows us to coexist. So cheers to your confused mind! If only we could all realize we had such a wonky piece of equipment running the show we might be more patient with one another.
You have to give them credit for impacting the national conversation. We’ve gone from a disingenuous debate over a long-term budget deficit to a conversation about employment and, to some extent, economic justice. “We are the 99%” is also a pretty solid meme, and has the virtue of having a plethora of evidence in its favor easily available.
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