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Thursday, July 19, 2012

OWS, An Autopoundical Dogmatic View Two

My first post on OWS is dated November 26th, 2011. I don't understand what has happened since.

A generation for which I have boundless enthusiasm and sympathy has lately diagnosed what it thinks is my problem. They think it is hard to comprehend a 21st century movement from the perspective of the 20th century politics, media, and economics. They are quite correct, but I am trying my best, just as I try my best to drag myself out of the stratosphere every morning. My 20th century politics are rooted in the 19th, as exemplified by a favorite Bertrand Russell quote: "All movements go too far." This idea, which I have accepted as axiomatic, has not kept me out of just social and political movements any more than it did Russell, but my criticisms of some current causes for not going too far have caused me to join him in Victorian anachronism.

I can be modern. I use technology. I used it to check up on the progress of the Occupy Movement and was specific in my inquiry. A google of "street clogging" yielded much useful information. Here is a video of a group intentionally and successfully clogging a street:

Although there are barricades up and police are in evidence, there don't seem to be any arrests. The street is decidedly being clogged but no one is upset by it. This demonstration hardly qualifies as civil disobedience. Frankly, I don't know what to make of it.

Another tactic that seems to have lost its tuck is campus unrest. If there is a core contingent of organizers, it has clearly outsourced its public presence. Seemingly, marching bands --which are themselves migratory collectives-- have had their bid accepted. As a former long-time gardener of such places, I will reproduce some notes I made on ecologically sound band-abatement decades ago:

Left open the garden gate again
And marching bands got in. It's
Not like cows which, although
Destructive, are gentle and
Easily led away. You have to
Find the prancing major --
Fuzzy hat and wand, very hard
To catch-- and aim him out.
They follow.
There is a kind of wire. No good,
Snags nothing smaller than
Tubas and morning finds
Marimba boys strangled in
Their straps. More work but
Kinder to just study their
Habits, and when they bulk up
For migration, mind the gate.

There were traps that are now mercifully outlawed. I never used them. Heard stories of how captured marching bands had chewed off their own rhythm sections to escape. But still, sacrifices are unavoidable if a movement is to get its point across. Can't give up or lose interest after a year or two. Have to put a face on movements and keep it on, and make it look way more fun than it really is. As this photo I found by the incomparable Alfred Eisenstaedt suggests, you must raise good new people to good new ideas.


  1. I always require Advil after reading your blog posts because they make me think too much. My years in Texas have eroded my brain, filled it with dust, and left it in serious need of repair.

    I've been trampled by a few marching bands. And many parades have passed me by.

    As for street clogging - - it doesn't occur in my neighborhood. I've had clogged drains and clogged toilets. I've seen hillbillies clog in the Ozarks.
    I suspect my arteries are clogged from eating too frequently at McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

    (Should I dare post this comment??)

  2. I love the photo of the little kids following the leader. Not love it. That's too far. Like it a lot though.
    I haven't analysed why I like it, but it's a happy scene, and I like being happy.
    The rest of this post? Well I skipped through it. I may come back to it when my brain relaxes a bit. :-) Signifies light heartedness.

  3. I'd have to disagree with Russell. The only movements that "go too far" are those with which we don't agree; the ones we support rarely go the distance. As for the marching bands, once they come in through the open gate, I say, put those people to work. Once the place is neat and tidy, give them some cherry Koolaid, a cheery thanks, and send them on their way.

  4. Jon-- It's always prudent to keep one's arteries out from under cloggers!

    John--Must concur re photo. Eisenstaedt was master of the candid. As exemplified by his iconic NYC Times Square pic of a sailor kissing a young woman on VJ Day, he sought out scenes of sudden joy.

    Susan--From what I've learned of Russell's character, he would've welcomed your disagreement. Often changed his mind by discussion.

  5. I just never got into horns and trumpets. I'm sure they induce violence. ;) I'd be willing to give street clogging a go, however.

    I like this line: "raise good new people to good new ideas". I'll remember that for Roz. I'm expecting a lot out of her generation. No pressure.

  6. You're a great role model to young Roz, as I tried to be to my kids who are well into adulthood. You think it's too late to put on a busby and prance at them?

  7. Sometimes good intention needs to take a moment to ponder its losses, its hurts, and its plans for the future. I think that is what is happening right now.

  8. Amy-- Very perceptive, very true. But especially while a movement is in recuperative recess, its symbols should be circulated --even if only by a humorous blogger.


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