Sunday, November 13, 2011

#317 / Decency

Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle columnist
, has what I think is a correct understanding of the Occupy Movement. Here are his observations, from a column published on November 2nd:
I've been trying to think of what the Occupy Movement reminded me of. It is, as others have noted, not a particularly common sort of protest - it's worldwide now, and there seems to be no formal operational plan, and it seems to have drawn many people who would not otherwise be protesting, even on behalf of causes they believed in.
It came to me finally. It's a reference from my childhood, when Boston attorney Joseph Welch confronted Sen. Joseph McCarthy over his hectoring of a young law partner of Welch's. "Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
I think that is the root of it. We are accustomed to living in a capitalist system; we understand that there are winners and losers, rich people and poor people. But we did think, perhaps foolishly, that all Americans were on the same path and that a sense of common decency would restrain the banks and the brokerages and, yes, the U.S. government from destroying an at least marginally functional financial system.
But there was no decency; there was only the lust for profits. When people realized all the scams that had been perpetrated on them, whether their personal fortune or mortgage or retirement plan was at stake or not, they became embittered. The high unemployment rate, the profits that banks were still making - and their plans to bleed their customers even drier - and the willingness of the president of the people, oh please, to make the banks whole again after their obscene excesses - became the catalysts for the "at long last, have you left no sense of decency?" nationwide movement.
And it turns out: not really.
Listen to the political rhetoric. Jobs, jobs, jobs, they say. And how would these jobs be created? Tax breaks for the wealthy, a proven loser in the job creation category, but ever so attractive to the wealthy donors who make up the core constituency of both national parties. Even now, Barack Obama seems to be more interested in raising campaign funds than in confronting the malefactors.

We will have "a little decency around here" only when we insist upon that. Only when we refuse to permit the ordinary operations of the institutional apparatus that constitutes our system of government (both official and unofficial).

Our will to insist is what will be tested. If we "occupy" our nation, we can make it ours once more.

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