Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just Pontification 5: Occupy an Occupation, not Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) campaign is a curious campaign which has grown spontaneously in a way that one should have anticipated but did not. Just as one should have anticipated the real-estate bust and did not.

There is an inevitability in the way the disparities have grown. If one is not old enough one has to be reminded that Karl Marx predicted that disparities between the wealth of capitalists and the impoverishment of labor would grow continuously. Karl Marx put it in the language of the big fish swallowing the small fish till ... . Eventually the disparities would generate class conflict and finally to the triumph of a workers' revolution.

OWS may simply seem to be a natural outcome of what Marx had predicted. The Capitalists do not disregard Marx. They only dont allow Marxism to be popular.

OWS has no real aim to set up a communist society that Marx predicted to be the ultimate outcome. OWS only expresses a swarm-like dis-satisfaction over the way economic disparities have gone up.

OWS has set up a swarm cloud that is still looking for a common demand. The latest is Adbusters, the left-leaning Canadian magazine responsible for igniting the Occupy Wall Street protests, is encouraging the international movement to define one ultimate demand -- a 1 percent tax on all financial transactions and currency trades, better known as a "Robin Hood" tax.

This blog is not to support any of the arguments expressed in Marx's "Dielectical Materialism". At the end of the blog it will try to say that the fault is within when one depends on others for their occupation. After all the Bible (King James' version) had said
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

Strong words these.

Advantage Obama

It is quite possible that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Campaign is candidate Barack Obama's counter to the Tea-Party strategy of the republicans.

As an aid to his campaign, Obama has been trying to pass what he calls the American Jobs Act. He describes the Act as:-
The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. ... This isn't political grandstanding. This isn't class warfare. This is simple math. These are real choices that we have to make.

Obama took all care for the message to be accepted by the general public. He timed his speech so that he (and the Republicans' response) could finish before the opening of the NFL season on the same night!

As part of the ploy of winning the majority poor man's vote, Obama has been insistent on taxing the rich. " From of september 2011 one gets:-
"Obama is proposing to set a minimum tax on people making $1m or more in income. They would pay the same overall tax rate as other taxpayers. It would prevent millionaires and billionaires taking advantage of lower tax rates on investment earnings than the rates middle-income taxpayers pay on their wages. White House is calling this proposal the “Buffett rule,” after billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Last month Buffett wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in which he pointed out that he has the lowest tax rate in his 20-person office, and he urged Congress to “stop coddling” the super-rich."

This (coincidentally?) was in the middle of September 2011 about the time Occupy Wall Street started.

I guess the OWS stir is all advantage to Obama in the sense of the American Presidential Election. Obama may have learnt from the Congress response in India to Anna Hazare's face-book inspired anti-corruption revolution. Unlike Manmohan Singh's Indian government, Obama now has the anti-rich (made synonomous with anti-corrupt) revolution on his side with the Tea Party proponents seemingly isolated.

Will the American Congress dare oppose Obama now?

Obama has the cunning and the deviousness to do this as his pre-Presidential record shows.

Marx is not a four letter word now, nor is Engels

I should have welcomed the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement just as I found in my youth a lot of heroism in the Bolsheviks and the communists in the first part of the last century. These revolutionaries were in turn citing the work of Marx and Engels. As the new-fangled industrial machines dispensed with human skills phrases such as "the suffering of the proletariat" started appearing (I learnt from Friedrich Engels' 1844 book on "The conditions of the Working Class in England").

In the Appendix to the 1886 American Edition of this book Engels gives a view (now very similar to that used in the OWS campaign) of the genesis of the employer-employee conflict.
"The wage-worker sells to the capitalist his labor-force for a certain daily sum. After a few hours’ work he has reproduced the value of that sum; but the substance of his contract is, that he has to work another series of hours to complete his working day; and the value he produces during these additional hours of surplus labor is surplus value which costs the capitalist nothing but yet goes into his pocket. That is the basis of the system which tends more and more to split up civilized society into a few Vanderbilts, the owners of all the means of production and subsistence, on the one hand, and an immense number of wage-workers, the owners of nothing but their labor-force, on the other."

Lenin would note "Engels was the first to say that the proletariat is not only a suffering class; that it is in fact, the disgraceful economic condition of the proletariat that drives it irresistibly forward and compels it to fight for its ultimate emancipation. And the fighting proletariat will help itself. "

Engels would quickly qualify on this in the 1886 Appendix to the American Edition. He would write
The revival of trade, after the crisis of 1847, was the dawn of a new industrial epoch. The repeal of the Corn Laws[1] and the financial reforms subsequent thereon gave to English industry and commerce all the elbow-room they had asked for. The discovery of the Californian and Australian gold-fields followed in rapid succession. The colonial markets developed at an increasing rate their capacity for absorbing English manufactured goods. In India millions of hand-weavers were finally crushed out by the Lancashire power-loom.

Engels would not mention, what we Bengalis believe: that the English cut the thumbs of the Bengali (Dacca) weavers so that they could not make the fine weaves that was so superior to the Lhat from the Lancashire Mills.

Engels would continue:- China was more and more being opened up. Above all, the United States — then, commercially speaking, a mere colonial market, but by far the biggest of them all — underwent an economic development astounding even for that rapidly progressive country. And, finally, the new means of communication introduced at the close of the preceding period — railways and ocean steamers — were now worked out on an international scale; they realised actually what had hitherto existed only potentially, a world-market. This world-market, at first, was composed of a number of chiefly or entirely agricultural countries grouped around one manufacturing centre — England which consumed the greater part of their surplus raw produce, and supplied them in return with the greater part of their requirements in manufactured articles. No wonder England’s industrial progress was colossal and unparalleled, and such that the status of 1844 now appears to us as comparatively primitive and insignificant.

Much of this is now applicable to the modern world if, say, we replace England by USA and the indistrial revolution by the digital revolution and 1844 by, say, the hippie revolution of the 1960s.

The language of that time appears now in the OWS movement in a slightly different garb than that used by Engels, for example.

The times have changed in the US of A. Marx is no longer a four-letter word! People with long beards are not Fidel Castros now. They are Talibans.

The Tea Party must be wondering how to find something evil in this now that the threat of communist nations have gone.

In an article that appeared in Lea, John and Geoffrey Pilling eds. (1996) The Condition of Britain: Essays on Frederick Engels. London: Pluto Books, John Lea, Professor of Criminology at Middlesex University,and a "left realist" writes:-
"What appears refreshingly new and relevant for us today about Engels is his method, his understanding of the suffering masses as not just objects to be studied and helped but, in the last analysis, as acting subjects, the bearers of the solution to their own problems through a historical transformation that only they can achieve. Even if his predictions of revolutionary transformation were premature and, even if we understand that today there are new and different obstacles to their realisation, Engels' perspective appears increasingly less dated as time passes. This is underlined by a second feature of the present crisis: the combination of rising poverty and misery, with a collapse, not just of traditional welfare state policies but, at a much more fundamental level, of popular confidence in the ability of politicians and political parties, of the left as well as the right, to actually do anything about it. The supposed passivity of the poor is a distorted reflection of the impotence of the politicians."

The above was written in 1996. Since that time things have only gone worse. Schemes such as globalization have succeeded at best in making costs of production still cheaper and making more profits for multinationals than for the resident USA-ians and other so-called first-world-ians. At the same time it has helped credit-card cultures to flourish in essentially third world countries such as India if not China. It keeps the so-called affluent young permanently indebted to a debted-ness. There seems to be a runaway prosperity that is accompanied by high levels of inflation. People who could not afford a good meal are now buying aerated drinks, and Instant Noodles, and milk (synthesized to meet the demand).

Despite all this, who would have said that communistic slogans are making an apppearance in a country which is considered to be wealthiest in the world has among the highest GDP in the world! The poverty line in USA is nearly 5000 dollars per year, which is about five times more than the average annual income in India!

Revolution is an idea for the Idle Mind?

Poverty must be a relative thing. You are considered poor judging from what you don't have relative to what your neighbours have. The advertisement industry as well as the communists and other socio-political industries exploit this comparison. I don't think that there is a great love for the advertisement industry among the ordinary people.

The current Anna 'revolution' in India is diligently bolstered by the advertisement of the muultimedia who have little else to worry about except the province of the idle mind --- gossip, games and glamour. It would be a great thing if team Anna and his anti-corruption stance is extended to advertisers, the real corruptors.

I am a little contemptuous of the communists who survive in official party-leadership now. Just as I remain contemptuous of most other leaders of political parties anywhere in the world. They have usurped the privilege of shepherding the underprivileged for the sole purpose of occupying their privileged position to protect (and partake of) the privileges of the privileged.

Here privilege for the politician would mean ''advantage', 'favour' 'benefit'.

For the ordinary man it is a privilege to be free and happy that is the more cherished.

One does not man by this that one is free to do what one wants as most advertisement-driven people, especially the face-lessened face-book young, think it should mean. Its a democracy they say and so they can party wickedly the whole night without savouring any joie de vivre; they have the right to drink liqueur as they want as a fundamental right they say if they can vote as they want.

Maybe they should increase the voting age?

Freedom here means to feel free within the confines of the society one lives in, protecting this freedom even if it should mean restricting one's individual limits of freedom for the greater free-spiriting of the greater society.

It certainly does not mean --- as advertisers would like to have us believe --- that one is happy only after acquiring what others have.

Happiness comes from the spirit of liberty. It includes being able to protect what one has.

Above all one must have an occupation.

An occupation by which one spends time and that is preferably useful to society. This should include music, telling stories, ploughing the land, treading the mill, weaving the cloth, stitching the dress, making the food, kneading the dough, lighting the fire, gathering the harvest, tending to ill, exchanging helpful gossip. An occupation , not as a personal property that can be bartered for profit especially of the cash kind, but of the kind that you would not barter for anything because it is your artisan life.

These are the artisans that were replaced by machines during the Industrial Revolution that Engels worried about. I suppose these artisans had little time for wasteful gossip that became the occupation of the leisured clsss and their conspicuous consumption.

The Simple life of Noah Dearborn

Some years back, on a return flight from Europe, I saw the movie "The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn". I liked the movie not because of the acting or directing but because it had a simple but bold message that made the ordinary viewer feel good about the way they live their life.

Such a viewer is usually confronted by greedy sharks (in the movie it is a developer) who want his little possession and are willing to threaten him for it. This ordinary viewer is usually a simple pop-corn-eating person depending on the cinema in a a dark public hall resonating to or basking in the feel good swarm response of others in the audience. They love to spend their time as others in the audience do, crunching gas-filled, nutrition-less, popcorns watching most of the time equally virtue-less virtual-life movies.

I liked the movie because it seemed to say that if you love your work you do not have the time to grow old. It reminded me of the Nat King Cole song (
You will never...
never grow old.
For with my love in your heart, my darling,
You will never grow old.

I think one should watch this movie for only the bold assertion that if you love your work you dont have to worry negatively about the occupation of others. I have read some of the reviews of this movie. I include some excerpts below.

There is something about this unique simple movie which is really charming and will just draw you in. It makes a really great change to the usual rubbish movies that are dished out from Hollywood. ... It was almost like reading a good book for me rather than watching a movie - it had that special charm to it.

The film is very effective in showing how love, friendship and understanding is so much more important than money, career and greed.

Sidney Poitier plays a 91 year old local carpenter and legend, Noah Dearborn who is still in good health and is always working. Developers try to buy him off his land, including up-and-coming lawyer Christian Nelson ... . He brings his girlfriend and psychologist ... to try to prove Dearborn isn't of sound man in order to get him off his land.

Also, the film would've been more believable if they'd actually casted someone who was actually 91 years old - at least it would give some credibility to the film. Of course, there is no actor that old who isn't in as good mint condition as Dearborn. (Poitier was born 1927, almost 20 years younger than the character he plays.)

It's a simple movie about a carpenter who lives alone in solitude without using electricity or modern machinery. He's 91 but looks younger because of his years of hard work and dedication. His life takes a turn when a company wants to forcefully buy his land.

Sidney Poitier portrays Noah, who at 91 ... stays busy every waking hour and has virtually no life outside his daily labor. He keeps potential friends at arms length, but goes out of his way to be a good neighbor.

"When a man loves his work... truly loves it... sickness and death will get tired of chasing you."

Here ... is a carpenter touched by his tough life, which taught him to work as much as possible without hurting anyone. But one day some people wanted to take him away of his land and the tragedy started for him. However he took it as part of life and fought against it with patience and showing himself calm.

And that's another thing. The mixed messages abound in this film. The land developers are evil because they want to work his land in their way, and they will bring jobs to the small town, but that's evil; however, Mr. Dearborn's work, done with his hands and without electricity, is apparently what has given him such a long, healthy life...and yet he's been unable to touch anyone for decades. Hmm, doesn't sound so healthy after all.

A story that told the truth for so very many people in this country

That said, I think the movie is propaganda from Mother Earth News for self sufficient and back to the country friends and I were joking about this for the first half hour of the movie, but we think the hypothesis was tested when the lawyer quit to start a vineyard.

I realize today's nihilistic generation calls simple wisdom and gentle goodness by such epithets as "sappy morals" and "hackneyed lines", "platitudes" and - it is as if the only innovative plots and topics are those that have to deal with sex and drugs, satanism and destruction. If these topics are what today's maturity is all about, I want no part of it.

Is it still OK for a man to love what he does? Is it still OK, in this age of families who uproot every few years to move to the next city that provides a rung up in the career ladder, in this age where books like "Who Moved My Cheese" now mock those who have decided to stay where they are, in this age of consultants and temp workers, is it still OK to anchor down? ... I'll take Noah's world anyday.

These are the movies that we as a people would have return to our screens. If not completely, then at least several times a year. At least they offer hope and faith...something that this planet is at this time so very short on. To The 'Simple Life of Noah Dearborn' we say thank you and BRAVO!!!!!!