Now that Occupy Wall Street has inspired spin-off protests that literally appear to be circling the globe, it is next to impossible for our mass media to maintain the masquerade that it does not exist. Nevertheless, the consciousness industry has the persistence of that pink bunny in the battery commercials. Having been forced to cover the story, they weigh the coverage in favor of the overseas activities, leaving the home front, particularly the point of origin in Zuccotti Park, out in the cold. (Call this the it-can’t-happen-here syndrome.) Then, to add insult to this injury, they persist in the proposition that they still do not understand what the protestor’s want.
Jeff Madrick is a bit different. He and Nobel laureate economist Joe Stiglitz were invited to do a “teach-in” (a term of great nostalgia for those of us who associate protest with the Vietnam War) in the Park; and it was clear from his NYRBlog post that he spent as much time listening as he did talking. Indeed, the title of his post, “A Zuccotti Park Education,” made it clear that he was being educated as much as those who had invited him for the teach-in. Here is his take on what I take to be the will to misunderstand on the part of mainstream media:
Many observers are frustrated that they do not seem to have a clearer agenda or to make specific demands. But they have issued a set of principles or assertions. Among them, “They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage,” and “They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.” There are some two dozen such assertions they unanimously approved on September 29 and they say it is not a complete list of the concerns of those among them. They are determined, as I say, to be inclusive. But they are concerned that a specific agenda or a list of demands may shut people out or misrepresent too many.
That last sentence is an important one. The whole point of the 99% mantra is that only 1% of our population controls how the rest of us are represented, which amounts to a serious breakdown in those principles of governance embodied in our Constitution. To put it in modern language, the Constitution has become an inspiration for a barrage of efforts to “game the system” to an extent that today’s government would be unrecognizable by our Founding Fathers, not to mention most of their successors, at least up to the time of the election of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States. Furthermore, the impact of globalization, championed by agents of the consciousness industry such as Thomas Friedman, is such that the 99% statistic is as valid globally as it is nationally. Consider, for example, Jonathan Mirsky’s article in the latest issue of The New York Review, “Making It Big in China,” as a case in point. Even worse, think about some of those economists in Greece who have suggested that the only solution for their country is a new kind of “instrument” to manage the debt problem, thus overlooking the “inconvenient truth” that most of past “instruments” amounted to the Ponzi schemes that caused a global economic crisis in the first place.
During the last half of the twentieth century, the citizens of the United States were gradually “hooked” on the narcotic effects of consumerism. As long as the “pushers” had the lure of new cool things to buy, the addiction persisted; and it was fed by “instruments” of finance through which anyone could be given the resources to buy them. The real impact of the economic crisis is that the 99% statistic now applies to those who no longer can be lured by new cool things because they have to worry about food, clothing, and shelter. Paul Goodman probably would have said that we have finally gotten beyond the debilitating experience of “growing up absurd;” but, for better or worse, we lack the parental and community authority that, in the past, was so fundamental to the progression from childhood to adulthood. To draw a metaphor from James Barrie (without trying to be sexist), we may do well to think of Zuccotti Park as the Neverland home of “lost boys” who have finally decided that they want to be adults. Since one of the signs of adulthood is the ability to make up your own mind, rather than to have a higher authority make it up for you, it is no wonder that the consciousness industry has been working so hard to keep us in ignorance.