To the 98.9% of the 99% : PAY ATTENTION!
“Philosophers have interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it”
~ Marx; ‘Theses on Feuerbach: XI’
It is one of Marx’s most famous quotes from his ‘Thesis on Feuerbach’, yet whilst the Occupy Movement flies its political slogan “We are the 99%” (a reference to the concentration of wealth held by the top 1% of income earners in the USA), I found concerning irony in learning fom Chris Hedge’s following essay ‘The Spark of Rebellion’ that Occupy’s maximum recorded membership in the US topped out at 0.1% of the population. To speak in rather vulgar rudiments: 0.1% of the 99%.
With the USA dominating top 50 lists of largest corporations by revenue, their homeland branch of the Occupy movement is clearly in the thick of the struggle against social and economic inequality in the West. They are the very real victims of an ultimately totalitarian system as part of the inevitable condition of an advanced corporate capitalist culture in which ‘the corporate leviathan, which is global, is freed from the constraints of a single nation-state or government’, becoming ultimately ‘beyond regulation and control’.
It is even more concerning, then, to learn that the “99%” could actually more accurately be described as the “99.9%”. With over 3.1m millionaires and over 400 billionaires, more than any other country in the world, these ‘super-rich’ constitute just 0.01% of the US population. Averages point toward the richest owning over 85% of American wealth, whilst the bottom 120 million people settle for a “humble” 0.3%
“If we are to face what lies ahead, we will not only have to organize and feed ourselves, we will have to begin to feel deeply, to face unpleasant truths, to recover empathy and to live passionately. Then we can fight.”
~ Chris Hedges
Pay attention, indeed. Now, I’m no revolutionary. Hell, I’m not even politically involved. At all. I disagree with a lot of things (despite my current unquenchable cynicism, unproductive as it may often be) but I’m clearly not the only one who is more than happy to let the 0.1% of “the 99%” we belong to take the front-line for us. But it still remains that this is a 0.1% which is actively trying with absolutely everything at its disposal to make things better for the other 99.9%: us.
The least we can do is PAY ATTENTION. Pay attention to the real struggles people are taking upon themselves to make the world a more inhabitable place for everyone. Educate yourselves so that you can see the problems that exist in your everyday life, realise that they are not innate but have been established, understand how and why they are in place, how and why they function and, ultimately, how they can be changed.
Marx essentially told us that it was time to stop thinking and, instead, begin changing our world for the better, to strive for an economic and social system which gives ‘to each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’. However, I believe the camp is definitively split. Those who are Occupying are a world a way from those just now completing their list of the Kardashian family members. There is the danger of the ‘faux revolution’; those who, most likely for want of inspiration or even information and guidance, would sure as hell love to rock a 99% tee, but harbour absolutely no genuine incentive to asses their role within both the problem and the solution and, as a result, make informed decisions ultimately take action, regardless of how small this may be.
Yes, the Philosophers did only interpret the world. But 98.9% of us haven’t even approached the philosophy stage. How can we begin to interrogate and discern exactly what motive or needs we might have for revolutionary change if we do not even have our own personal philosophy? If we do not know how to construct our own philosophy? If we do not know the questions we should ask and the answers we should seek? We simply cannot.
I believe it is the duty of every individual as part of a social collective to asses and question (under any circumstances) the social and political conditions under which they live and are ruled. Whilst some are more than ready to change the world for everyone for the better, it is clear that the majority, despite their “goodwill”, are not.
If you have read this far, I encourage you to look into the following article by Chris Hedges as it inspired me to write this post, at least. Below are excerpts I found the most informative, however the article in its entirety makes for a much more coherent and enlightening read:
The Sparks Of Rebellion
Read full article here: (re-posted in jjwalters blog: All We are Saying Is…’)
We must develop a revolutionary theory that is not reliant on the industrial or agrarian muscle of workers. Most manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and, of those that remain, few are unionized. Our family farms have been destroyed by agro-businesses. Monsanto and its Faustian counterparts on Wall Street rule. They are steadily poisoning our lives and rendering us powerless. The corporate leviathan, which is global, is freed from the constraints of a single nation-state or government.
It is not the poor who make revolutions. It is those who conclude that they will not be able, as they once expected, to rise economically and socially. This consciousness is part of the self-knowledge of service workers and fast food workers. It is grasped by the swelling population of college graduates caught in a vise of low-paying jobs and obscene amounts of debt.
Violent movements work primarily in civil wars or in ending foreign occupations, they found. Nonviolent movements that succeed appeal to those within the power structure, especially the police and civil servants, who are cognizant of the corruption and decadence of the power elite and are willing to abandon them.
“We need to be a nationally networked movement of many local, regional and issue-focused groups so we can unite into one mass movement. Research shows that nonviolent mass movements win. Fringe movements fail. By ‘mass’ we mean with an objective that is supported by a large majority and 1 percent to 5 percent of the population actively working for transformation.”
The most important dilemma facing us is not ideological. It is logistical. The security and surveillance state has made its highest priority the breaking of any infrastructure that might spark widespread revolt. […] This battle against the corporate state, right now, is primarily about infrastructure. We need an infrastructure to build revolt. The corporate state is determined to deny us one.
“Look how afraid the power structure was of a mere 1/10th of 1 percent of the population,” Zeese said. “What happens when the movement grows to 1 percent—not a far reach—or the 5 percent that some research shows is the tipping point where no government, dictatorship or democracy can withstand the pressure from below?”
[…] the movement now is about nuts and bolts. It is about food trucks, medical tents, communications vans and musicians and artists willing to articulate and sustain the struggle. We will have to build what unions and radical parties supplied in the past.
Infrastructure alone, however, will not be enough. The resistance needs a vibrant cultural component. […] Music, dance, drama, art, song, painting were the fire and drive of resistance movements.
The degradation of education into vocational training for the corporate state, the ending of state subsidies for the arts and journalism, the hijacking of these disciplines by corporate sponsors, severs the population from understanding, self-actualization and transcendence. In aesthetic terms the corporate state seeks to crush beauty, truth and imagination. This is a war waged by all totalitarian systems.
Culture, real culture, is radical and transformative. It is capable of expressing what lies deep within us. It gives words to our reality. It makes us feel as well as see. It allows us to empathize with those who are different or oppressed. It reveals what is happening around us. It honors mystery. “The role of the artist, then, precisely, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through the vast forest,” James Baldwin wrote, “so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”
Artists, like rebels, are dangerous. They speak a truth that totalitarian systems do not want spoken.