October 6, 2011: an interesting day. Today’s events found the American upper-middle-class divided along yet another line: between those who spent the day weeping over the death of Steve Jobs, and those who spent the day extending the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots. Of course, as Selecting Stones has repeatedly emphasized over the last several days, the two groups are not in any way mutually exclusive, and yet the dividing line does nevertheless reveal two separate segments of America’s privileged-but-not-super-privileged youth. There are some who march in the streets with banners of the catchy Hugo Chavez-inspired slogan “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” and there are some who still prefer to download the “Revolution” on iTunes. Nevermind how Chavez himself might interpret Occupy Wall Street and its demographics. What we find today is one group of people who think that slogans and street theater make a revolution, and another of those who insist on irrationally worshipping the CEO of their favorite computer manufacturer. Who is more delusional?
Today also marked the beginning of the “Stop the Machine” occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. This action is not directly linked to Occupy Wall Street, but it finds itself remarkably well-timed, so the sustained momentum of Occupy Wall Street will most likely feed into Stop the Machine, as well. The direct offshoot of Occupy Wall Street in DC is a smaller movement appropriately titled Occupy DC. It began last Saturday, but hasn’t amounted to much more than a few dozen overambitious political science students from elite Washington-area private universities complaining about their student loans. They seem quite disgruntled over their loss of the spotlight, but Occupy DC has now been largely overshadowed by Stop the Machine, which, in turn, has found itself under the greater shadow of Occupy Wall Street, even if this hadn’t originally been its organizers’ intention.
Selecting Stones was on the scene today at Stop the Machine. At its height this afternoon, there were a few hundred attendees, though the number will likely grow in coming days. The editors of Selecting Stones have already made their position on Occupy Wall Street abundantly clear: As of now, it is an upper-middle-class movement which, in reality, represents a small (though not tiny) segment of the American population, rather than the “99%” whom they claim to represent. Much the same can be said of Stop the Machine, as of now. Stop the Machine has a greater emphasis on its anti-war message than Occupy Wall Street, but, otherwise, the former is essentially a smaller version of the latter. In a speech this afternoon, it came as no surprise that the greatest applause erupted when the speaker proposed student debt relief. Again, this message speaks primarily to the higher segments of American society, but, again, we emphasize that this is the situation at present. It could change.
But, perhaps the turnout at Freedom Plaza was smaller today than some would have hoped because so many of its would-be supporters were at home mourning the loss of Steve Jobs. To a large degree, the current difference between the person who obsesses over Steve Jobs and the poster child of Stop the Machine and Occupy Wall Street (and little Occupy DC; let’s not forget them!) is one of quantity, not quality. The latter is more politically engaged, but they both represent an upper-middle-class standpoint which forces them to escape from reality, albeit in very different ways. It is insane to elevate the CEO of a computer company to the status of a demigod, and it is also insane to believe that idealism, clever slogans, and a few zombie costumes will separate the interests of Capital from the machinery of the State. Nevertheless, we can safely say that the protesters come out ahead, with a slightly less delusional state of mind than the Mac fanatics. After all, we know quite well that Reason can only be actualized in practice, and at least they’re doing something. However, because of their overall privileged position in society (relative to the working class), their Reason remains quite limited, and they will never forsake the temptation to go the easy route and just become Democrats.
In other news, the front-page story of today’s issue of Politico announced that the Democrats no longer consider a household with $250,000 of annual income to be “rich.” Instead, Democratic lawmakers now propose to define “rich” as a household with an annual income of $1,000,000 or higher. Quite a big jump! In the media and on the streets, many are already wondering whether Occupy Wall Street and its counterparts might form a sort of liberal Tea Party that the Democrats could coopt in the same shrewd manner by which the Republicans assimilated the original Tea Party. Indeed, it is a very realistic possibility. If that were to happen, though, it would mark the sure death of whatever potential Occupy Wall Street might have had to sprout an actual working-class action. There is no difference — qualitative or quantitative — between a party insisting that a household making $999,999 annually isn’t “rich,” and a party insisting that the poor are poor because they don’t work hard enough. The janitor knows damn well that he works harder than the hedge fund manager. Democrats + Republicans = the State. Democrats + Republicans = Wall Street. Therefore, the State = Wall Street. Time to go after all four of them, simultaneously.
More often than not, people in the working class don’t really care all that much about Steve Jobs. Apple computers are just too expensive. Also, more often than not, working class people aren’t all that interested in Occupy Wall Street… yet. Let us be clear: Selecting Stones does support Occupy Wall Street and Stop the Machine, but not for what they are. We support them for what they are capable of becoming.