Seems like a good idea RE corporate greed. I go by the one in Denver everyday on the bus, and it just looks like a bunch of homeless people camped out. I’m kind of lost on their complete point, or what they’re trying to accomplish. Obviously a CEO making 500 million in a year when 50 years ago, they made $100,000 and the wage ratio of workers was better like 4/1 instead of 50/1 or whatever it is. And how most people lost 50% of their savings in 2008, and obviously the worker is getting fucked. But capitalism obviously won in the late 20th century, and we are socialist in aspects to a certain extent. Seems corporate greed is out of control, but other than that–I’m not sure of the point of the occupy movement.
I’m sure I’ll regret asking, but I’m curious as to what you think/thought of the idea of the Occupy Wall Street Library. I didn’t know that much about it before the police action other than what I read about writers who supported the Occupy movement (which I also support – although the word “support” is simplistic and inadequate in the context of a paradigm shift). Further, I don’t know what the “idea” of the OWS library is/was, other than existing, as all libraries, as a compendium of ideas, reference, propaganda, great literature, bad poetry, various iterations of expression using words on paper, etc. Was it a resource or diversion for those dedicated to the occupation, a passtime, a comfort? It’s almost like asking what is literature, what is a book, why do we read, what is this? I know that literature has a functionality within the context of revolution, from the requisite propaganda that supports it to the converse propaganda that attempts to suppress it. Documentation becomes what we call history. I don’t really know what I think about the idea of the OWS library, but I like thinking about what I think about it.
Unless a protest turns into a revolution with an obvious ending such as people storming a building and ripping up chairs, it’s generally hard to see what the point was. Add to this that the more abstract the thing being protested against (an economic system such as Capitalism, greed) the more abstract the protests are likely to look. With that said, this movement hardly seems like a bad thing since anything which even slightly stirs the spirits of people already clearly asleep is at least one tiny spark attempting to keep us aware of there being more to life than luxury cars on the one hand or eating dog food on the other. (Most protests appear goofy on the ground level, so the whining hipsters we often saw on the front lines are nothing new. Armies are organized and look sleek. Real humans aren’t.) After that preamble, as far as what do I think of the OWS Library? Well, that’s simple, and I’ll quote William VDG above “Can a library ever be a bad thing?” Yay all libraries.
I think this question is a lot more interesting than it appears on the surface (not to diss the question). A library filled with propaganda could be bad, right? Or are we still acting like all readers sift discerningly through that stuff? I’ve been to zine libraries with some pretty violent anarchist propaganda and it scared me to think about impressionable young punks coming to think of this stuff as sanctioned activity.
That said, it appears the OWS folks have been pretty vigilant about remaining peaceful, and I have no idea what was in their library. Still, it’s a question worth chewing on…
There’s not a lot of public space or drop-in space at my local Occupy occupation (Occupy Boston); it’s mostly given over to occupiers’ tents. So I like that there’s a library; when I wander by OB, I can stop in there. I suppose I’m free to visit the meditation tent, but I’m not likely to.
There’s not a lot of flyering or newspaper-mongering at Occupy Boston. Which is both welcome and sad (I like the lack of party newspapers but regret the lack of organized left presence). Maybe the library fills that need, but it probably shouldn’t. That’s probably too instrumental a use, all those educational political books. I donated a copy of David Graeber’s book on debt; probably should’ve donated something “useless” and beautiful instead.
The library was a step in the right direction. Eventually the movement needs to come out of the tents and into the halls. One of the reasons I think the PIRGs have been around for 30 years now (full disclaimer – if you lived in Rochester from 2003-2005, there was a good chance I was sending college students out to knock on your door) is that they took the interest and the inspiration and turned it into the wheels of machinery. Awareness is a big part of what movements like this need to do, but engagement is equally, if not more important. The writing of laws. Analysis and critique of programs and papers designed to illustrate changes needed to the basic fabric of our government. I saw the library, but have no idea if there was any work being done performing research and attempting to draft legislation, but I hope people were there trying to get to this point.
When I went by there was a lot of pretty interesting stuff in the library and books I wouldn’t have stumbled on normally. I ended up reading an animal rights activist autobiography but mostly there was an interesting array of fiction and stuff related to politics and economics from across a pretty wide range of the spectrum: autobiographies of CEOs and other things, which seemed to represent a good attitude about learning from people they disagree with based on their own statements.
It also seemed to serve as a forum for bookish conversations, although probably about 50% percent of what I heard was bookish in a Marxist way that was kind of technical in a way that was hard to follow. There was enough good stuff that I had to stay my hand from pocketing some of them.
When I saw Lethem speak down there, he was dwarfed by that crazy guy you see around town holding a sign that says something about the Thai king taking kickbacks from Pfizer while molesting small boys.
when in zuccotti park: i saw a copy of _walden/civil disobedience_ from the ows library open on some girl’s belly. she had apparently stopped just as she was getting started. she stopped reading and was, instead, making out with a boy. i have heard, however, cops trashed the books. the cops trashed everything. hopefully someone will save the books. there has been a call to restock a future ows library. wherever that might be.
Oh, and I certainly wouldn’t claim that power for myself or suggest that someone “like minded” should have it. I DO think there’s a danger of libraries becoming “bad” when their curators, by virtue of THEIR exercise of that power, end up editorializing out opposing views. Which is why so many academic special collections with specific focuses (at least the ones I’ve seen) are really careful to interpret their focus as broadly as possible, including as many texts that oppose “academic consensus” as possible.
When you take it to the extreme case of an entire society that has access to only one viewpoint though…then yeah. I think it’s bad. Breeds consent; stigmatizes dissent, etc.
Ultimately though, Ester. I think what you describe (“A library run by people who think they should be the ones to decide what goes in and what should be suppressed so as not to poison the minds of ‘impressionable young punks’) is exactly the stated mission of such a zine archive as I’m describing (again, with the caveat that I have no idea what the OWS library looked like).
occupy is an implementation of a non violent revolution, mostly youth with big college loans who can only find jobs punching cash registers, if that, camping out, which disrupts everything. when and if the water cannons and sticks come out and the badges come off, then we’re in the more European and Middle East model, and this will happen if the inner ring neighborhoods come out, they will just burn shit down, as we’ve seen. the idea that one can make moral or ethical appeals to end greed and change anything isn’t really an idea, just a reaction, to really scare the monopolists we need to run off the big bank franchises and use community banks and credit unions (this is happening, banks can be killed but not with peace signs) boycott chain retail that employs foreign slave labor and make signs like: glass-steagall now, tax china now, no lobbyists now, this will truly scare the piss out of them
your signs, although I agree with some of them to various degrees, are still more ideological/moral/ethical opinions and statements than initiatives that can be implemented, and as such they can be challenged from various angles to no end effect. compound human systems will always engage in private market activities and this is one of the things your superhero Marx missed, every massively socialized/communized economy has created a correspondingly massive black market of evil capitalism because people transact economically as a matter of course. agree on fracking, agree on hedging, most executives work like maniacs, I just had lunch with beat to shit Jesus the other day and he doesn’t care about any of this and is disappointed to be represented by allegorical writers, political extremists, and anybody else with an agenda.
The signs I propose are designed to provoke critical engagement, as signs will do (“initiatives that can be implemented” also get challenged, and at least as dismissively). A conversation would be the “effect”, and transformed thought the “effect” of that, and policy transformation the “effect” of that.
One of the things you talk as though you’ve missed is the distinction between “economy” and “political economy”. This, Marx did not “miss”. The quarrel of critique is not with exchange, but rather with the self-understood rationality and ethics of accumulation.
“Profit” is that part of the price that wasn’t reduced to compete with other producers for consumers; all “profit” is an index of the relative lack of competition between producers. The argument is not against “profit”, but rather, against understanding the levy of “taxation” as exclusively a function of public intrication into production and exchange.
What executive do “like maniacs” is “work” like a hamster revolving a wheel is “work”; is “most” execution of management productive? Anyway, I should have italicized the “that”–‘executives don’t work that hard’ meaning ‘don’t work as much harder than secretaries and janitors as the difference between their compensations’.
The parable of Caesar’s penny (“allegory”?) is from the book many accumulation apologists turn to for ultimate truth; my encouragement would be that they read it. I think the Bible should be taught in every public secondary school in America; I think religious leaders would hate what would happen. Strictly construed, Jesus advocates a 100% follower-of-Christ tax.
Jesus certainly does care about material suffering, and certainly doubts that there is such a thing as a person without “an agenda”–how many martoonis did you have for “lunch”??
I don’t mean to appear dismissive or close off conversation or critical engagement, some of this is a penchant for sword fighting and taking the comedy mojo out for a walk. I live in a very un-theoretical world, theory is a luxury and I’m beginning to realize that’s why I visit some of these sites. the rationality and ethics of accumulation is a philosophical discussion worth having in another context, but I’m more interested in addressing the essential hard points of how to fix the economy, and it’s no great mystery to many people. there are optimal ways to apply the necessary pressure, and they are economic and political. moralizing, holding up ethics, and exhibiting rage to the immoral and unethical is spending energy to no avail. we’re dealing with a group that claims Jesus and professes to hate communism, then behaves in diametric opposition to the Jesus idea and sends the American economy to the Chinese communists, and we’re going to make them feel ashamed of their behavior?
Well, as I say, your policy-oriented signs are pretty good.
–but I don’t think the OWSers – ‘occupiers’ is weak: a big part of the point is ‘it’s ours already! you are the “occupiers”!’ — I don’t think most of them believe any more than you (or I) that banksters and Choch-bro symps can be reached by shame in, let’s say, a timely manner.
The ‘occupations’ are directed–I hope–at the mealy middle, the many actual voters who believe themselves to be “independent”, and who prove themselves to be independent of consistency of self-understanding by swaying wildly in accordance with the most effective recent pendulum-bob shove. Middle-class teabaggers who agitate on behalf of insurance-company regulation of medicine, false-equivalency fanatics who see Dems as much in Wall Street’s bag as Reps, and so on.
The idea wouldn’t be to get Wall Streeters not ‘to believe in’ capitalism, but to get the bottom 80% to quit believing in rational fiscal ‘conservatism’.
I don’t get the Thibeaux lynch-mob mentality. I get the distaste for the religious crap, but, you know, every time a player – college or pro – gets injured, the guys push each other out of the way to get to a prayer circle. Timmy’s not all that bad in context.
And I get lynch mobs generally–it’s fun to surf wildly passionate confirmation. –but every incomplete pass gets the most vigorous condemnation: ‘You wouldn’t see these ‘mechanics’ in Pop Warner, man!’ Forget interceptions, big-game fails, and so on–as well as championship seasons and amazing stats: have you seen Favre’s “throwing motion”? Rivers’s? Peydeyton’s? Elway’s manic fastball?
Anyhoo. I was just satirizing an okay question. Better question: What do you think of the corporate board-room ‘libraries’?