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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

On the news the other night they interviewed an unemployed woman occupying San Francisco. She was part of the "Occupy Wall Street" protest, the one taking place in San Francisco. "How long will you stay here?" the interviewer asked. "I'll stay as long as it takes," she answered seriously. And, like an idiot, I shouted at the screen, "As long as it takes to do what?" You see, if there is no target, you can't hit it. And the vague "as long as it takes" means, if she is true to her word, that she'll have to take up permanent residence because no one has said what "it" is.

The movement that started in New York has gone national and now international. Modeled after the recent coups in Tunisia and Egypt (hopefully not Libya), they seek to ... no, wait, that's not clear. But they are protesting. They want something to change. It has something to do with the 99% and the fact that the richest Americans (1%) have something like 90% of America's wealth (although I'm pretty sure that the international protests aren't about rich Americans). So ... they want to overthrow rich people? According to their "official website", they are protesting "the corporate forces of the world".

Okay, that's vague enough, I suppose. No, too vague. So I searched and I searched and I finally came across a "Proposed List of Demands". (Note: "This is not an official list of demands." There are a lot of proposed lists with apparently no official list available.) Let's see. Raise minimum wage to $20/hour. Guarantee living wage income regardless of employment. Free college education. Look, I'm not making this stuff up. I'm simply transcribing it from their list. Start a one trillion dollar (that's trillion with a "t", as in "almost double the current debt") spending effort on infrastructure. Oh, good, they don't stop there. Spend another trillion on "ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America's nuclear power plants" (while bringing "the fossil fuel economy to an end"). Open the borders. Outlaw credit reporting. Void all debts.

Well thought out. Good job. Quite impossible, catastrophic, and insane, but, hey, at least now I know how long that poor woman will be living in a tent in San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza. Forever.

But their Facebook page is much more reasonable. Top on the list is to revoke corporate personhood. Um ... what? Raise taxes on the top 2%. (Doesn't that cut into the 99%?) Abolish capitalism. Seriously, that's #3 on their list. The bottom is to close half of America's military bases. That should be easy because they demand we get out of the Middle East. And while we're abolishing capitalism, let's go to a "resource based economy". Yeah, I had to look that one up. Apparently it's a system in which all goods and services are available without debt or money or credits or barter. Oh, okay, got it. It's communism, where everything is owned communally and shared equally. Got it.

Well, that certainly helps that poor woman in the plaza. I'm sure America is looking forward to a radical shift from capitalism to communism. I'm not at all sure what "End corporate welfare" or "Revoke corporate personhood" even means, but those would be the least of our worries. And, of course, The constant demand for Universal Healthcare is right around the corner, isn't it? I mean, it is on their list. Don't we have it yet? Oh, wait, that will happen when all doctors decide to work for whatever they can get from the government. But that should be fine because really what needs to happen is for the government to impose salary caps on everyone. And that shouldn't be a problem because, after all, we've already started with the elimination of capitalism.

Funny thing. That whole "communism" thing, which, to be honest, sounds really good, has been tried. It doesn't work. It doesn't work in the worst possible way. But, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Are we next?

9 comments:

Miklós said...

This is horror Stan really. Do not take it easy. If you do not beat them they will beat you. Beat them hard. As far as lessons from history are concerned, the expected agenda of communists can be the following: They take over the wealth of the 1%, and keep it under their own control. They force the upper half of the 99% to share their things with the lower half. They take away your land and houses for which you worked all life through generations and give it to people who do not even want to work...

My father was exiled from Budapest in 1952, house taken away, one suitcase was allowed 20 kg to be taken, he spent 1 year in labor camp in the countryside, and never allowed to return.
My mother was imprisoned in 1956, but she did not even seem to be harmful enough to be kept there innocent. She was forced to watch executions of people, just to make sure she does not get the desire to do anything wrong. She was released and could finish college, but was not allowed to teach in towns only in small villages. They spent 40 years of their life under oppression. They are just average citizens having their opinion, but have nothing to do with politics, and they never had. You do not have to do anything wrong to get in prison when communists are in power, it is enough to have something they want to take away from you.
As a child I heard every day my father listening to a noisy radio station in the evenings. It was called ”Voice of America”. It was like a pipe for breathing under water for him.

Take Care of Your Voice!!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

For all their complaints about the corporations, they all seem to have goods produced by these corporations! And for all the claims of being poor, etc, where are they getting the money to be able to take these long vacations from any employment? If they are unemployed, should they not perhaps spend the time wasted in their protests looking for employment instead?

This is what happens when the government has fostered an entitlement society. Everybody thinks they are owed something from someone else.

Dan Trabue said...

Marxist communism has been tried and found that it often hasn't worked because it led to human rights abuses. Of course, we need to keep in mind that capitalism has its abuses, as well, historically.

But what I'll call communalism or Christian community HAS worked pretty well where it has been allowed to exist without oppression. Think of the Catholic Worker Movements or the campesinos in Central America or the Amish and Hutterites.

Of course, some of these folk protesting are inexperienced enough to not be aware of the many problems of marxism, historically, but I rather suspect that many of these protesters are thinking of something more Amish-looking rather than a State telling people how to live and how to spend their money and how much money they can have. These folk are looking to get RID of oppression, not encourage it. They just recognize the many problems associated with capitalism and are pointing that out.

You know, like the OT and NT prophets would repeatedly denounce the trappings of wealth. It's probably not for no reason that the Israeli state had LAWS in place to limit consumption and the accumulation of wealth in a few hands (the Jubilee and Sabbath laws).

I'd think that you would at least applaud the idealism of these folk, the stand against oppression, the stand against greed, the VERY MORAL and RIGHTEOUS and biblical stands they are taking, and then, from there, talk about how best to funnel those moral positions into the best possible public policies.

Have you seen the picture of Jesus chasing out the money changers with the caption, "The ORIGINAL Wall St Protester..."?

I'm just impressed with how similar what these folk are saying is to what the Bible has to say, over and over again...

He hath put down the mighty from their seat,: and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things;: and the rich he hath sent empty away...

Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who continually record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice, and rob the poor of My people of their rights...

if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you...

Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house...

For the rich men of the city are full of violence,
Her residents speak lies,
And their tongue is deceitful in their mouth…

Is it not the rich who oppress you...?

Woe to you who are rich...


If Jesus et al were saying these things today, do you think THEY'd be denounced as communists, too?

True Femininity said...

Wow. You're right, it is impossible and insane...

Stan said...

Dan,

I wasn't going to post your comment as a matter of routine, but I just had to. Are you serious? Is it really your view that what the "Occupy Wall Street" (et al) folks have in mind is Christian communism? Seriously? I can't imagine anyone being so naive.

I'm also troubled by your view of Christian communism. While it certainly existed in Acts, there is an interesting note that seems to be completely lost on so many who like to point to the Bible as "pro-communist". (Not saying you are.) The point in Acts is that it was voluntary. When Ananias and Sapphira made their foolish attempt at lying to the Holy Spirit (the crime for which God executed them), Peter assured them that "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?" The Church's way of holding all things in common was a voluntary response to a newfound relationship with Christ in a mutually hostile environment. Not at all similar to a government mandate. Further, the problem with marxist communism is that it fails to take into account human nature. Declaring all things in common does not eliminate human pride, greed, or selfishness. Nor can it. Thus, Christian communism is unique, not something that can be mandated on the rest of the world.

Something that appears to be entirely lost on so many Christians on the "Occupy Wall Street" bandwagon is that there is no merit in enforced virtue. Taking money at gunpoint, for instance, from the rich to give to the poor makes neither the rich nor the enforcers "virtuous". Nor does it solve the problem. On both counts, it bears no resemblance to biblical commands to care for people in need.

Stan said...

Miklos,

Thank you very much for your unique and helpful perspective from someone who has been there.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

And for Dan also:

I HAVE seen the lying poster about Jesus being the original Wall St. protester. As usual with liberals trying to use Jesus and the Bible to support their unsupportable positions, always out of context and nothing to do with what Scripture actually says, totally misrepresenting Jesus. Take a look at this great article about that poster:
http://www.midwestoutreach.org/what-would-jesus-occupy

Dan Trabue said...

Your link, Glenn, says more about that person's cultural prejudices than about the cleansing of the temple. He said...

What I notice is that there is an emphasis on business and given the size of the temple grounds, it would have been big business. But I don’t think this was Jesus’ protest of “Big Business,” but rather the commercialization of sacred space.

I think it is fair to say - as with many of Jesus' teachings - that there are many lessons we might glean from this story. One certainly COULD make the suggestion that this was a protest of commercialization, and maybe even of a "sacred space."

But that would be a fairly limited hunch on how to take it and it would be taking it from a fairly modern and pro-capitalist cultural viewpoint and less from the context, it seems to me.

You'll notice in the story, it references specifically those selling the doves. The dove was the offering that the poorest folk had to bring. What would happen, I'm told, is that folk would come from all around with their offerings from home and get to the temple only to discover that their offering wasn't "pure" enough and so, they'd be forced to spend money they didn't have on a dove. It was a marketeering racket, profiting off the backs of the poor. This is what seems to me to be the more likely explanation of why Jesus exploded so. Especially given the many many times that Jesus specifically said he'd come to bring good news specifically to the poor, that Jesus was here to preach a new kingdom, not one of profiteering off the least of these, but of sharing our resources.

Given that all creation is a sacred space and that God has specifically made clear that God does not live in a temple, I think we can recognize the "holy temple" idea is more of a modern cultural prejudice rather than a solid biblical explanation of what's happening there.

It'd be fun and interesting and compelling to hold this sort of Bible study with you, but it's not the best venue for an indepth Bible study. Maybe on our own?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

No Dan,

That link was to an excellent apologetics ministry. Your comments say more about your bias that Christianity is about a social gospel, that you've made Jesus into a person not recognizable by the Bible. You sir, have been proven over and over to be a rank heretic.