Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Plan - B

David Seaton's News Links
Foreclosure is a national tragedy and a relentless drag on economic growth. Jobs can’t be created until demand increases, and demand won’t increase until consumers get out of debt, and housing is the biggest obstacle. If we had healthy institutions, the White House, both parties in Congress, the leaders of the biggest banks, and consumer groups would have sat down together and worked out a solution that keeps millions of people in their homes without wiping their debts completely clean. But we don’t, and so the history of the past few years has been written by Rick Santelli and Occupy Wall Street. George Packer - New Yorker
The big question that people who want to change things have to ask themselves over and over is "what is to be done". That is the question that OWS must ask itself and answer quickly if it doesn't want to peter out into irrelevance... something that would be tragic if it were to occur.
The role of OWS is pedagogical, it is about raising awareness, consciousness. This is the terrain of what is known as the "propaganda of the deed". A practical, non-violent, American illustration of this would be the lunch counter sit-ins and  freedom riders of the Civil Rights Movement, photogenic action which captured the attention of the media daily and soon the imagination and the "hearts and minds" of the American people. These acts were the thin wedge that opened up the conscience and the consciousness of Americans and changed the face of America.
In my opinion the tragedy of mass foreclosures and thousands upon thousands of Americans being evicted from their homes in the midst of the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression is an issue that has the same transformational potential.
Here is another quote from George Packer's article, that shows that political work is waiting to be done:
There’s no powerful D.C. lobby supporting Americans in Foreclosure, no mass movement of underwater mortgagees. Like unemployment, it’s a trauma that isolates people, leaving them to fend for themselves.
Few things could be more inspiring of compassion, empathy and fellow feeling than watching men, women and children being torn from their homes and ejected into the streets... only a heart of stone (and there are plenty of those) could fail to be moved by such a sight. Anyone who stands up for them and defends them is bound to win the sympathy and support of most decent human beings.
Showing the evicted -- or the about to be evicted-- that they are not alone, not leaving them to fend for themselves, would be the fulcrum that could turn the OWS into a powerful lever for changing the political life of America forever, in the same way that the Civil Rights Movement did.
How would this defense take place?
On one hand it would require an army of lawyers working pro bono to review all paper work leading to the foreclosures as much of it appears to be shoddy, slapdash and even outrageously fraudulent. Organizing this army of investigators and putting them on the case would win the gratitude and even the love of millions of Americans.
The next line of defense would be direct actions of non-violent, civil disobedience. Sit-ins, where dozens, hopefully hundreds, of activists would have to be carted away, one at a time, by police before the eviction could ever take place... with all the media recording it... every day, everywhere in America. The impact would be tremendous, transformational.
During these months of occupations, friendships of the like-minded without number have been made and a huge network of the politically conscious has been created. This instrument should be put to use in a way that connects in solidarity with the deepest fears of their fellow citizens. In doing this, a much, much more powerful instrument will be created, one that could forever change and purify the face of American politics. DS


stunted said...

Well, instead of occupying public parks, even the privately-owned public space of Zuccotti Park (however that works!!) OWS moved a family into an unoccupied, foreclosed house in Brooklyn today, after marching through the streets to highlight the large number of foreclosed houses there. It seems the instrument is being put to use and while I foresee no resultant purifying of American politics until the number 1 demand of OWS--public financing of political campaigns--becomes a hugely unlikely reality, this new tack is tremendous. One step at a time.

Anonymous said...

"...with all the media recording it... every day, everywhere in America. The impact would be tremendous, transformational."

Except that the corporate media would not give it enough coverage to develop any traction.

There is no more "liberal media" to carry the message.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Oh, they would show it all right, it would be so telegenic and "human interest" that they couldn't help themselves.

Anonymous said...

My neighbors' house got foreclosed on, and they had to leave, after a three year struggle to stay. A few days later, their newly-vacated house "spontaneously combusted" in the early hours of a Sunday morning. The arson investigator responsible for the case told us that this is becoming a common scenario in his work: bank takes back house after long and bitter struggle, house goes up in flames.

Obviously, I don't know who is burning down these houses, and I'm not suggesting anything specifically about my neighbors' house. You could hypothesize that a bank finding itself in possession of a house that will never sell for anything like the amount it was mortgaged for might have an incentive to recoup some of its loss through an insurance claim. But you could also hypothesize that an evicted homeowner who has been through a very frustrating and unequal struggle with the bank and come out second best might just say to himself, "They want that house? Well they can have it. I wonder how they like it now?"

In a rural area like this, where people are used to feeling isolated and having to take care of things for themselves because there simply aren't support services or infrastructure in place to make life easier, where anybody slightly political is immensely distrusted, and where political awareness is often low and educational attainment is actually regressing for the least privileged strata, I wonder whether this might be a more likely response to the foreclosure crisis than political organizing. People are tired and cynical, and it's hard to see them mobilizing for a constructive alternative to the way things are now. But "burn it down" doesn't take any energy or organizing at all.

Forensic Economist said...

It's happening in Oakland, too. Occupy Oakland has occupied a foreclosed duplex. Read between the lines in the attached article -- the local paper hates them.

The owner took out a second line of credit from a "private money lender" -- also known as a hard money lender, or what used to be called a loan shark.