I Perform Therefore I Am

The “Occupy” protesters boast that they are a leaderless movement, that they have no official set of demands. In the absence of a coherent political stance it is unclear, other than the message that capitalism is bad, what they actually stand for. Claiming to be neither of the Left nor Right, they claim to express the concerns and angers, of the 99% of us who are not wealthy.

Representatives of 99% of Humanity

It is this absence of clarity which enables them to garner support from every quarter. Not just from the usual suspects in the media and elsewhere who support, either openly or with a nod and a wink, any demonstrations “agin’ the government.”

Politicians and opinion formers seem drawn to the protesters like toddlers with a box of crayons to a freshly painted wall. They are able to express their sympathy with the protesters whilst foisting on them their own political nostrums. A type of political graffiti in which the protesters eagerly acquiesce.

In the USA opportunist politicians such as Barack Obama whose political campaigns have been massively funded by Wall Street and Mitt Romney the leading Republican contender and wealthy businessman both affirm their support for the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Being able to hurl imprecations at greedy bankers is an easy way for politicians to evade personal responsibility, “It wasn’t me, a big boy did it and ran away.” Only this big boy didn’t run away, he stayed and got a bonus.

The usual bevy of wealthy progressive actors and actresses have expressed agreement with the stance of the protesters, as have not a few-right wing commentators. Both for the same reason, that the protesters have drawn attention to a dysfunctional financial system and pointing this out is good PR with their constituencies.

Taxpayers angry at their taxes being used to subsidise failure, to lifestyle anarchists revelling in the political theatre, everyone sympathises with the protesters. After all they represent 99% of the population of the world. Presumably the remaining 1% is made up of Russian oligarchs, Saudi princes and dot com billionaires and who is going to sympathise with them?

Of course 99% is the purest fantasy. Even Kim Jong-ill claims to represent 99% of only North Korea not of the entire human race. Their claim to represent 99% of us is stridently proclaimed to cover up the fat that they actually don’t have a constituency, that they don’t actually “represent” anyone other than themselves. There is no single constituency imaginable which represents 99% of humanity.

Despite the claims of the economic Luddites camped out in western capitals their movement lacks popular support because it lacks a popular constituency. This is no grassroots movement. This movement gains its meaning and momentum from the media who love a performance.

It is the media which has enabled minute groups of individuals scattered throughout the western world to identify and connect with each other. Like all media whores they are ever anxious for a camera so that by performance politics they can prove to themselves their own significance. The protesters are not so much interested in their somewhat inchoate political stance. Rather it is the performance of protest itself which enraptures and connects them.

All that the occupy London protesters have so far achieved are the resignations of three influential churchmen from St Paul’s who largely sympathise with their position, if not always with their methods. If they were concerned with achieving any coherent political, economic or social goals this would be what is known as shooting yourself in the foot. Achieving only collateral damage is no way to win a struggle. But that doesn’t matter because a political or other struggle is only secondary to the protesters.

Normally protesters measure success by speed. The quicker the objective is realised the better. The Occupy protesters have no demands, they have no proposals, they have no urgency. It is the performance itself which is important. It is the performance which actualises them in their own eyes. The longer they camp out the more successful they feel.

We are in for a long drawn out meaningless piece of narcissistic theatre.

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About Campbell

Now retired but once upon a time a parish minister in Glasgow, before that the South West and initially the Black Isle. Been a prison chaplain and lecturer. Still am constantly bemused by the weird world around me.
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