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Laurens Rademakers


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Where are the poor in Occupy Wall Street?

---Or is this just another bourgeois movement?---

I have a lot of sympathy for Occupy Wall Street. Hell, even Slavoj Zizek came by to give a talk.

But what bothers me is that I can have sympathy, because I'm relatively well fed (like all OWSers), I'm relatively wealthy (like all OWSers), I don't live on foodstamps (like all OWSers), I have an academic background (like all OWSers). In short, I'm an average middle-class bore (like all OWSers, and probably like you who read this).

So where are the poor? Where are the ethnic minorities? Where are those who're the biggest victims of capitalism? I don't see them. Especially: I don't hear them.

-This begs the question as to whether OWS is just another bourgeois party, that will end without any impact, as we have seen so often, and instead of relieving inequality simply sharpen it.

-This also begs a more optimistic question: do all genuine revolutions always start with an avant-garde that acts "top-down" and that claims to be speaking for the poor? It may be the case, but we know that this form of "representation" -- middle-class bourgeois kids (like Lenin or Mao or Hitler) speaking for others --, is highly problematic and has led to catastrophies.

In short, OWS is not a bottom-up movement. It is a movement of the middle class, which, all in all, does not have to complain. And that is why I fear it will easily be coopted by its enemy - capital. OWS has no real "antagonistic" streak, no real vitality, in the sense that it is willing to give all to win all (like the few real revolutions in history did).

When will the wretched of the earth rise up, in America? When will these people, who scratch for a "living", who are condemned to being obese or dead-poor or uneducated, get up, leave their TV sets and unite to pronounce a discourse (in whatever form)? Because only then can we speak of some genuine revolution, and not just of a "movement".


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    Nov 7 2011: When change threatens to rule, then the rules are changed.

    Rather than be bothered by the fact that the so called "bourgeois" (a term I'm not entirely comfortable throwing around) are standing alone in the face of adversity, I propose that we as individuals embrace their fortitude and determination. The term "bourgeois" leaves a sour taste in my mouth because I consider it a convenient designator that is marked by a concern for material interests, respectability and a tendency toward mediocrity. I myself would hardly assign that term to these people.

    In my eyes this is the classic example of standing up for the little man. Representing those who cannot represent themselves. Consider the OWS protesters freelance, pro-bono, activists.

    Those who lead a comfortable life as many of us in this conversation and many of those on streets claim to be, should galvanize us. Those people are willing to leave that comfort zone, if but only for a moment to stand up for something that they believe in. Many of them, like those aforementioned wall street suits don't need to go out there and protest, but they do it anyway.

    Instead of patronizing or over analyzing the socio-economic demographics that this movement is comprised of, let us support it. Regardless of race, creed, religion, class, sexual orientation etc... Let's be the first "bourgeois" that looks out for the "proletariat".

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