The future for solar power
Political Commentary by Jack Krupansky
Americans' views of their own position as "haves" or "have nots" have been remarkably stable, even as the nation's economic problems have intensified. Still, the finding that fewer Americans now than in 2008 consider U.S. society as divided into "haves" and "have nots" suggests a decreasing -- rather than increasing – level of worry about unfair income distribution in the U.S. at this time.As populists and politicians have made inequality more of a political issue, moderates and independents in particular are turning away from the idea of a society divided in two. Thus, Americans as a whole are no more likely to see the country as divided into haves and have nots than at any time in the past two decades.
After the August 2nd gathering, the movement's center of gravity shifted from Vancouver to New York. The protesters planning the September occupation met again, on August 9th, at the Irish Hunger Memorial, near Battery Park; all subsequent meetings were held on the south side of Tompkins Square Park. Early on, they decided to call the organization the New York City General Assembly.In theory, the job of facilitating the meetings rotated among the eighty or so attendees. In practice, facilitation fell to a much smaller set of people who had experience with the general-assembly process. The leaderless movement was developing leaders. Graeber was among this first rank of equals, as was Marisa Holmes, a twenty-five-year-old anarchist and filmmaker. Holmes is dark-haired and eloquent; she has the parliamentarian's trick of making harsh ultimatums sound palatable, even breezy.
Libya provided the opportunity for the Western powers, who had reacted with fear to the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, to use a humanitarian cover to reinsert the numerous possibilities opened up by the Arab Spring into the familiar narrative of neoliberal democracy. ... what is at stake today... the isolation of the communist idea may yet give rise to a new collective subject finally capable of realizing communism.
Graeber has a history of both direct and indirect involvement in political activism, including playing an organizing role in, and speaking in favor of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Comparing it to the Arab Spring, he claimed that this and other contemporary grassroots protests represent "the opening salvo in a wave of negotiations over the dissolution of the American Empire."
Must leaders be nice to be noteworthy?We don't have to look much further than Steve Jobs to see they don't have to. The former Apple CEO could be, as we all know by now, a grade-A jerk who threw tantrums, parked in handicapped spots, and was fully capable of so-called gratuitous nastiness. Some are even worried that "with the death and canonization of Steve Jobs and the emergence of the Jobs biography as a kind of sacred text for managers," writes Tom McNichol over at the Atlantic, "the ranks of bosses who see Bad Steve's nastier traits as something to imitate is liable to swell." Jobs, he writes, is considered by too many people in Silicon Valley to be "living proof" that being an ass was a big part of leading a good company.Of course, Steve Jobs was not a phenomenal innovator because of his leadership style; he was wildly successful in spite of it. And no, I'm not going to draw some pained parallel between the brilliance of Steve Jobs and the ornery intelligence of Barney Frank. But it's worth considering when being a nasty boss can help and when it hurts. In a world in which extreme attention to detail is needed—like, say, technology development—or when there's a real need for motivation, there could be some virtues to having a controlling jerk in the top chair. Because many such managers are equally good at turning on the charm when needed, McNichol writes, their salesmanship could outweigh their bad sides. And occasionally, brash thinking (and unfortunately, brash behavior) goes hand-in-hand with an appetite for innovation and risk that other more measured leaders can't really summon from themselves.But in most cases, it's obvious that over-the-top petulance stands in the way of accomplishment. That's especially so in a place like Congress where negotiating skills and relationship building are supposedly the keys to success. Sure, a combative and abrasive style might win leaders points in the highly polarized dysfunction that is today's Congress. But it could also cause them to lose the most accomplished legacy possible.
Graeber began the summer on sabbatical, moving back to New York from London and frequenting an artists' space called 16Beaver. It was an intellectual activist salon, located near Wall Street, the sort of place where people would discuss topics like semiotics and hacking and the struggles of indigenous peoples. Like many other American activists, Graeber had been deeply moved by the occupation of Cairo's Tahrir Square and by the "Indignados" who had taken over central Madrid; in mid-July, he published a short piece in Adbusters asking what it would take to trigger a similar uprising in the West. For much of the summer, the discussions at 16Beaver revolved around exactly that question. When a local group called Operation Empire State Rebellion called for a June 14 occupation of Zuccotti Park, four people showed up.On July 13, Adbusters put out its own call for a Wall Street occupation, to take place two months later, on Sept. 17. Setting the date and publicizing it was the extent of the magazine's involvement. A group called New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts—student activists and community leaders from some of the city's poorer neighborhoods—stepped in to execute the rest. For three weeks in June and July, to protest city budget cuts and layoffs, the group had camped out across the street from City Hall in a tent city they called Bloombergville. They liked the idea of trying a similar approach on Wall Street. After talking to Adbusters, the group began advertising a "People's General Assembly" to "Oppose Cutbacks And Austerity Of Any Kind" and plan the Sept. 17 occupation.The assembly was to be held in Bowling Green, the downtown Manhattan park with its famous statue of a charging bull pawing the cobblestones. Graeber had heard about the meeting at 16Beaver, and the afternoon of Aug. 2 he went to Bowling Green with two friends, a Greek artist and anarchist named Georgia Sagri and a Japanese activist named Sabu Kohso (who is also the Japanese translator of Graeber's books)....When Graeber and his friends showed up on Aug. 2, however, they found out that the event wasn't, in fact, a general assembly, but a traditional rally, to be followed by a short meeting and a march to Wall Street to deliver a set of predetermined demands ("A massive public-private jobs program" was one, "An end to oppression and war!" was another). In anarchist argot, the event was being run by "verticals"—top-down organizations—rather than "horizontals" such as Graeber and his friends. Sagri and Graeber felt they'd been had, and they were angry.What happened next sounds like an anarchist parable. Along with Kohso, the two recruited several other people disgruntled with the proceedings, then walked to the south end of the park and began to hold their own GA, getting down to the business of planning the Sept. 17 occupation. The original dozen or so people gradually swelled, despite the efforts of the event's planners to bring them back to the rally. The tug of war lasted until late in the evening, but eventually all of the 50 or so people remaining at Bowling Green had joined the insurgent general assembly....For Graeber the next month and a half was a carousel of meetings. There were the weekly GAs, the first held near the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City, the rest in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. He facilitated some of them and spent much of the rest of his time in working group meetings in people's apartments. (On Aug. 14 he tweeted, "I am so exhausted. My first driving lesson … then had to facilitate an assembly in Tompkins Square Park for like three hours.") He organized legal and medical training and classes on nonviolent resistance. The group endlessly discussed what demands to make, or whether to have demands at all—a question that months later remains unresolved.