Occupy & Tea Party are alike, both saving America through cosplay

Summary: Collective action is democracy in action, unrestrained by the machinery of the formal political parties. Does the surge in political action of the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party Movement represent a new morning for America, appropriate at the start of a new millennium. Or are these peasants’ protests, venting steam while the 1% build a New America?

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
— Not every movement is a revolution, although you often do time in jail.

Captain America visits the Tea Party
Cosplay as political activism: too much fun?

Contents

  1. The Surge of Activism
  2. What we are. What we need to be.
  3. Conclusions
  4. For More Information
  5. The Boston Tea Party was not cosplay

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(1) The Surge of Activism

As a result of our increasing affluence and leisure time, plus more retirees, America has more activists than at most times in our history. Americans dedicated to making things better, often taking to the streets.

Some address tangible, local problems. Service clubs: saving stray animals, helping youth, cleaning up parks, organizing unions, etc. Some work to save the nation, like the Tea Party Movement and Occupy Wall Street. Those of the first type are serious, shown not just by the time and money they devote to their projects — but to their results.

What about the second type? It’s a difficult question to answer. How do we measure seriousness of people in political groups, outside the organized political parties? Especially those formed to transform the nation, rather than the limited political platform of established parties?

We can only guess at such things, but we can compare movements like Occupy and the Tea Party with past organizations. Consider the Revolutionary-era Committees of Correspondence, the abolitionist movement, building unions, the suffragette movement, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam anti-war campaigns. What common elements that distinguish these very different groups, making them effective? Perhaps their…

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Occupy Wall Street
Saving the nation from banks one unicorn at a time
  • organization
  • funding
  • membership
  • elected leaders
  • explicit goals
  • agreed-upon plans
  • individual taking responsibility for the group

These help organizations stay focused, producing results instead of just street parties — producing long-term effects instead of just headlines (film at 11).

These help avoid capture by those with other agendas, as the GOP has captured the Tea Party movement — turning an organization born in opposition to bank bailouts into supporters of Wall Street friends.

These help prevent an organization’s reputation being ruined by people like this guy at the Million Vet March (Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses the significance of this at The Atlantic):

Confederate Flag at the Million Vet March
At the Million Vet March, by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

The Tea Party Movement and Occupy Wall Street both have dedicated members with good intentions. Broadly speaking I share both their goals. Neither are the idiots and fools described by those on the opposite side of the political spectrum. But each in their own way is a peasants’ protest, venting steam (our ruling elites approve!) without forwarding their goals. Most obviously, both oppose banks; neither has stopped or even inconvenienced banks and bankers’ activities at the top of America’s food chain.

(2) What we are. What we need to be

This is what we are: “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty” (it’s really a documentary)
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This is what we need to be, from “Network” (1976)
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(3) Conclusions

It’s an oddity of our time that sociologists know far more about collective action than every before, but never have Americans shown less ability to effectively work together.

We need not consult academics to learn successful methods for political reform. The past gives us many proven templates with which to build movements capable of changing the fate of nations. We need only use them. Many Americans yearn for change, but lack the social machinery to link them together into a larger whole.

See the posts in section 4e below for recommendations.

(4) For More Information

(a)  See the FM Reference page listing all posts about Politics in America

(b)  About protesting in America:

  1. How to stage effective protests in the 21st century, 21 April 2009
  2. More people participating in politics: is this good for America?, 20 June 2010
  3. How do protests like the TP and OWS differ from effective political action?, 26 October 2011
  4. What are the odds of violence from the Right in America?, 2 October 2013
  5. The Million Vet March, a typical peasants’ protest. Does it portend more serious protests in our future?, 13 October 2013

(c)  About the Occupy Wall Street:

(d)  About the Tea Party Movement:

  1. Are the new “tea party” protests a grass roots rebellion or agitprop?, 1 March 2009
  2. More examples of Americans waking up – should we rejoice?, 10 October 2009
  3. Does the Tea Party movement remind you of the movie “Meet John Doe”?, 27 January 2010
  4. The Tea Party movement develops a platform. It’s the Underpants Gnomes Business Plan!, 8 March 2010
  5. About the Tea Party Movement: who they are and what they believe, 19 March 2010
  6. The Tea Party Movement disproves my recommendation for the path to reforming America, 20 April 2010
  7. At last we see a Tea Party political platform, 13 May 2010
  8. Kinsley – “My Country, Tis of Me – There’s nothing patriotic about the Tea Party Patriots”, 15 May 2010
  9. Why has wild man Mark Williams become a top leader of the Tea Party movement?, 13 June 2010
  10. God and the Tea Party Movement, 30 March 2012
  11. A new political party for a New America: the Tea Party GOP, 9 October 2013

(e)  Steps to fixing America:

  1. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
  2. Five steps to fixing America, 19 October 2011
  3. A third try: The First Step to reforming America, 28 May 2013
  4. The second step to reforming America, 14 August 2013
  5. The third step to reforming America, with music, 3 September 2013

(f)  Other posts about reforming America:

  1. Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008
  2. The project to reform America: a matter for science or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
  3. Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010
  4. The sure route to reforming America, 16 November 2010
  5. Should we despair, giving up on America?, 5 May 2012
  6. We are alone in the defense of the Republic, 5 July 2012
  7. The bad news about reforming America: time is our enemy, 27 June 2013
  8. Why the 1% is winning, and we are not, 26 July 2013

(5) The Boston Tea Party was not cosplay

Politically problematic, bold, effective, criminal vandalism. Civil disorder to protest low tea prices. Done in pursuit of higher goals. Justified by its results.

“The Boston Tea Party” by Luis Arcas Brauner:

The Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party, by Luis Arcas Brauner

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18 thoughts on “Occupy & Tea Party are alike, both saving America through cosplay

  1. During the Occupy protests in San Francisco, the protesters were occupying the sidewalk outside the local Federal Reserve branch.
    The protest significantly inconvenienced the bankers trying to get inside the building, forcing them to have to walk *around*, delaying their normal start of business by *seconds*. It was politics in action!

    1. Todd,

      Going to be difficult to beat your comment as “best of thread”!

      More seriously, the Boston Tea Party (as described in section 5) showed that cosplay can be an effective element of political protest. But it is part of the marketing, useful only when supporting a core of organization and plans.

  2. What I find to be most ironic about the Tea Party is the fact that even though it was (as you say) formed in protest against the bank bailouts, it was and continues to be largely made up of people — i.e., Republican voters — who never made so much as a peep of protest when Bush was in office encouraging policies which helped create the need for the bank bailouts in the first place (cutting taxes and encouraging people to go shopping while we were fighting not just one but two wars for which there was little or no clear evidence of success).

    Many of these people were the same ones who insisted at the time that any criticism of the President was unacceptable and unpatriotic..but it didn’t take long at all for them to change their tune. It’s only too clear to me that in their minds, just about anything is acceptable and justifiable provided that the occupant of the Oval Office is a Republican.

    1. Bluestocking,

      That is so. But this behavior is seen, indeed perhaps the primary characteristic, of both parties.

      Republicans demand balanced budgets and few foreign wars. Reagan and Bush Jr create deficits and foreign wars. Republicans cheer.

      Democrats denounce Bush Jr as Hitler for his national security and bank-friendly policies. They cheer when Obama runs his Administration as Bush Jr’s 3rd and 4th terms.

      But then, sheep follow their leader. That is what makes them sheep.

  3. First, a couple observations about the Boston Tea Party:

    It was not a (merely) symbolic act. When the ships bearing taxed tea did not leave Boston, as ships in other ports had done, the entire shipment—at an estimated value equivalent to over one and a half million of today’s dollars*—was destroyed.

    The result was not to persuade the rulers to be more mindful the protesters’ grievances. The result was increased oppression.

    I think the function of protest is no longer well understood. Almost never is the result of protest that authorities conclude that their actions have been inappropriate, and that they henceforth seek to be more accommodating. Protest serves to make unconcerned citizens aware that something is going on—something with which, perhaps, they should be concerned. Things change, not because of the protests themselves, but because of their effect on a much larger number of people who would probably never engage in civil disobedience or march with a sign, but whose quiet coöperation (including voting) underpins the authorities’ power.

    This is what we need to be, from “Network” (1976)

    My reading of the Network scene is much different.

    Howard Beale (the newscaster) describes his frustration with the way things are, that they are not as he knows they could and should be, and would be if only it weren’t for… well, something, there has to be something, though he doesn’t know what it is. He is the quintessential member of the bewildered herd.

    Following the clip posted in this article, we see a family watching the spectacle on television. A teenage girl runs, delighted, to the window, “to see if anybody is yelling.” They are. The yellers in Network are grateful—and excited!—to have been given instructions that permit them to vent their frustration in a way that demands little, risks little, and even provides a transient, false sense of community.

    Meanwhile, back at the station, the executive in charge of programming exclaims, “We’ve hit the motherlode!”

    Later in the film, Howard Beale happens to incite the public about an issue that actually matters to the people who employ his handlers. Shortly thereafter, his career, and his life, come to an end.

    It helps little for people to “get mad” that the world is not as they feel it should be, when they not only lack effective knowledge of why it is as it is, but don’t even have a common view of how it should be. Many of us are angry that class divisions are so acute; probably at least as many believe all would be well if (other) people just knew their place. Some of us are embittered at the intrusion of government into what we see as private, personal issues; others insist that God will judge us harshly until we bring our laws into conformance with His Word.

    * estimate of value equivalent to £968 thousand today from Wikipedia: Boston Tea Party: Reaction; multiplied by 1.62 US Dollars per British Pound current conversion rate as given by Google

    1. “Network” has become one of my favorite movies because it has proven to be so amazingly prophetic.

      From my perspective, the most tragic thing about Howard Beale is that the same madness which gives him the ability and incentive (or rather the desperation) to say things that resonate with so many people also prevents him from seeing the ways in which he’s being used and manipulated by some of the very same people whom he’s speaking out against.

      These people are only too willing to exploit him and profit from him as long as he continues to be useful to them. However, the moment Beale starts saying things which conflict with their own agenda, they pull him aside and take away the one thing which makes it possible for them to profit from him — and at that point, they ruthlessly do away with him.

      It occurs to me that some of the people from the Tea Party could stand to watch this film and learn something from it…because they have quite a bit more in common with Howard Beale than they themselves realize. One can only hope for their sake that they don’t end up dooming themselves to a fate similar to his.

    2. Coises’s analysis of Beale’s outburst is indeed interesting and enlightening since it highlights something very ironic about the people who yell in response to his impassioned monologue. They’re not just “grateful—and excited!—to have been given instructions that permit them to vent their frustration in a way that demands little, risks little, and even provides a transient, false sense of community” — they’re actually inspired to do the exact opposite of what Beale is trying to get them to do.

      This and most of Beale’s subsequent speeches are in essence an appeal for people to turn off the television and begin thinking (and acting) for themselves instead of mindlessly accepting whatever someone on the television shows them — but unfortunately, these pleas only serve to encourage more people to tune into his show and parrot the phrase which has become associated with him. (Of course, the consummate irony is that Beale himself — without being consciously aware of it — is dependent on the fact that they’re not really listening and would probably have merely met his end even sooner if they had done what he said.)

    3. I have no need to write anything for tomorrow’s post. This is great material, of a kind beyond my ability to produce.

      The arts threads have been especially productive and interesting!

    1. Merocaine,

      I am afraid to even ask what that means.

      My guess is that it is some sort of probe by Skynet. Clicking on your comment will unleash viruses or bits. All readers: adjust your tin foil for full protection!

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