Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

5 Nov

The OWS movement recognizes that America is divided into a ruling class and a class of servants.

Yes, America DOES have a ruling class. It’s not a hereditary ruling class, like the old European aristocracies. It’s permeable. One can enter it from below, and one can be thrust out of it too.

Of course the existence of this ruling class contradicts official doctrine, which says that American is ruled by the people and for the people. Members of this ruling class, therefore, will deny its existence. Certainly, the politician members MUST deny it.

Just what these rulers say among themselves, at the Bohemian Grove, in board meetings of for-profit corporations (e.g. General Motors, Goldman Sachs) and not-for-profit (e.g. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Ford Foundation), in private clubs of various kinds, that’s a different matter. On that, I suspect, some are frank about being among The Rulers while others persist they are still of the people.

Nor do non-member Americans recognize the existence of this ruling class. Well, some of us do, some of us don’t. It’d be interesting to see whether recognition of the ruling class is stringing among non-voters than among voters. After all, if you do see that there’s a ruling class, what’s the point of voting? You vote doesn’t matter. At the same time, one might vote out of identification with and affirmation of that very same ruling class. After all, maybe you too will be tapped to enter into the sacred halls of the ruling class.

All of which is to say that, while a ruling class exists, though not a classical ruling class, class consciousness is weak, on both sides of the divide.

Outing the Class Divide

And THAT’s the biggest service that is being performed by Occupy Wall Street: identifying the class divide in America. The 1%, that’s the ruling class. The rest, no matter how many things otherwise divide us, we are the 99%.

THAT’s why it is not so important, at the moment, for Occupy Wall Street, to come up with a concrete and actionable set of demands.

THAT, also, is why Occupy Wall Street’s experiments with self-organization and direct democracy are so important, simply as examples of a different way of organizing collective life.

And THAT too, is why, for example, Lawrence Lessig can call for the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street to come together on the issue of electoral reform. Of course one rather expects the Koch brothers to oppose such cooperation, but perhaps rank-and-file Tea Partiers will come to see that, as members of the 99%, they should make common cause with Occupy Wall Street.

And THAT finally is why Occupy Wall Street, and its various sibling Occupiers, must avoid violence. Violence WILL muddy the main message, the we are effectively divided between the rulers and the ruled. Let physical violence be the tool of the ruling class. The more they exercise it, the more they out themselves as Rulers who care more about Rule than about justice and equity.

The Rulers Crave Bigness

Establishing the existence of this class divide, of course, is only one thing, perhaps THE first thing. It is about equality and justice. The next thing, however, is to clarify the nature of the world the 1% presides over. It’s a world of BIGNESS: Big Business, Big Government, Big Media, and, well, a Big World, one that’s international in scope. It’s a world whose BIGNESS is brittle, e.g. a supply chain failure in Taiwan will impact the distribution of consumer goods around the world, and unsustainable, for bigness requires BIG ENERGY and BIG RESOURCES.

Our rulers run the machine and reap most of the benefits, leaving us enough to live on, plus some nice electronic toys. But not ALL of, no, not all of us. Some of us are visibly poor, thereby enhancing the illusion that we the servants are doing well. We the servants, of course, run the machine and funnel the wealth on up to the top. And when the machine fails, as it always does, the failure comes our of our pockets.

But that’s a rant for another day.

* * * * *

See also Wall Street: The Dead Face of Domination.

On why the protests won’t stop, see The Banker’s Don’t Get It.

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