Sunday, October 23, 2011

…folks, the medium is the message

By kay.e.strong

In the silence of the Occupy Wall Street movement is a poignant message about the status of 99% of Americans.  But how many get it?

The movement is an emergent property arising endogenously out of the frustrations and anxieties and general dissatisfaction of the 99% in a system flagrantly stacked against them—a system that has silence them.

OWS is not politics-as-usual! All attempts to benchmark it against the status quo framework owned by the 1% are ill-contrived.

The 99% movement is a first draft in the evolutionary process of differentiation-selection-amplification.  This process, if nurtured, will provide us with novelty, a pool of alternative design options from which to draw a more sustainable system.  Any reasonable person would concur that the status quo of politics or economics can not continue as is.

The 99% movement operates as a consensus-building mechanism, the expressway to rebuilding trust. For those not in the know, high economic performance demands both high-levels of cooperation and high-levels of trust. Both of which have been wrung from a system so fragmented by self-interested, big-monied politics that gridlock is the tactic-de-jour!  We willingly pay 1.1 billion dollars to secure a head on a plate, but feign no funds available for food in the bellies of our children.  We bail out Big Men institutions, but ignore the cries of main street homeowners in distress.  Cuts to the social safety net take precedent over cuts to defensive spending.

Despite being characterized as leaderless and lacking an agenda, the protest that began at the heart of the American financial district has grown to become an undisputed national movement with sympathetic rallies in 60 cities world-wide.  Intuitively, people get it. Even members of the 1% have been seen among the ranks of the 99%.
Last week City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a potential 2013 New York City mayoral candidate, stated that “…by focusing on the protests’ anti-Wall Street theme and not the larger issue of people feeling hopeless about the economy, ‘you lose the bigger point.’” (NYT, 18 Oct 2011)


Cornel West, an activist of the sixties, defended the lack of agenda asserting that "[i]t’s impossible to translate the issue of the greed of Wall Street into one demand, or two demands. We’re talking about a democratic awakening." (29 Sep 11 in Democracy Now!)

Chiding the Occupy Wall Street protesters for failing to look like your grandmother’s politics is to truly miss the message. Here’s a hint from Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message.”

Kay Strong, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University, M.T., University of Houston, M.A., Ohio University; Associate Professor at Baldwin-Wallace College; Areas of expertise: international economics, contemporary social-economic issues, complexity and futures-based perspectives in economics. E-mail:

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This blog lives under the auspices of the Department of Economics whose mission has been to hold high the lantern beaming an "economic way of thinking" onto the world. Selfishness, rationality and equilibrium have been central to the teaching of an economic way of thinking rooted in the Renaissance. And, in this regard, the department has faithfully stayed the course. The intent of this blog, thinking out loud..., however, is to entertain exchanges which may challenge the centrality of economics as we teach it.