Occupy Wall Street, PNoy’s Politics and New Possibilities of Dissent

Wall Street is teeming with angry dissidents and rage. Brought into assembly by the anti-capitalist media group Adbusters, the Occupy Wall Street movement functions almost like an anarchist festival— no leadership, no solid political orientation, but fantastically organized like Thomas More’s Utopia.

I was personally thrilled (and shocked) at this new political upheaval, precisely for some points: (1) the movement was constructed as a ‘symbolic act’ against greed (Wall Street being an icon of corporate power), not as a political reaction to a particular issue, e.g. corruption, the 2008 crisis bail-out, etc; (2) the movement was fueled by online interactions and propaganda; (3) the movement emerged during Obama’s administration, a quite unexpected event considering Obama’s image as a liberal democrat and as a voice to the poor and marginalized, (4) capitalism as an economic system again failed in keeping its neoliberal promises, proving the falsity of the Fukuyaman end-of-history ‘utopia’. (5) finally, of course, the enormous number of its participants and its extreme popularity globally, wherein many identical mobilizations are also being staged everywhere.

Fumbling for the R-spot

After the 1986 EDSA Revolt, many radical groups find large, collective revolts unnecessary. A good exception, of course, is the Erap Resign Movement that exploded into what we call EDSA II. After two relatively peaceful ‘revolutions’, general opinion has been molded into a defeatist outlook, an ‘incredulity both for the metanarratives of capitalist eternal abundance (brought by the worsening economic crisis in a neocolonial framework) and its communist alternative (brought by the disorientation in the Communist Party during the 80s), if I may use the iconic Lyotardian phrase. This defeatism, however, doesn’t necessarily adopt a dystopian Weltanschauung; Cory Aquino-type of liberal democracy seeks to dope the people into hoping for a change to be brought about by a radical moralist, spiritual purge in the government and a massive individualist ‘moral revolution’ for the general public against greed, corruption, etc.

Noynoy Aquino’s government seems to be the farcical repetition of Cory Aquino’s liberal democratic façade. After a decade of fascism by the Arroyo regime, the people symbolically launched its ‘democratic counter-attack’ by repeating the story of Cory-after-the-fascist-corrupt-power-freak-Marcos with Noynoy Aquino as its main signifier. The question is somewhat obvious: is political organizing more difficult now as the fascist Gloria Arroyo is now dethroned and the people are now hoping for a fresh, much better Philippines under Noynoy Aquino?

Before proceeding to answering this question, I think we must first go back to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Despite many significant differences, I think that the metaphor of Barrack Obama as ‘the new hope’ (especially since he is a Democrat) is somewhat symmetrical to the climate of PNoy’s administration. Obama succeeded a very infamous administration, that of George Bush, who was an architect in numerous dishonorable wars (Iraq, the War on Terror, etc) and valorized the neoliberal economic framework, leading to the climax of the 2008 Economic Crisis. PNoy, on the other hand, also succeeded a notorious human rights violator and one of the most valiant disciples of US-sponsored neoliberalization, budget-slashing and privatization in the public sector. To make the symmetry much more fitting, let us note that despite the apparent differences of the succeeded regimes and the incumbent ones, there are practically no differences. Obama continued Bush’s War on Terror, universal health remain standstill, massive inequality became much more evident. PNoy on the other hand continues slashing the budget of the basic state services (higher education, health, etc), agriculture still in the kangkungan, anti-government elements are being pacified by intensified campaign against insurgency. There is practically nothing different except the symbolic façades that they ride like waves.

So what is the lesson in this whole Occupy Wall Street thing? The glaring, of course, is that, intervention and disruptions from the Real, albeit disorganized, chaotic, and violent, testify the fact that the masses can in fact transcend the Symbolic garbage thrown at them and in the end recognize their real conditions and consequently resist these conditions. Despite the very symbolic status of Obama as a tolerant, black (therefore among the Other), generally good President of ‘hope’,  the American people still recognized the conditions of inequality, economic, political, and cultural manipulations by the system.

To answer the question we posed earlier, by a metaphorical correlation we can say that political organizing in the Philippines will not necessary become more difficult, precisely because the economic and political conditions remain the same, at least in its essential traits; (or may I argue that it is becoming more conducive) for an explosive act of open mass revolt?

The challenge, I think is of course how we will construct effective political mechanisms that will trigger the same revolutionary attitude that exploded in Wall Street. To duplicate the Wall Street phenomenon (something like Occupy Makati or something) is to be pathetically copy-cat, if not blatantly uncreative (and this simple lack may have serious political backlashes) The immediate task, I believe, is to find ways to create this program using the resources at our disposal, and of course the revolutionary will to materialize effectively our rage.


3 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street, PNoy’s Politics and New Possibilities of Dissent”

  1. Hi Levi, generally well said buong article. very articulate and engaging. magandang i-underscore yung last paragraph mo re: pagkopya ng basta-basta ng concpet ng occupy wall street sa pilipinas — hence need maging creative ng mga local activist sa concrete condition ng bansa upang maging kapakipakinabang ang revolt. Nais ko lamang magbigay ng ilang observation: (1) sinasabi mo na basically walang pinagkaiba ang sistemang panlipunan kahit nagmumukhang “repormista” ang mga bagong leader (i-sense na nais ipakita dito ang shades ng false consciousness na propaganda ng hegemonya [e.g. Obama and PNoy as liberal reformist]), pero mas maganda kung i-specify and particularize bakit pareho parin o bakit essentially walang nagbago. nasabi yung mga policies na nagpapatuloy lamang pero and its good to point that out pero ang crucial na tanong eh bakit ganito parin ito at nagpapatuloy; (2) ang statement na, “anti-government elements are pacified by intensified campaign against insurgency” ay nagbibigay ng impression na natatalo ang “anti-government elements” dahil sa “anti-insurgency campaign.” ganito ba talaga ang nais mong sabihin? hindi ba’t kahit may anti-insurgency patuloy ang paglakas ng pwersang kaliwa dahil sa navavalidate ang kanilang theory hinggil sa sistema and its the system na nagtutulak sa tao magrebolusyon, tulad ng paliwanag mo sa article. anyways, baka need lang i-rephrase ang pagkasabi. (3) baka magandang gawing extensive pa yung discussion mo dun sa five points ng political upheaval dahil mas magiging informative, powerful, at critical na ang mga arguments mo sa mga susunod na discussion nung article. (4) maganda ring palalimin ang discussion hinggil sa usapin ng “no leadership, no solid political orientation, but fantastically organized” ang movement. bakit at paano ito nangyari at ano ang mga salik? generally ang phenomenang ito ay kaiba sa mga conventional upheaval. (5) para maging academic at intellectual pa ang article, suggest ko na gumamit ka ng mga sources, direct or attribution citations. (6) regarding dun sa discussion mo on not copying wall street experience dogmatically, baka magandang magpoint ka din ng mga concrete conditions sa Pilipinas na kaiba sa US para maiconsider ng mga kaliwa, and maybe give some suggestion on how to address the conditions sa Pilipinas. Ito lamang ay ilang suggestions. Anyways, well done parin and good start. mukhang in the making na ang intellectual na papalit kay Derrida at Lyotard ha. hehehe. kudos.

    1. salamat pre. yung ibang puntos diyan mahirap ielucidate, thesis material kasi e. actually nahihiwagaan din ako dun sa ‘no leadership, no pol orientation blah’ e, kasi parang anarcho-syndicalist pala ang dating niya. spontaneous ang pagiging ‘organized’ ng spontaneous mass revoly na ito. tsaka ang pinaka disturbing na tanong e bakit kailangan pang mag-organize kung ‘the massess will organize themselves’ moda? Maybe you can recommend some answers.

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