Protesters in the Occupy Movement throughout these United States would be getting a larger following, and far better results, if those who lead or counsel the many groups of occupiers, angry at the multiple and varied inequities in society, developed their strategies from the logic and ethics given to us by Aristotle twenty-three centuries ago. Anger by occupiers sparked from greedy and obscene economic inequity has fast unveiled myriad other inequities covering all aspects of the societal spectrum. Now many among us are starting to conclude that the system, the capitalist system – as we profess it – is the true culprit for our woes, a system finally found to be rotten from the core and to the core; and that’s what it is in need of change, and not just a few rules and regulations as we are told by those we have mistakenly entrusted to lead us.
In Nichomachean Ethics II.ix, Aristotle tells us: “Anyone can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.”
One must question whether the occupiers have the right person when they point either to Wall Street or to the infamous One-Percenters who control 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, and possibly close to100 percent of our nation’s influence and power. Perhaps the “right person” needs to be re-identified as the federal government, all three branches, aided by a corrupt two-party system sustained by lobbying interests that jointly exclude the interests of over 80 percent of the American population. But few demonstrators, or their informal leaders, are targeting the self-perpetuating federal government as the right person, instead directing their ire to Wall Street and the One-Percenters.
It is obvious that the anger has yet to reach the right or proper degree; that will not happen until at least 10 percent or more of the population take turns in these demonstrations walking the streets, showing to be peaceful yet totally disruptive; but not harnessed or restrained, as they presently are, by the forces of the so-called “law and order” who are only protecting the status quo, the powerful that keep us in chains. Ask the hundreds of occupiers arrested in cities across the country, or the ugly response by the police in Oakland (California) which included the use of tear gas.
A self-proclaimed anarchist that I talked to during the first march in Portland (Oregon) two weeks ago made an interesting observation when saying to me that “these dainty little protests are an affront to the very nature of any successful revolution, a revolution we desperately need.” To that protester, neither the number of occupiers nor their behavior exhibited “the right degree” of anger. When I confronted her – yes, it was a proud female anarchist and academic – with the peaceful approach by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, she smiled at me somewhat condescendingly explaining the differences I already knew and had often made use of in my writings. She didn’t need to tell me about the fraternal abuse and rape which has been occurring in this country.
As for the time for showing anger, this is the right time after three decades of blatant and shameless abuse by “capital” or, more specifically, by those who possess the bulk of the capital who without compassion or remorse, following only the precepts and goal of predatory capitalism, destroyed the infrastructure and trained labor base of countless communities in this nation replacing millions of mid-skill jobs providing a living wage (usually in manufacturing) with unskilled, minimum wage service positions. For many workers abused and unemployed it may be a little late to make amends, but for the nation in general, our anger is certainly showing “at the right time”… when it is combined with anger from so many other economic, political, social and environmental inequities.
Much like Don Quixote did in the countryside of La Mancha; protesters take to the streets and areas of “occupation” with the ultimate right purpose to right wrongs, still operating within the system “as they are told.” And they have done so for the right purpose and, if naively, in what they believe to be the right way.
Unfortunately for protesters and those of us they represent, the anger may not be directed to “the right person” which in this case is “the system,” our very own federal government, owned and operated by Wall Street and those One-Percenters. In 1992 the catchy phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” was widely used in Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign against George Bush (Father). It was a phrase that pinpointed what was important then to the American electorate. Two decades later, in likely manner, our phrase should be, “it’s the system, stupid,” but we are too fainthearted to say that, as we fail to recognize that today’s American capitalism is but the ugly stepchild of what we called in the past, free-market enterprise.
Isn’t it about time we recognize who should be the right recipient of our anger? And isn’t it about time we show our outrage with the right amount of anger?