Since the #OccupyWallStreet movement started, the liberal blogosphere has weighed in in their usual fashion - which is to say they've taken a pro or con position and fought it out amongst themselves. PRO (here, here, here, here and here); CON (here, here, here, here here and here).
The position of those on the con side is generally that the movement lacks clearly-articulated demands. As many people have pointed out, what they're protesting seems pretty clear. Here is a statement from We Are the 99% (which, if you haven't seen it, do so immediately):
We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.
That seems fairly clear. But I'm sure the con camp would say that the occupiers need clear-cut demands - they need a plan for how to remedy the fact that 1% of the population controls almost all of the wealth.
Gee, wouldn't it be great is if we had a bunch of progressives who were paid to think about such things full time? Maybe whole groups of people who wrote endlessly about politics, economics and how to make a more equal society? So yeah, you get my point - that would be the progressive blogosphere (including not only bloggers, but also think tanks, etc.)
Why isn't the Left jumping in and providing suggestions? Why isn't it reaching out to the protesters, offering to answer questions, to provide expertise? To my knowledge, only one blogger/think tanker did - Mike Konczal. (And bravo Mike Konczal!) Other than that, the entire progressive blogosphere - with a single voice - just chose a side (with more than a little hippie punching, by the way).
Really, the progressive blogosphere has an opportunity - a very rare opportunity - to actually be useful. Many bloggers/think tankers have applicable expertise and can explain complex problems and solutions (e.g. Financial Transaction Taxes, various technical solutions for debt forgiveness, etc.)
Because here's the thing: We're talking about a difficult fucking problem here. The corporations and financial cabal are global and our political system has been completely corrupted. Everyone knows the top 1% have all the money and all the power, but we don't know what to do:
We are ... living through an epoch ... in which there is no available mechanism to oust a political-economic elite whose interests have become incompatible with ours.
This is not some sudden development, much less a coup d’etat as is sometimes claimed. No, the accretion of power by the rentiers has been systematic, structural and the outcome of a decades-long process. It is deeply rooted in modern capitalist economies due to the transformation of corporations into tradable, recombinant portfolios of assets, increasing concentration of and returns to ownership, and the failure of regulation to keep pace with technology and transnational scale....
The real problem is political, and it is profound. Unless we can unseat the class that sees the world only through its portfolios, they may well take us all the way down. Unfortunately, no one seems to have a clue how such a revolution can be engineered in a modern, complex, transnational economy.
And that's not a clueless kid writing, its an economist. Criticizing the Occupy Wall Street protesters for not immediately presenting a plan to solve these problems is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, it's hard not to see such criticism as disingenuous given the palpable scorn that accompanies many of the dismissals.
These mostly young people took to the streets to say: Enough! I don't know how anyone could be expected to do any better. But I was really taken watching this video where the OWS protesters are interviewing Chris Hedges - they had so many questions for him. They were asking how to reach more people, how to be more effective, what their goals should be. What progressives with relevant expertise should be doing is listening to their questions (they're producing considerable content online and they're live streaming daily) and trying to provide: better articulation of what they're hearing from the protesters, information that addresses the protesters questions and a range of possible solutions.
The progressive intelligensia potentially has an important role to fill. Thus far, the Left has dropped the ball, but obviously it's not too late. It's pretty clear that these young people are just getting started.
Update: Fellow Kossack Swellsman takes up the challenge. Bravo!
Cross-posted at Plutocracy Files.