Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It’s about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it’s flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.
Impact. Pursuing the paycheck first and last is a great way to spend your life desperately unfulfilled. Insanely great work isn’t motivated by glittering jackpots — but by an abiding desire to, as Steve Jobs put it, make a dent in the universe. So take a deep breath and aim squarely at the lofty apex of human accomplishment — while stepping firmly onto the grimy pavement.
People. Life is about people, not product. If you’re spending 80% of your time on “product”, you’re not fully alive. Lasting relationships aren’t built by “networking” but by caring. This means investing in people, not just grinning at them. Hence, if you want to “connect,” you probably have to do what’s more dangerous than merely swapping email addresses or biz cards — you have to relate.
Purpose. What is the fundamental reason you are here? To conquer the next pair of designer trophy jeans? Hardly. Brands are for cattle, strategy is for games, and consumers are for “output.” Human life is about lasting outcomes, not just short-term payoffs; hence, I’d say the stuff of razor-sharp purpose begins there. Which human outcomes are you here to transform?
Courage. Compromising too readily with the past never creates the future. It only recreates the past. You can’t find fertile new ground by dully plodding along after the herd — you’ve got to veer off in a different direction. So dream bigger. Be hopelessly naïve. And persevere unflinchingly.
Self-respect. If your society’s going haywire, it’s up to you to begin fixing it. If your work is sucking at your soul, and you see it doing relentless damage to people and society, quit and do something else. No, it’s not easy — but odds are, the axe is going to fall over the next decade anyways. Value your inner life as much as you value your outer stuff. Stop buying into marketing’s spin-cycle of self-loathing — “Feeling anxious? Buy this, now!!” — and start investing your time, energy, and imagination in action instead of stuff.
Did you see a good Hollywood Marxist movie? John Carpenter’s They Live, you know, where a guy finds some strange sunglasses, puts them on, and he sees the true message. For example, you have an advertisement for a Hawaii vacation, you put on the glasses, and what you see is, “Be stupid, enjoy, don’t think”. So whenever you read the official media, imagine yourself putting these glasses on. I remember seeing, recently, an ad to help starving children in Africa. It said, “For the price of a couple of cappuccinos, you can save this child’s life.” Let’s put the glasses on. What you see is, “For the price of a couple of cappuccinos, we allow you not only no longer to feel guilty but even to feel as if you are really doing something about poverty without really doing anything”. We have to get rid of pseudo activities. For example, organic food. It’s good to buy, I buy it. But remember what the danger. Is it not true that many of us buy it because it makes you feel good? “Look, I’m doing something to help the mother earth. I’m part of a wonderful project of humanity”. You know, it’s an easy way out.
This neurosis is the foundation upon which successive governments could declare war on joblessness, pretending to wage a “battle on unemployment” while ex-managers camped with their cell phones in Red Cross shelters along the banks of the Seine. While the Department of Labor was massively manipulating its statistics in order to bring unemployment numbers below two million. While welfare checks and drug dealing were the only guarantees, as the French state has recognized, against the possibility of social unrest at each and every moment. It’s the psychic economy of the French as much as the political stability of the country that is at stake in the maintenance of the workerist fiction.
Excuse us if we don’t give a fuck.
We belong to a generation that lives very well in this fiction. That has never counted on either a pension or the right to work, let alone rights at work. That isn’t even “precarious,” as the most advanced factions of the militant left like to theorize, because to be precarious is still to define oneself in relation to the sphere of work, that is, to its decomposition. We accept the necessity of finding money, by whatever means, because it is currently impossible to do without it, but we reject the necessity of working. Besides, we don’t work anymore: we do our time. Business is not a place where we exist, it’s a place we pass through. We aren’t cynical, we are just reluctant to be deceived. All these discourses on motivation, quality and personal investment pass us by, to the great dismay of human resources managers. They say we are disappointed by business, that it failed to honor our parents’ loyalty, that it let them go too quickly. They are lying. To be disappointed, one must have hoped for something. And we have never hoped for anything from business: we see it for what it is and for what it has always been, a fool’s game of varying degrees of comfort. On behalf of our parents, our only regret is that they fell into the trap, at least the ones who believed.
Outside in the cold Tuesday morning, the demonstrators continued their fourth day of the protest with a march amidst a heavy police presence and the ringing of an opening bell at 9.30am for a “people’s exchange”, just as the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange is rung. While the bankers remained secure in their bailed-out banks, outside, the police began arresting protesters. In a just world, with a just economy, we have to wonder: who would be out in the cold? Who would be getting arrested?’