Archive for November, 2011

On Framing the Occupy Movement, Professor George Lakoff

Reblogged from here

How to frame yourself: A framing memo for Occupy Wall Street 

George Lakoff, professor of linguistics | 10/25/11

I was asked weeks ago by some in the Occupy Wall Street movement to make suggestions for how to frame the movement. I have hesitated so far, because I think the movement should be framing itself. It’s a general principle: Unless you frame yourself, others will frame you — the media, your enemies, your competitors, your well-meaning friends. I have so far hesitated to offer suggestions. But the movement appears to maturing and entering a critical time when small framing errors could have large negative consequences. So I thought it might be helpful to accept the invitation and start a discussion of how the movement might think about framing itself.

About framing: It’s normal. Everybody engages in it all the time. Frames are just structures of thought that we use every day. All words in all languages are defined in terms of frame-circuits in the brain. But, ultimately, framing is about ideas, about how we see the world, which determines how we act.

In politics, frames are part of competing moral systems that are used in political discourse and in charting political action. In short, framing is a moral enterprise: it says what the character of a movement is. All politics is moral. Political figures and movements always make policy recommendations claiming they are the right things to do. No political figure ever says, do what I say because it’s wrong! Or because it doesn’t matter! Some moral principles or other lie behind every political policy agenda.

Two moral framing systems in politics

Conservatives have figured out their moral basis and you see it on Wall Street: It includes: The primacy of self-interest. Individual responsibility, but not social responsibility. Hierarchical authority based on wealth or other forms of power. A moral hierarchy of who is “deserving,” defined by success. And the highest principle is the primacy of this moral system itself, which goes beyond Wall Street and the economy to other arenas: family life, social life, religion, foreign policy, and especially government. Conservative “democracy” is seen as a system of governance and elections that fits this model.

Though OWS concerns go well beyond financial issues, your target is right: the application of these principles in Wall Street is central, since that is where the money comes from for elections, for media, and for right-wing policy-making institutions of all sorts on all issues.

The alternative view of democracy is progressive: Democracy starts with citizens caring about one another and acting responsibly on that sense of care, taking responsibility both for oneself and for one’s family, community, country, people in general, and the planet. The role of government is to protect and empower all citizens equally via The Public: public infrastructure, laws and enforcement, health, education, scientific research, protection, public lands, transportation, resources, art and culture, trade policies, safety nets, and on and on. Nobody makes it one their own. If you got wealthy, you depended on The Public, and you have a responsibility to contribute significantly to The Public so that others can benefit in the future. Moreover, the wealthy depend on those who work, and who deserve a fair return for their contribution to our national life. Corporations exist to make life better for most people. Their reason for existing is as public as it is private.

A disproportionate distribution of wealth robs most citizens of access to the resources controlled by the wealthy. Immense wealth is a thief. It takes resources from the rest of the population — the best places to live, the best food, the best educations, the best health facilities, access to the best in nature and culture, the best professionals, and on and on. Resources are limited, and great wealth greatly limits access to resources for most people.

It appears to me that OWS has a progressive moral vision and view of democracy, and that what it is protesting is the disastrous effects that have come from operating with a conservative moral, economic, and political worldview. I see OWS as primarily a moral movement, seeking economic and political changes to carry out that moral movement — whatever those particular changes might be. Read the rest of this entry →

19

11 2011

Truly Public Art

watching this on the live stream today and hearing people respond and chant along with these beautiful projections was pure magic and inspiration.

how it all came together is equally inspiring: a collaborative effort between ows occupiers, tenants of lower manhattan housing projects, and a few media artists. the interview is here.

More images of the projections.

Update, Nov. 23: This video capture the spirit of the protests in concert with the projections:

Excellent article by Gar Alperovitz

How One Percent Grabbed So Much of Our Wealth

The economic benefits of knowledge– which belong to us all– flow to the rich

Gar Alperovitz, professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, details how the rich have commandeered the commons for their own benefit in his book Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take It Back (with Lew Daley from The New Press). See the excerpt [6] from On the Commons. Here in an essay from Truth Out[7] he shows how the commons of knowledge— a human inheritance which is rightly shared by all—has become the foundation for the 1 percent’s lavish wealth. — Jay Walljasper

Posted October 31, 2011

Of the 15 modern US-developed pharmaceutical drugs with over $1 billion in sales, 13 received significant public research and development support.

Elizabeth Warren points out [9] that there “is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.” Meaning: if the rich don’t pay their fair share of the taxes that educate their workers and provide roads, security and many other things, they are essentially stealing from everyone else.

The biggest “theft” by the 1 percent has been of the primary source of wealth—knowledge—for its own benefit.

Knowledge? Yes, of course, and increasingly so. The fact is, most of what we call wealth is now known to be overwhelmingly the product of technical, scientific and other knowledge—and most of this innovation derives from socially inherited knowledge. Which means that, except for trivial amounts, it was simply not created by the 1 percent who enjoy the lion’s share of its benefits. Most of it was created, historically, by society—which is to say, the other 99 percent.

Take an obvious example: Many of the advances that have propelled our high-tech economy in recent decades grew directly out of research programs financed and, often, collaboratively developed, by the federal government and paid for by the taxpayer. The Internet, to take the most well-known example, began as a government defense project, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), in the 1960s. Today’s vast software industry rests on a foundation of computer language and operating hardware developed, in large part, with public support. The Bill Gateses of the world might still be working with vacuum tubes and punch cards were it not for critical research and technology programs created or financed by the federal government.

The iPhone is another example: Its microchips, cellular communication abilities and global positioning system (GPS) all flowed from developments traceable to significant direct and indirect public support from the military and space programs. The “revolutionary” multi-touch screen was developed by University of Delaware researchers financially supported by the National Science Foundation and the CIA. It is not only electronics: of the 15 modern US-developed “blockbuster” drugs with over $1 billion in sales, 13 received significant public research and development support.

But taxpayer-financed government programs (including, of course, public education) are only the tip of the iceberg. And here we are not talking rhetoric, we are talking the stuff of Nobel prizes. Over the last several decades, economic research has begun to pinpoint much more precisely how much of what we call “wealth” in general derives from long, steady, century-by-century advances in knowledge—and how much any one individual at any point in time can be said to have earned and “deserved.”

Recent estimates indicate, for instance, that national output per capita has increased more than twentyfold since 1800. Output per hour worked has increased an estimated fifteenfold since 1870 alone. Yet the modern person is likely to work each hour with no greater commitment, risk or intelligence than his counterpart from the past. The primary reason for such huge gains is that, on the whole, scientific, technical and cultural knowledge has grown at a scale and pace that far outstrips any other factor in the nation’s economic achievement.

A half-century ago, in 1957, economist Robert Solow showed that nearly 90 percent of productivity growth in the first half of the 20th century alone, from 1909 to 1949, could only be attributed to technical change in the broadest sense. The supply of labor and capital—what workers and employers contribute – appeared almost incidental to this massive technological “residual.” (Solow received the Nobel Prize for this and related work in 1987.)

The truly central and demanding question is obviously this: If most of what we have today is attributable to knowledge advances that we all inherit in common, why, specifically, should this gift of our collective history not more generously benefit all members of society? The top 1 percent of US households now receives far more income than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. The richest 1 percent of households owns nearly half of all investment assets (stocks and mutual funds, financial securities, business equity, trusts, nonhome real estate). A mere 400 individuals at the top have a combined net worth greater than the bottom 60 percent of the nation taken together. If America’s vast wealth is mainly a gift of our common past, how, specifically, can such disparities be justified?

Early in the American republic, Thomas Paine urged that everything “beyond what a man’s own hands produce” was a gift that came to him simply by living in society, and, hence, “he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.”

To be sure, someone who genuinely makes a real contribution deserves to be rewarded. But today, most of what is created by all of society gets turned into wealth, and, somehow, directly or indirectly, shunted away from the 99 percent by the 1 percent. The demand of the various occupations that this theft be reversed is right on target—both in what we know about how wealth is created, and, above all, in what we know about how a just society ought to organize its affairs.

 

12

11 2011

Doug Rushkoff Teach-In @ OWS

Nothing to Declare

Invited by artist & professor E.G. Crichton to participate in Nothing to Declare, as part of her Wandering Archives project.

About the show:

Nothing to Declare is a contribution to contemporary discussion on migration, not only of people across borders, but of forms and realities across time and space, with the dysfunctional city of Manila as initial site. But instead of the subaltern who cannot speak[v], the project focuses on those who have nothing to declare –those whose marginality is source of intervention and strength, of subterfuge and resistance, of constraint as well as change.

In brief, NOTHING TO DECLARE revolves around the following interrelated themes:
1. shifting geographies emerging from diasporas, migrations, overseas work
2. shifting identities arising from movement, mobility, displacement, exchange; implying a sense of rootedness and slippage, identification and estrangement, familiarity and alienation, entitlement and distance
3. shifting spaces, connoting not just physical relocation, but mental and spiritual dis/position, as well as dislocations, gaps and silences that take place in immediate, virtual and hyper-realities
4. shifting positions, implying an appreciation of difference and a willingness to dialogue, work together, listen and engage.
5. shifting power relations, connoting multiple flows and streams of choices, constraints, control and conditions of creation, dissemination and reception
6. shifting possibilities, connoting transformations and breaking grounds where marginality – of having nothing to declare – IS source of intervention and strength, of loss as well as triumphs

As part of the Wandering Archives project, participating artists were asked to archive a queer life. I chose to examine the geographical passages of James Baldwin.

 

03

11 2011