THE BLOG
07/10/2013 12:05 pm ET | Updated Sep 09, 2013

Tahrir to Occupy and Back: Now What?

Some observations en route:

We have not evolved organizational political forms that allow/encourage humans to distribute power, and in particular to interact effectively with agency and respect, to integrate, accommodate, and where appropriate discard minority interests.

We can communicate online at warp speed to organize: protests and expressions of discontent without the ability to plug ourselves into (or create) effective mechanisms for implementing structural solutions.

The U.S. system of checks and balances was drafted to advance and protect the interests of the powerful minority of landed, wealthy slave-owning white men in the colonies from the marauding interests of the British (whose ouster we celebrated ostentatiously this past weekend) and the actual majority of the population: poor people, servants and women. We're now meant to accept the resulting arrangement as both democratic and ideal, and defined by the exercise of electing someone to power for a given term with 51 percent of a rigged majority. While parliamentary systems at least offer the prospect to cohere discontent in the form of opposing parties, neither they nor proportional voting have proven to be much more effective.

We are stymied at the imperative to effectively distinguish between the rights that should be accorded to or withdrawn from powerful minorities like the Koch Brothers, corporate boards of directors, the Muslim Brotherhood, the maddened anti-abortion right, and Senate Republicans, even if some of us elect them; and those with less power, both majorities and minorities.

The marginally enfranchised groups that rose up to Occupy could never have resolved all this, though they contributed a lot. The attempt to set up ground rules for the daily meetings communicated critical messages to the public although it ended, as anarchism typically does. We'd like them to muster the wherewithal to get organized, but how, with whom, for what? AdBusters now sells glossy editions at high-end grocery stores for $12.95, recycling Fanon and Derrida. Probably not the answer. And youth movements will inevitably be driven in part by issues of identity and hormones.

John Roberts has clearly mustered sufficient analysis of all this to achieve conservative goals while keeping uprising at bay. Progressives need to similarly analyze our opportunities, points of leverage, and prospects to achieve the degree of radical change demanded by truly impending crises ranging from climate change to the next financial collapse.

Occupy and Tahrir pointed us back to some powerful concepts like redefining majority interests, and powerful tools, from click activism to mass mobilizations. We (or someone) need/s to figure out how to figure out how to use them

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?