Occupy Wall Street and Its Ultimate Question, Beginning with Frank Miller

I will admit that I haven’t kept up with Frank Miller. I read his Batman books and Sin City, but that is the extent of my knowledge of the man. I only know him through his work–neo-fascism on the one hand, decadence on the other, and vigilantism on both.

Yesterday, I ran across his blog after hearing something about a new book that he has out called Holy Terror. I have not read it, so I will not pass judgement on it. However, I will say that some folks in the blogosphere are calling it nuts for its depiction of Islam, the US response to radical Islam, and the need of the US people to support a government unleashed.

Back to Miller’s blog: He wrote an ad hominem attack against who he believes the Occupy Wall Street are. He attempts to totalize OWS in the very way that the media has been befuddled to make sense of it all. This is a good thing, because the OWS movement is heterogeneous and inclusive. It resists totalization as much as each member thumbs his or her nose at centers of wealth and power.

Miller jumps the tracks, worrying more about his “enemies of mine”: “al-Qaeda and Islamicism.” The First Amendment “exercise” called OWS is “nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.” He has nothing but contempt for those he considers “babies” and “schmucks.” The implicit message is that Miller, via his blog–a theme he repeats here, is righteous in his condemnation of OWS.

I have spoken privately about the OWSers to friends, but I haven’t written about them here. I think that I should redress that omission on dynamicsubspace.net.

The OWSers, I believe, recognize the limits of Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life. Certeau argues that resistance against power–institutionalized in governments or networks of capital–can take place on the microscale, by individual actions, that additively will make a difference by changing the systems of oppression for the better of everyday people.

Others have said that as certainly we can vote at the polls, we can vote with our dollars. Now that a super minority in the US holds most of the dollars, those with the dollars get to do the voting. This is the wisdom passed down from the Supreme Court in the Citizens United v FEC case.

The OWS crowd are fed up with the way things are: fewer jobs, fewer well-paying jobs, fewer opportunities to put college degrees into practice, fewer chances to be an entrepreneur, and fewer ways to accumulate even a meager level of personal wealth. They are fed up with high rents and gridlocked government. They are angry at the continuing stinginess of big business in terms of hiring and spreading their accumulated wealth. They wonder where has American innovation in government and business gone? Is the iPhone the high water mark, and if so, what does that mean for the future? As certainly as the iPhone was designed in California, it was built a world away. The jobs in the States for the iPhone are at the top or the bottom, but there are very few in the middle. Furthermore, they beg their elected representatives to provide some solution since business seems unwilling to do anything of lasting value for the American people. Unfortunately, Congress is deciding how best to restrict bodily and cultural rights of its citizens–the very people who put them in power to begin with. On a smaller level, on the local level, it is elected mayors and other leaders who want to shut OWS down–no more protesting, no more occupying, no more voice.

The OWS is all of this and more. That’s what’s so amazing, wonderful, and scary about these seeds of unrest around the country. This is very likely the beginning of something far greater and hopefully more influential than the Tea Party. Like the so-called Moral Majority of a previous generation, the Tea Party is orchestrated from the top by some wealthy persons who can use Citizens United v FEC to influence elections. Part of that influence has to do with convincing some folks who don’t have any money to buy into the flawed logic of ultra-conservatism. For example, the idea that the US government should be reduced in terms of spending and in terms of services while history teaches us that America’s rise to greatness was facilitated in part by luck coupled with an explosion of governmental expansions and spending. If we cut our government back to pre-1900 size, we can welcome a period of backwardness and insignificance as certain as our post-revolution standing in the world.

Perhaps a thread running through OWS is the question regarding the future of the US. If our government defaults, not on its loans, but on its citizenry by catering to the ultra-wealthy and big business, then what future will there be, not for the idea of the US, but for what really makes the US work, its people?


Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.