A Syllabus for the ‘Occupy’ Movement

Posted by on Feb 18, 2012 at 9:55 am

1) The Higher Education Bubble and Debt Slavery Throughout History. Since ancient times, debt has been a tool used by rulers to enslave the ruled, which is why the Bible explains that the borrower is the slave to the lender. One complaint of many Occupy protesters involves their pursuit of expensive degrees that has left them burdened by student loans but unable to find suitable employment. This unit would compare the marketing of higher education and student debt to today’s students with the techniques used to lure sharecroppers and coal miners into irredeemable indebtedness. Music to be provided by Tennessee Ernie Ford.

2) Bourgeois vs. Non-Bourgeois Revolutions: A Comparison and Contrast. The Occupy movement left its major sites—McPherson Square in D.C., Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, Dewey Square in Boston—filthy and disheveled. By contrast, the tea party protests famously left the Washington Mall and other locations cleaner than they found them, with members proudly performing cleanup duties.

3) Class struggles and the New Class. Professor Kenneth Anderson of American University has suggested that the Occupy movement is best understood as a struggle between the upper and lower tiers of the elite. In recent years, the upper tier, composed of bankers, financiers, etc., has become decoupled from the lower-tier sub-elite of “Virtue Industry” workers in fields like education, nonprofit activism, social work and the like—with the latter feeling betrayed and abandoned.

4) Scapegoating and anti-Semitism in mass economic-protest movements. The Occupy movement began as an assault on “the 1%,” a shadowy elite of bankers and financiers charged with running the world for their own benefit. Within a few months, the Anti-Defamation League was noting that anti-Semitic statements and sympathies seemed surprisingly widespread within the Occupy encampments. Compare with other such movements that led to similar results. Are such developments inevitable? If so, what strands in Western (and perhaps non-Western) culture account for this?

5) The Fragility of Public Health. Young and healthy upper-middle-class Americans, when huddled into encampments without modern sanitary facilities, developed a number of diseases, ranging from scabies to lice to tuberculosis, with surprising rapidity. In addition, populations of rats and other vermin exploded. What lessons can be learned about the fragility of public health, and the complacency bred by modern sanitation? Are we similarly complacent in other areas?

6) Class Differences Within Economic Protest Movements. While the Occupy movement’s proletariat were sleeping under canvas, many of its leaders were staying in five-star hotels. Six-figure sums of money were collected, but their disbursement was cloudy. Does every movement, however egalitarian in doctrine, inevitably produce its own overclass? Are “egalitarian” movements more prone to such outcomes? Readings: George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” Li Zhi-Sui’s “The Private Life of Chairman Mao.”

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