In his column “The duty of the top 1 percent,” Harry Graver ’14 writes: “Let’s be clear, [the Occupy Wall Street protesters] are angry leftists seeking leftist goals.” In reality, the protesters count members of the Tea Party and supporters of Ron Paul among their ranks. One must be standing quite far to the right to consider such people leftists.
But by relegating the protesters to a fixed position on the political spectrum, Graver betrays the flawed paradigm that characterizes the rest of his criticisms. He does not seem to grasp that these men and women are not fighting for the change of an existing system; they are fighting for its destruction and replacement.
Graver, it seems, has either forgotten or chosen to ignore the string of Arab revolutions that began with the simple self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, on Jan. 4 and that has since rocked the region to its core. He may toss Bouazizi into his pile of angry leftists, but I — and 10 million Tunisians — count the man a hero.
Like the Tunisians, the Egyptians did not settle for sham elections, panicked “reform” or anything less than full freedom from a homegrown occupation. Their struggle against the counterrevolution is ongoing, and they deserve the American people’s full support. But again, I would remind Graver that the Egyptians did not sit at home drafting a list of goals before taking to the streets; such is not the nature of spontaneous popular uprising.
I would like to see Graver tell the masses of protesters in Tahrir Square that Mubarak and his cronies, the “top 1 percent” of Egypt, have the protestors’ interests at heart — that “any concentration of power is [not] inherently contrary to the majority’s wellbeing.” I imagine he might have had a hard time shouting over the bullets and shells so readily conveying Mubarak’s affection.
Graver’s assertion that success “comes with no inborn guilt” fundamentally presupposes that success is a function of some random collection of individualistic buzzwords (“hard work,” “perseverance” and “honesty” come to mind).
Mubarak, though, reached his position of power through coercion, violence and betrayal — essentially, through manipulation of a political free-market system in which the man willing to play most dirtily and sell out his people won the support of the United States government. Yet again, history repeats itself; the Iranian shah, too, betrayed his nation by reclaiming power in 1953 with American support in the form of Operation Ajax. Must we accept their successes as “nothing to be ashamed of”?
Graver bemoans the “horrific lack of specificity” characterizing the first throes of each of these uprisings. But this weakness was in fact a strength; it granted citizens a true impetus for civic participation — a blank slate upon which they might draw a state fulfilling their desires. As an American, I have never felt the sense of political empowerment that I imagine those present in Tahrir Square on Feb. 11 must have enjoyed.
Moreover, no coverage of the Arab revolutions leveled such a vapid accusation as Graver’s against the protesters; why is this same liberty not afforded to the Occupy Wall Street protesters?
I do not mean to suggest that the government facing the American people is as hostile, ill-meaning, violent or corrupt as that which was or is facing the brave men and women in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and nearly every Arab country. Such an accusation is ludicrous, of course.
But I strongly believe that the American people, by and large, have lost their political courage, the same courage that the Arab world seems to have recently rediscovered.
Our current political system is rotten to the core. Political parties seem content to play games of chicken, wagering our nation’s future. Dialogue, a nauseating code word for continued political stalemate, is all we can hope for in our crippled state. America’s founding mythology paints the inspiring image of a bird jumping from a cliff in the hopes that it will fly. Perhaps it is time we take the plunge once more.