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A mathematician looks at Occupy

This is a great post from MathBabe. The context is making scientific publishing less oligarchic and more democratic*, but here's what she has to say about Occupy:

The Occupy Wall Street movement means a lot of things to a lot of people, but one of the things it pretty much universally represents is the concept of agency.

Instead of sitting passively by and allowing a dysfunctional system to detract from a culture, the participants in Occupy want to object, to reform the system, and if that doesn’t work, to build a new system. And the crucial point is that they feel that they have the right (if not obligation) to do so. Moreover, they wish to construct a new paradigm built on democratic understanding of the shared goals of the system itself, rather than letting whomever is in power decide how things work and who benefits.

I agree. And people like MathBabe are equipped to do this, and are doing it.

I wish I had a better metaphor than branding -- readers? -- but clearly the Occupy brand has great value. Strategically.

NOTE * I imagine it would also be nice to avoid fraud and reveal conflicts of interest, but maybe that's just oligarchy in action. And see here! Boycott, a non-violent tactic.

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Submitted by MontanaMaven on

Perhaps the latest generations can see that a system can be upgraded or replaced altogether with something better. My friends in the Edwards campaign used to use this metaphor all the time in philosophical discussions after 2004. But the Occupy movement took it out of the salons and into the streets.

The Constitution has always been geared to "keep the economy going"; to protect private property from the public. It was constructed to have our "betters" rule over the rabble, the termites. So we have an executive branch that rules. It has a figurehead with a retinue of grad school "best and the brightest". (Har! Har!) It is designed for theft by the few. Hugh often says, "It's a feature, not a bug". So I don't think you can just delouse it or use Spring Cleaning. You need a whole new operating system. One that is more user friendly.

I will look to historians, anthropologists, and philosophers for guidance on this. The MAUSS movement in France calls into question the assumptions of the free market system. They are looking at gift societies. In those, Exchange is about creating friendships, or working out rivalries, or obligations, and only incidentally moving around valuable goods.

Sam Smith talked about copywrights on Monday on Mark Thompson's show. Music used to be communal, he said. You sang together. Like a church and choir or around the fire. You did not "purchase" music.

I would recommend Gar Aparovitz and Lew Daly's "Unjust Deserts" for a way forward.
There is an alternative.

Submitted by lambert on

... but I don't think the Windows 3.0 metaphor is on point, except as a trope for "old and clunky."

If the political system is like a computer (network), it feels to me like somebody has gotten illicit root access, reconfigured everything, stolen a lot of files, and ruined a lot more. They've also installed a bot that's going out and doing the same thing to other systems.