October 20, 2011

Brendan O’Neill: Occupy movement is the death rattle of the old Left

Filed under: Economics, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:46

For a self-described man of the left, Brendan O’Neill is not afraid to critique leftist movements:

In the increasingly whiffy camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, amid placards declaring ‘The End is Nigh’, apparently a new kind of politics is being born. Young women talk about ‘politics starting again’. The media cheerleaders of the Occupy movement claim it represents ‘a substantive change not just to the nature of modern politics, but to the way in which it is done, demanded and delivered’. From New York to Madrid to Tokyo, the inhabitants of the so-called tent cities proudly declare themselves ‘citizens of a new world’.

Is all this occupying really the start of something new? No. And not only because on the rare occasion when the protesters issue a coherent demand they end up echoing ideas we’ve heard a thousand times before. (Their call for tougher independent regulation of the financial industry was pilfered from the Financial Times.) More fundamentally, their globally contagious protest represents the death agony of something old rather than the birth pang of something new. What we’re witnessing is the demise of the progressive left, but — and here is the Occupy movement’s twist — that demise is dolled up as something good, something positive, where instead of addressing the vacuum at the heart of modern left-wing thinking, the occupiers make a virtue out of it.

Around the world, the occupiers are adapting to the decayed state of radical left-wing thinking, moulding themselves around the organisational and political disarray of the left. All the negative things about the left today — the lack of big ideas, the dearth of daring leaders, the withering of organisational structures — are repackaged as positives. Leaderlessness is transformed into a virtue, the enabler of a fairer, more consensual form of politics. The absence of overarching ideology is sexed up as ‘liberation from dogma’. Even the thoughtlessness of the Occupy movement, both in terms of its lack of deep thinking and the way it has spread across the globe in a fairly thoughtless, meme-like fashion, is turned into a good thing: this is ‘unthought’, declares one observer, where creeds emerge ‘without much articulation of why they’re necessary, [almost] as reflexes’.

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