I found this column by Anne Applebaum in the WashPost this morning interesting:
What the Occupy protests tell us about the limits of democracy
On paper, it isn’t easy to reproduce the oddity of the Occupy the London Stock Exchangerally that took place on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral last weekend. It’s all very British — people are cooking pots of porridge on the sidewalk — yet reverent homage is being paid to the original Occupy Wall Street protests, too. The London demonstrators have even adopted the “human mic” used in New York’s Zuccotti Park — the crowd in front repeats whatever the speaker says, so that the crowd in back can hear — despite the fact that megaphones and microphones have not been banned in London. The effect, as can be heard on aGuardian online video, was something like this:
“We need to have a process.” (We need to have a process!)
“This meeting was called for a reason!” (This meeting was called for a reason!)
“We know that you are there!” (We know that you are there!)
“And we have solidarity with you.” (We have solidarity with you!)
Unintentionally, it sounds a lot like a scene from the Monty Python movie “Life of Brian,” the one in which Brian, who has been mistaken for the Messiah, shouts out at the crowd, “You are all individuals!” The crowd shouts back: “We are all individuals!”
Then there was this good bit:
In New York, marchers chanted, “This is what democracy looks like,” but actually, this isn’t what democracy looks like. This is what freedom of speech looks like. Democracy looks a lot more boring. Democracy requires institutions, elections, political parties, rules, laws, a judiciary and many unglamorous, time-consuming activities, none of which are nearly as much fun as camping out in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral or chanting slogans on the Rue Saint-Martin in Paris.
Then there was this excellent ending:
Democracy is based on the rule of law. Democracy works only within distinct borders and among people who feel themselves to be part of the same nation. A “global community” cannot be a national democracy. And a national democracy cannot command the allegiance of a billion-dollar global hedge fund, with its headquarters in a tax haven and its employees scattered around the world.
Unlike the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, to whom the London and New York protesters openly (and ridiculously) compare themselves, we have democratic institutions in the Western world. They are designed to reflect, at least crudely, the desire for political change within a given nation. But they cannot cope with the desire for global political change, nor can they control things that happen outside their borders. Although I still believe in globalization’s economic and spiritual benefits — along with open borders, freedom of movement and free trade — globalization has clearly begun to undermine the legitimacy of Western democracies.
“Global” activists, if they are not careful, will accelerate that decline. Protesters in London shout,“We need to have a process!” Well, they already have a process: It’s called the British political system. And if they don’t figure out how to use it, they’ll simply weaken it further.
Amen. Bottom line, as good as the piece was, the headline is misleading. This is more about the limitations of the OWS approach.
OK, I quoted an awful lot of it, but if the Post believes I quoted TOO much, I’m sorry and will take it down. But in the meantime — I urge you to go read the whole thing, at The Washington Post.