08 December 2011

Occupy Albany: Slavery advocates get reprieve

The ultimate showdown between the city of Albany and the Occupiers of Academy Park has been deferred to December 22 after the city granted the Occupiers a permit to continue their 24-hour encampment until the start of winter. The authorities had threatened to close the encampment if the Occupiers failed to correct health and safety violations discovered in an inspection last week. A reduced and consolidated encampment sporting fewer but in some cases bigger tents passed a new inspection to earn the permit -- which Occupiers continue to regard as superfluous. After the 22nd, Mayor Jennings promises that daily protests will be allowed to continue, but that an encampment would be too great a health risk to the Occupiers themselves due to wintry conditions. The question will then become whether that's one of the risks the Occupiers will be willing to take.

Meanwhile, the local paper continues to print occasional outbursts of reactionary anger, aimed either at the district attorney for failing to prosecute the Occupiers or at the Occupiers directly. In today's Times Union, Albany paranoid William Thomas takes issue with the espousal by Occupiers of Michael Albert's "Parecon" or "participatory economics." To be specific, two economics students gave a presentation on Parecon at Academy Park back on Nov. 27. As described in reporter Bryan Fitzgerald's article, under Parecon rules "Citizens would gather for consensus decisions to be made as to how much of any given product will be consumed and produced and how resources will be allocated....[W]ages should be determined by how much time, health and well-being an employee sacrifices." To these suggestions, William Thomas responds as follows:

"Participatory economics" is nothing but a dressed-up communism in which each of us will own nothing and have no real say over what we get paid or what we may buy. Your time belongs completely to your neighbors. The products you may buy are rationed by "the voters." Your pay is set by a council. That's not freedom: it is total slavery. Who will produce the goods in such a system? Who will invent? Who will work hard? And who should work, anyway, when nothing they do is under their own control?

To review: "Consensus decisions" = "each of us...will have no real say." In effect, as far as Thomas is concerned, he has "no real say" if anyone else has any say on economic matters pertaining to him. Democracy itself, as should be obvious, is incompatible with Thomas's apparent pursuit of personal autarky. Perhaps he feels less free the more people have a say. As things stand now, presuming that Thomas is an employee, his employer has the real say over what Thomas gets paid, though Thomas retains the drop-dead option of quitting his job. As a consumer, he has "real say" only to the extent that retailers offer competing prices for him to choose from -- yet if more people than the retailers had some say in the matter, Thomas would apparently presume himself less free. Nothing is under his control, he seems to believe, unless it is under his exclusive control. Whether he so exclusively controls anything at the present time remains to be verified; nevertheless, he obviously considers himself more free today than he would be under Parecon. As for the rest of his rhetorical questions, they're just plain asinine. It's just possible, after all, that if we the people set the conditions for our labor we might be motivated to work harder, or at least with more enthusiasm and perhaps even more  intelligence, than many do now. In sum, Thomas's reaction against Parecon is disproportionate to the report, reflecting more than anything else his existential alarm -- hell is other people, after all -- at the thought of a more democratic society. The Times Union editorial page dignified this pathological outburst with the headline, "Occupy members preach slavery," as if someone had raised the Stars and Bars over Academy Park. I'd call that Orwellian if I thought Thomas were that literate. Instead, let's settle for insane.


hobbyfan said...

1. You're right about William Thomas being paranoid. I think CDPC has a room reserved for him.

2. As I said before, the Occupiers need to think about moving their protest to someplace indoors, warm and safe from the elements, and within close proximity to the Capitol, to continue their vigil. No matter what kind of adjustments they make that they think can protect them from the elements this time of year, they're still running the risk of hypothermia, frostbite, etc., and thus, in this case, for once, the Mayor is right. I believe Mayor Bloomberg in NYC is doing the same thing.

Anonymous said...

@Hobbyfan: But shouldn't it be their decision whether to risk frostbite or hypothermia? Should we start eliminating the fire and police departments because "they might get shot or burned"?

As for the paranoid/delusional nutcase:
"Participatory economics" is nothing but a dressed-up communism in which each of us will own nothing and have no real say over what we get paid or what we may buy.
Typical of reactionary cranks, this man does NOT understand the basic concept of communism or socialism. Therefore, his opinion is unwarranted.
Your time belongs completely to your neighbors.
That's about the most ludicrous thing I've heard. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that his irrationality is rational. Conversely that would mean your neighbors' time belongs to you.
The products you may buy are rationed by "the voters."
As anyone who has engaged in the chaos known as "Black Friday" may attest, almost EVERYTHING is rationed, and not by local community standards, but by anonymous corporate edict.
Your pay is set by a council. Your pay is currently set by someone else's standards, not your own. At least if it is set by your fellow workers, their pay is going to be conversely set by you, so it gives you far more leverage than you would otherwise have. That is freedom.
That's not freedom: it is total slavery.
Another knee jerk reactionary who has no real definition of either "freedom" or "slavery".
Who will produce the goods in such a system? Who will invent? Who will work hard? And who should work, anyway, when nothing they do is under their own control?
Who invented most of what our technology is based on? Who invented fire? Who invented clothing? Who invented any of the technology our earliest ancestors created? Well before there was "capitalism" or "money", people created, people invented. I might conversely ask this paranoid dirtclod this: "Given that we live in a "free" society, Mr. Kneejerk Reactionary, WHAT HAVE YOU INVENTED? WHAT HAVE YOU CREATED?

Anonymous said...

As for the rest of the dirtclods in this country who are under the misunderstanding that greed and only greed is what motivates every single human being on this planet, I can only shake my head and hope for their earliest demise.

hobbyfan said...

The real question, Crhyme, is whether or not the Occupiers have even taken that into consideration before they began their crusade, if you will. As much as they believe their cause is just, is it worth putting themselves at extreme risk?