Thursday, December 1, 2011

OWS: An Addendum

I have two more things to add on developments in the OWS movement, one positive and one negative.

  • I've been horrified by the stories, pictures, and videos of unparalleled police brutality on protesters in the last few weeks. The willingness of law enforcement to use such extreme measures with so little provocation on peaceful protesters is frightening and, I assert, unjust. That the officers committing these acts are virtually immune to legal accountability is even more shocking. The OWS protesters are almost making more of a point by the reactions against them than by their own words and actions, and their courage is admirable.
  • Meanwhile, the self-righteousness displayed by some identifying with the more extreme side of the movement is not. Specifically, I groan when I see comparisons drawn between bank executives and criminals, or even vigilante efforts to punish them as such. It turns out there is no law against tanking the economy. Talking as if they were criminals replaces the law with your own conviction of right and wrong, which varies widely from person to person. Acting on these convictions, apart from the law, opens the door to anarchy. Imagine if everyone tried to take their own vision of right into their own hands. If they actually have broken real, established laws, find them and point them out rather than arguing from passion and frustration. Even if new regulations are enacted to make the practices that led to the crash illegal, they can't be applied retroactively. And condemning people for acting in their own self-interest within the established law is condemning everyone--this is exactly what policymakers should assume from people and corporations.

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