Today marks the 1-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street (See my previous posts here and here) a global social movement that brought income inequality in the national consciousness. In a recent piece in The Nation, activist and anthropologist David Graeber, highlights the system that reinforces the relationship between the have’s and the have-nots, the creditors and the debtors, the owners and the workers:
The rise of OWS allowed us to start seeing the system for what it is: an enormous engine of debt extraction. Debt is how the rich extract wealth from the rest of us, at home and abroad. Internally, it has become a matter of manipulating the country’s legal structure to ensure that more and more people fall deeper and deeper into debt.
Early on, Occupy was criticized for not having a clear set of demands. Today, Graeber writes:
Occupy was right to resist the temptation to issue concrete demands. But if I were to frame a demand today, it would be for as broad a cancellation of debt as possible, followed by a mass reduction of working hours—say to a five-hour workday or a guaranteed five-month vacation. If such a suggestion seems outrageous, even inconceivable, it’s just a measure of the degree to which our horizons have shrunk. After all, only fifty years ago many people assumed we would have gotten to such a point by now. It is only by breaking the power of the engines of extraction that we can once again begin to think on a scale and grandeur appropriate to the times.
Many of you have probably seen or at least heard about the film Kony 2012 which has been trending on twitter and making the rounds on facebook. It seeks to motivate people to speak out against the Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony and bring him to justice for the atrocities and suffering he has imposed upon Ugandan people and children. The film has spread virally and seems to be especially directed at, and disseminated by 18-22 year olds. Intially at least, it appears to have achieved its objective to publicize Kony as a war criminal in the hopes that this publicity will bring him to justice and presumably end the suffering of those in Uganda. But there has also been a lot of criticism associated with the film. See this video and this article. Is it possible that this film does more harm than good? Does it represent a neo-colonial style of thinking? I am curious to know your thoughts.
Update: a poignant picture
In the previous post I linked to articles that discuss the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting. It is worth pointing out that this practice is not unique to non-western countries. As this article indicates “designer vaginas” are increasingly popular in America and England.
There are 4 articles (see below) in module 2 that discuss female genital cutting practices. How does this debate relate to an understanding of cultural relativism? What is your opinion regarding this practice?
Try to read these in order.
In the comments to the last post many of you sympathized with the Occupy movement but argued that it needs to rethink its tactics (e.g. “wrong way of going about it” “need a clear message” “not realistic” and my favorite “organized temper tantrum”) 🙂 This article written by anthropologist David Graeber addresses some of the issues raised in your comments. Rather than being an incoherent and angry mass of people with no agenda, Graeber argues that the movement is characterized by anarchist principles that are democratic, egalitarian and intentionally do not recognize the legitimacy of existing political institutions.