Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Shrinking Pains

These migraines are ridiculous. So many, so bad. I have one today that's just bad; still managing to gingerly move around and carefully made my way to a coffeeshop downtown (really wanted to get out of my apartment). I know that once the weather restabilises I'll be ok; Fall is when I get migraines with about five times the frequency of other seasons, but making it through each fall (as well as the worsening weather) is a burden. The one I got a few days ago strongly tempted me to just lie down on the sidewalk and close my eyes to make the pain lessen, let whatever else happen may. Obviously a bad idea, and I didn't do it, but I almost did. Next time I'm insured I'll have to deal with this... and maybe counseling for the mess that was my second grade.

I have two upcoming interviews, with TED and MIT. I plan not to decide on one until I have offers from both (or one definitively doesn't offer). Either way, I'm looking at leaving PHL soon. The city has grown on me (significantly once I got in the habit of entering the city proper, but also because I've lowered my expectations; PHL is not a city that tickles my fancy, but it doesn't have glaring faults either and I've found enough nice places to be ok) but I don't think I'll miss it. If I move to NYC, that seems like it'll be a nervous process; even parking a U-Haul sounds like a bear. Right now I'm starting to figure out how to decide between TED-NYC and MIT-Cambridge in case I am offered both. So far it turns out to be plenty of comparisons between good-and-great on various axes.

The Livejournal API seems to be broken; I'm manually syncing my posts at the moment. I'm hoping there's a reasonably simple fix (that doesn't require me to rewrite the syncing code for my blog platform too much); I don't imagine I'll find it worth the bother to keep doing this by hand in the long term.

I recently had a Twitter argument with a tea partier, and like many tea partiers I've met, he's anti-university, doesn't believe in global warming or evolution, and seemed unable to substantiate any of his claims. Still, I think it's important that people be pushing (separately or together) both strong liberal positions and strong scientific positions; we should not be as tepid as Obama, nor as batshit-crazy-mad as Beck or Limbaugh, but rather the smart, principled people with the facts to support our claims and the philosophy to defend the things we hold (well, and we need to be willing to yield ground on the fact that the Democratic party is pretty corrupt, just like the Republican party). Anyhow, he made comparisons between the Tea Party rallies and Occupy. That's an interesting topic; ignoring his specific claims (which were not based on either being observant at Tea Party rallies or presumably actually going to Occupy protests, some reflections on comparisons:

First, where I am:
*I have been to a few Tea Party protests in Pittsburgh, going there to counterprotest. This mainly led to a lot of reasonably calm conversations.
*I have been to [|OccupyPhilly] many times, generally in the late afternoon up until the late evening.
*I have been to a lot of other liberal protests of various types in various cities
*A long time ago, I went to libertarian and ecological protests in undergrad

So, what can we say about similarities and differences between the Tea Party and Occupy protests?
*Occupy really is that. People have been sleeping there in tents, and the city's homeless have (in limited numbers) joined the camp. There are some protest services, including food and blanket distribution, portable restrooms, medical facilities, safety training, security, a library, and a limited amount of AV equipment. The Tea Party protests are limited-duration rallies after which everyone leaves
*Occupy is much more diverse in terms of race and socioeconomic background. There are christians, there are atheists, there are a handful of muslims, there are new-agers. There are a lot of blacks, some hispanics, a lot of whites, a few semitics, and here and there indians and orientals. At tea party rallies, people were overwhelmingly white, with some jewish folk and here and there a black person. Occupy had everyone from the homeless to suburbanites, while the tea party seems to be primarily suburbanite with a few rural people bussed in.
*Occupy feels more democratic. There are still people framing questions and ensuring a certain structure of how decisions are made, with most of the content for general assembly meetings coming out of committees. Those committees seem to be pretty open though, and they keep strongly nudging people to get involved by joining one or more of them. The general assembly votes are pretty lively too; random people can offer amendments (as I did, with my amendment to one motion approved) or ask for clarification of matters, and there's a pretty expected variation in what passes and what doesn't. The Tea Party rallies seemed to be more preplanned (no idea by whom) with no significant decisionmaking done by the average participant.
*Communication felt more bidirectional at Occupy, with the signals of hand gestures continuing to evolve (there's now a "get on with it, we are bored with this" signal, which is much welcomed). The Tea Party seems to be more an artefact of the model of centralised production of decisions.
*Occupy doesn't really seem to have a focus, and this is a persistent problem with it. There's a smorgasboard of issues, and there've been many (not terribly successful) efforts to use surveys to figure out what everyone's there for. The Tea Party has a (reasonably) coherent message.
*Neither Occupy nor the Tea Party "leave the area cleaner", despite some claims by the Tea Party that they do. Protests are always messy, whatever the politics are. Occupy does smell considerably worse though, partly because there are a few irritating people who think the natural smell of human bodies is wonderful (IMO, those people should be shunned), partly because a fair subset of the people there have been staying for the 20+ days it's been going on, and partly because the shower and restroom facilities are inadequate.
*Both have considerable churchly involvement, but different churches and in different ways. The Quakers seem to be the backbone of many social services at Occupy, and seem content not to brand it too much. Other churches seem to be offering prayer services and food. At the Tea Party rallies, a fair number of religious leaders spoke (but because it's a different kind of protest, no social services were provided or really needed)
*The police have usually been reasonably decent to both Occupy and the Tea Party. Occupy's been pushing the limits of legality more than the Tea Party by the nature of its mission, which in many other cities has involved trespassing en masse. I have no comment on Oakland in particular, but it's worth reading about (as a particularly blunt conflict between protesters and police).
*The moonbat factor is moderate at both Occupy and the Tea Party.
*There are LP-libertarians at both. They're way-off-to-the-side at OccupyPHL (and kind of grumbly about that), while in the Tea Party rallies I've been to, they were just additional participants with signs and had no official role.
*Occupy has occasional problems with security and order, particularly given their explicit friendliness with the homeless of the city. Initially they tried letting the homeless talk without any caution, leading to a lot of very long drunken/insane rambling on the mic. They seem to have learned to make sure someone's sane and nonrambly before letting them anywhere near centre-stage or a mic, which I think is pretty sensible. Occupy's approach to keeping conflict managable is based on training people in conflict deescalation, which I think is a fantastic thing to try. Occupy doesn't have robust ways to deal with when this does not work though, and their intent not to use police has occasionally bitten them hard, making people feel unsafe. The Tea Party protests preplan every aspect of who can speak and are not that friendly to anyone who doesn't seem to be there for the reason they are, and they use police to maintain order.

Most other differences flow from that.

As a social experiment, Occupy is fascinating. They're making a valiant effort to creating a relatively messy but vibrant democracy and providing all the general services. Apart from the obvious skills difference and politics, if I had to be part of a group of 100 people dumped on a fresh planet and hoping to build a new society, I'd definitely go with occupiers rather than tea partiers, but:
*I would like a less hostile attitude towards proper police and police power. I believe abstracting enforcement of law from the immediate framing of the people is an important part of a government if we want reasonable consistency. We probably do want to add a fluid system of shunning alongside formal law, but we need law and police too (where I don't commit to more meaning in law than the idea of predecided and reasonably consistent rules for society, and police that will impartially enforce that, and judges that will generally consistently apply it, possibly extending and cultivating it occasionally in the common law tradition). Occupy feels like a living society, and the Tea Party feels like watching TV.

The habits of self-sustaining civilisation and democracy seem strong among the occupy camp, but they highlight one of the biggest failures of modern civilisation; we should've been doing that all the time. Liberal or conservative or something else, the social organisation I've seen in occupy is powerful, but it should not need to have been revived and recreated from nothing in modern times. We should be conversing this way, across political lines, in town halls across the nation, with universal participation. Maybe we should've been devoting a day for this in every neighbourhood or town and requiring reasonable participation to vote, or maybe this idea of TV plus the ballot box being the start and end of American democracy was the problem. Either way, this lesson and these habits should not end whenever Occupy does, and it should not retreat into small collectives. If we really want to spread democracy across the world, it should not be this sterile, controlled, centrally-produced thing we all grew up with.
Tags: philosophy, politics

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