Friday, 28 October 2011
The Occupy Wall Street Carnival
I am currently reading ‘A Secular Age’ by Charles Taylor. The author distinguishes between the modern self as ‘buffered’ and the earlier mode of existence as that of a ‘porous self’. The earlier society – before the secular age, society was in an equilibrium which was maintained by specific release mechanisms which allowed those in the lower ranks of society to release the tension i.e. blow off steam that resulted from the controlled life imposed by the church and state. Such things as Carnival, the feasts of misrule or boy bishops allowed for the existing world to be turned upside down for a brief period and in that way maintained the equilibrium of the exiting universe.
Taylor holds that all structure needs anti-structure. By structure he emphasizes the code of behaviour of a society which is defined by the different roles and statuses and the associated rights and duties, powers and powerlessness. These structures of course exist in a secular society comprised of many ‘buffered’ selfs.It occurred to me that in totalitarian regimes as the Taliban that maintain control using harsh measures the equilibrium is maintained through equally harsh public spectacles such as stoning of adulterers and other sinners. These events take the place of Carnival of past eras in the only way that is acceptable to the regimes.
Likewise in our secular culture of the Western world the anti-structure is maintained through public events such as football matches or other sporting events with accompanying hooliganism or riots such as the recent Vancouver post Stanley Cup events. I believe the ‘Occupy Movement’ is a manifestation of the need for modern anti-structure where people become aware of the increasing economic inequities for which there do not seem to be established anti-structure ceremonies built into society. Governments seem less willing to provide the means to address inequalities therefore the Occupy Movement Carnival has sprung up in response. It remains to be seen if the movement will peter out naturally and the equilibrium will be re-established basically unchanged or it will lead to structural changes that will mitigate the need for spontaneous economic Carnivals. Perhaps the masters of Wall Street should consider setting up organized feasts of misrule on a regular basis which will satisfy the needs of the 99% underclass. Or perhaps government officials will throw a few symbolic representatives of the 1% to the lions of the legal system and give us a release of a mandatory perp-walk with the accompanying prison time instead of time in the public stocks.