Beggar In The Morning by The Barr Brothers off of Barr Brothers.
The Article: At Occupy Camps, Veterans Bring the Wars Home by Tina Dupuy at the Atlantic.
The Text: We’re in a coffee shop near McPherson Square, the location of Occupy DC, and Michael Patterson, 21, and I are having hot cocoa on a cold November night. He’s wearing an Iraq Veterans Against the War sweatshirt and baggy shorts. It’s freezing outside. “I’m from Alaska,” he offers as an explanation. He’s been sleeping in a tent in D.C. for over a month now. I’ve traveled to five Occupations in two countries. In every demonstration (including the one in Canada) I’ve found a vet to talk to:
In Zuccotti Park, Army Specialist Jerry Bordeleau, 24, was sitting next to a table of IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) literature. On his sweater were two buttons: an Iraq Campaign metal and one from the IWW. He served two tours in Iraq and now says he’s unemployed and can’t find work for over $10 an hour. And he can’t live on $10 an hour. When I asked him why he’s at Occupy Wall Street he says, “I went and fought for capitalism and that’s why I’m now a Marxist.”
At Occupy Baltimore, I met 21-year-old Justin Carson, who tells me he served in the Army National Guard in Iraq from 2009 until this February. His nickname is Crazy Craze. He says he has PTSD and is bipolar but won’t “do pharmaceuticals.” Then he told me I should look into the Illuminati since I’m writing an article.
It was a surprise to meet Iraq war vets at these protests. There are only, after all, around a million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in what was once dubbed the War on Terror.
Their presence became national news when Iraq vet and former Marine Scott Olsen’s skull was fractured by a non-lethal round fired by police in Oakland in late-October. A week later in New York, around 30 vets held a solidarity march from Zuccotti Park to the Stock Exchange. They had a rally at the park afterward where Bordeleau spoke. “This is the first major movement for social change we’ve seen in this country since the ’70s,” he said to me.
At Occupy DC, a painting of Scott Olsen in uniform is draped on the side of a tent. He’s become a symbol of the Occupation Movement — he fought overseas only to be injured when exercising his “freedom” of peaceful assembly at home. His name has become a shorthand to talk about why so many vets are at Occupy Wall Street.
“There’s a reason Scott Olsen got shot in the head,” says Patterson, looking down at his chain-restaurant hot cocoa. “Because he was out front.”
The Article: Six Questions for Slavoj Žižek by J. Nicole Jones in Harpers.
The Text: For a philosopher who claims to eschew the carnivalesque, Slavoj Žižek creates quite a circus wherever he goes. After his concluding remarks as host of a recent conference in New York called Communism: A New Beginning?, the Marxist thinker, whose marriage of pop culture and theory has made him possibly the most famous Slovenian ever, was immediately mobbed by admirers. Like a rock star, he headed for the back door, leading me through a meandering underground passageway before we emerged to the streets of Manhattan. As we made our way to a nearby café, he collected a new entourage around him — mostly autograph-seekers and undergraduate fanboys grilling him for term-paper advice. He obliged the autograph-hunters, asked that aspiring intellectuals email him with specific questions, and initially insulted a man who wanted a photograph, saying “One idiot more!” The man withdrew his request with polite apologies, and a strange tug of war ensued as Žižek then insisted on being photographed.
Žižek seems to thrive on contradiction. As we spoke, he veered from one stream of thought to another in his famously thick accent. Although he claimed at one point to prefer solitude, he delighted in making attention-drawing remarks — proclaiming with impish glee, for example, that Gandhi was technically more violent than Hitler, or advising me to tell panhandlers, “Yes I have some change. Fuck off!”
The week before, he had spoken at Occupy Wall Street, where he championed the movement and told a cheering crowd, “We are not dreamers. We are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare.” When we reached the café, I asked him about the experience, the prospects for the Occupy movement, and the new beginning he was pondering for communism:
1. When you visited Zuccotti Park, what did you think of the Occupy Wall Street protesters? What are they doing right, and what are they doing wrong?
It’s difficult to answer this question because I was tired, I had to work a lot, so I literally came there three minutes before I did it. I instantly disappeared. You know, this may be part of my character, but that’s how I function. There is a certain cliché about communists or radicals. They usually say, you like humanity in abstract, but you don’t like concrete people. You are even ready to kill them for humanity. Okay, fuck it. If this is it, then I am definitely a totalitarian. I like humanity, maybe great works of art, but the majority of the people I don’t like. I like to be alone. For example, you have seen it today, how my first reaction was just to disappear. I like so much to be alone. I just have a couple of friends.
So again also for theoretical reasons, I don’t think that mingling with them, whatever, would have brought any special, deep insight. I would probably have heard just these stupidities — “We want justice, ooh, one percent has so much money, blah blah blah.”
I do [sense] a readiness to question the fundamentals of the system. Even with radical liberal leftists, it was [formerly] within the existing system: less racism, more freedom to women, abortion, divorce. The basic insight I see is that clearly for the first time, the underlying perception there is a flaw in the system as such. It’s not just the question of making the system better.
2. The title of the conference you’ve just hosted is “Communism: A New Beginning?” I wonder if communism isn’t a devalued brand. Why not find a new word for it?
I’m well aware of this. The PR, public relations problem. Many friends are telling me, “Listen, we agree with everything, but why use this terrible term, which has such a horrifying connotation — gulag, whatever, no?” My reason is that, first, in the radical tradition, millenarian movements [were] egalitarian revolts, and I would like to keep fidelity to that tradition.