Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Mike Davis: Letter to Leland Conway

[A response to Leland Conway's column in the Lexington Herald-Leader]

Letter to Mr. Conway
North of Center

The following is a direct response to some of the misinformation regarding the Occupy movement that appeared in an editorial printed in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday, October 10. The op-ed was written by one Leland Conway.

First of all, I’m here nearly all the time, and after two days of inquiries I can’t find a single organizer who has even seen you here, let alone spoken to you. If you had spoken to anyone in an organizational role, then you would know that ending capitalism is not a stated goal. You would also be aware that none here advocate “government command and control of the economy,” although we’re quite against the economy’s current command and control of our government.

As you deride us for our current lack of focused talking points, consider this: Without stated demands to rally behind, people have taken to the streets in over 1,300 cities across the world. A conversation is happening in the shadows of banks and statehouses which will result in creative solutions to the injustices that drove us to the street and to action.

Here’s something you got right: your assertion that we should be angry about crony capitalism. If by crony capitalism you mean the current system by which vast sums of money are required to run for office, resulting in our representatives’ accountability to their wealthy donors over their constituents, then yes—that’s exactly what we’re angry about.

The problem isn’t “government meddling,” but the laissez-faire approach to capitalism, which leaves corporate power unchecked by failing to institute meaningful protections for the consumer and citizen against fraud and abuse. Like yourself, we all believe strongly in numerous basic freedoms as a principle of human existence. The distinction is that we do not include the freedom to oppress among them.

Moreover, laissez-faire capitalism has failed to enrich our lives. It reserves initiative for those already empowered. It stifles innovation that threatens already established revenue streams. It sees individuals as numbers to be crunched, commodities to be bought and sold, and tools for the enrichment of those at the top. If corporations are entirely free to do as they please, how are actual people to be free from the whims of those corporations?

“Profit is the goal.” You said it right there, brother. Profit is the goal. Not a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, but profit. Not consumer safety, but profit. Not the general welfare of the people, but profit. For someone who claims to have no idea what we’re talking about, you’ve paraphrased our grievances quite succinctly. As to your claim that jobs and economic growth are guaranteed byproducts: Look around you. If our system guaranteed either, it stands in serious breach of contract.

You went on to make several points regarding misdeeds by the Obama administration. Rather than debate these with you, I’ll briefly explain why they are moot. Pay attention, because this is important. We do not endorse any politician or party. This is not about Obama. If we were interested in defending his policies, it’s unlikely we’d be in the streets right now.

Mr Conway, the fact is you didn’t do your homework. You only talked to four people. You grossly misrepresented our intentions, our grievances, and our proposals. If you had spent more time on research and follow-up, you could have printed that we are fed up with a socioeconomic system that values money over people. You could have told your readers that we want to see the power of the vote hold sway over the power of the dollar. You could have offered a fair, fact-based analysis. Instead, you built a town full of straw men and laid waste to it with your faulty assumptions. Congratulations, Mr. Conway. You’ve managed to win a debate with yourself.

That being said, I invite you in good faith to join us on the corner. I’d love to have a conversation with you about creating a system capable of addressing the issues that divide this country ideologically.


Mike Davis

Lexington General Assembly


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