Occupy Literary Agencies

Ok. Now I have your attention.  If you decide to protest by camping out  on my front lawn, I’m not sure it would make  a compelling political statement. But if you choose to put up your tent there, I am more likely to give you cookies than to lob canisters of tear gas at you.

What I want to say is that I’m really inspired by OWS and its many affinity groups. It reminds me that there are still things to believe in and still some values in public life that just can’t get suffocated by cynicism.  I haven’t felt that way in awhile. I haven’t felt that way in a long time.

I get really angry at those people who criticize OWS by saying that they don’t have a constructive program.  This is usually coming from people who don’t have one either or, more likely, have programs that are in conflict with everything we have learned to believe is good and true and beautiful.

When Rosa Parks got on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 and sat right down at the front, she didn’t come armed with a 20 point plan to end segregation in America. She hadn’t studied the footnotes to Supreme Court decisions. She just got on that bus and sat down where she wanted. I don’t know what she said to that bus driver, but she was probably thinking: “this much and no more”. She was probably just thinking: “no”.

One of my intellectual heroes is Albert Camus. In his brilliant book, The Rebel, he said, “What is a rebel? A man who says no.”

I think that’s a good place to begin.


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7 Responses to “Occupy Literary Agencies”

  1. jeffrey moussaieff masson Says:

    Andy, you are my hero! Jeff Masson

  2. Alex B Says:

    While I think there is much to be inspired by from the OWS demonstrations, there’s a lot about this movement that does disappoint me. And Rosa Parks is the perfect example — she was active in the NAACP for years before the moment on the bus. And while her decision not to give up her seat may have been her own and a spontaneous one, there was an organized movement that was prepared to take advantage of it, and she was strategically chosen to be used as a rallying point because she made the cause more palatable to a larger audience.

    And I do think it’s fair to ask for a constructive program. I don’t think it means OWS is otherwise without value, but I think it would be more effective. So much of the discussion is really generalized, and focused on the nuts on bolts of maintaining an actual physical presence, I do think OWS and its affiliates have not done a particularly effective job at moving the public conversation. They’ve made themselves the story, not the injustice they’re opposing. Which is better than nothing, I agree. But I think in some way they have the same shortcomings as the tea party — they’re more accomplished at expressing anger than they are at persuading people who are not engaged or building consensus among groups that could come together to wield more political power.

    Even the work “occupy” is a problem, I think. It sort of stands for, “Let’s just sit here until something is done!” Which I don’t think is what those groups are calling for, but it does hurt their perception with much of the rest of the 99%.

    • andyrossagency Says:

      Alex, I don’t think you are wrong especially, but there are plenty of people who have articulated very intelligent policies to bring more equality to our lives and to recognize who’s interests should be looked out for. The problem isn’t lack of policy. It is lack of will, lack of inspiration, and lack of hope. I think OWS has given us a little of those things.

  3. Maureen O'Leary Says:

    I see OWS as one of several groups right now that are saying “no” one way or another. I’m talking urban educators, artists, truly invested foster parents, youth advocates, people growing their own food, people writing books, (oh great now I sound like a song lyric from Rent). Taking to the streets is not the only way to try to make things right, but OWS is loud, awesome and inconvenient. Their actions make me feel less alone in my own sense of frustration and I thank them for it. Great post, Andy.

  4. mikerol Says:

    Here’s a nice piece from Tom Englehardt [TomDispatch] on the subject: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175460/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_wall_street_by_the_book/#more

    “In that time of turmoil, I doubt I spent a moment pondering this irony: despite all those years in college and graduate school, the most crucial part of my education — learning about the nature of American power and how it was wielded — was largely self-taught in my off-hours. And I wasn’t alone. In those days, most of us found ourselves in a frenzy of teaching (each other), reading, writing — and acting. That was how I first became an editor (without even knowing what an editor was): simply by having friends shove their essays at me and ask for help…”

    • andyrossagency Says:

      That’s kind of a neat quote by Englehardt. As an agent, I have to do a lot of editing too. A lot of it is to try to come to it with a sort of “beginner’s mind”. I usually read it out loud and listen to how it sounds. It works!

  5. Shawndra Russell Says:

    So true. Having the guts to say no means going against the grain of society. And doing that definitely makes you a rebel, not a sheep. I’m glad to have found your blog recently. Thanks for sharing!

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