Dante Occupies Wall Street

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42 Responses

  1. Avatar Pinky says:

    I haven’t heard that kind of judgement coming from the occupiers.  Dante never condemned anyone for having wealth, only those who acquired it or used it improperly.  OWS seems to condemn anyone who has wealth, without regarding how they obtained it.  That’s not surprising in a populist movement, but it does fly in the face of Dante’s morality, in which a person is to be judged by his actions.Report

    • Avatar Art Emlen in reply to Pinky says:

      You’re right; Dante never condemned anyone for having wealth, and neither did I.Report

    • Avatar Just John in reply to Pinky says:

      Certainly, the OWS movement is a less nuanced outcry than Inferno, but their demands, vague as they are, are also not quite so final and eternal as Dante’s hellish punishments.  OWS seems less to be targeting specific individuals than expressing solidarity around a boiled-over disgust that the institutional bulwarks of our way of life feel as if they’ve been coopted for the further enrichment of the elite at the cost of greater immiseration for the vast many, and that those who support the furtherance of this kind of regime seem to feel there’s nothing at all wrong with that.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Just John says:

        Art, I didn’t mean to accuse you of mass condemnation.  Laura, I think that OWS has tended toward it, and I think that John’s comment reflects that.  Again, that’s not an accusation against John.  But I think that a general sense of frustration against the system has that kind of non-specificity that assumes that anyone who has been successful is probably guilty of something.  I’ve heard no anti-OWS people who say that we shouldn’t prosecute the guilty.  I think there’s fairly universal agreement that we should prosecute the guilty.  What has made the OWS movement distinct, in my assessment, is their tendency to lump all 3 million of the “one percent” together as responsible for our current situation.Report

        • Avatar Just John in reply to Pinky says:

          Sure, there’s a wholesale blame thing going on in the tone of the protests.  But honestly, I’m not sure I see enough coherence in OWS to say that I see any tendancies beyond a mass expression that the protesters feel that most everyone is in the same sinking boat, which is sinking because of inequality and the privileged immunity of the economic elite.  That is, an expression of solidarity in recognition of a shared predicament, rather than a demand that specific heads should roll, or even that the one percent are in any way evil merely by dint of being in the top one percent of income.  After all, the predicament is actually shared broadly even all the way up to perhaps the top 0.01%.  I think they’re just saying (passionately) that the problem is everyone’s problem, and even the one percent should be on their side — then there’d be no other side and they could just go home and not be so angry anymore.

          Can’t agree that the wholesale blame thing distinguishes OWS.  Depending on which friend I talk to, there’s a marked tendency to blame all problems on “liberals,” “conservatives,” “communists,” “the media,” “young people today,” etcReport

        • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Pinky says:

          I helped organize a local Occupy group, so I heard a lot of the stories our people told, and listened to their ideas.

          The majority seemed to be angry, not at the 1% personally, but how the 1% have become a defacto aristocracy, a privileged class.

          Or more specifically how the System is itself a creation of political class, with rules and structure warped and twisted to benefit their benefactors.

          But it is admittedly difficult in a sprawling movement like OWS o get the sort of nuance and focus we are talking about here.Report

  2. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    A fabulous post, Art.  Thanks for sharing.Report

  3. Avatar dhex says:

    wither the sodomists and other carnal miscreants?Report

  4. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Dante’s mentor Brunetto Latini, some say his teacher, was one of those sodomites.   Dante speaks to him in Canto XV:

    “Se fosse tutto pieno il mio dimando”
    rispuos’ io lui, “voi non sareste ancora
    de l’umana natura posto in bando;

    ché ’n la mente m’è fitta, e or m’accora,
    la cara e buona imagine paterna
    di voi quando nel mondo ad ora ad ora”

    “m’insegnavate come l’uom s’etterna:
    e quant’ io l’abbia in grado, mentr’ io vivo
    convien che ne la mia lingua si scerna.”

    “If my appeal then had been fully granted,”
    I said to him, “you would not be
    Still banished from the ranks of humanity.”

    “For it is graven in my memory, it grieves me
    Even now. the caring, kindly, fatherly image
    Of you, when in the world from hour to hour,

    “You taught me how a man may make himself immortal,
    How grateful I remain, while I yet live,
    I will behovely express it in my speech.

    -translation mine.Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    You are aware that Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle offered a prose modernization of Inferno in the 1970’s?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        tendentious and overly long, but worth it for the concept alone. A good read, but never touch it twice.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Well, you either read it or you didn’t; the point was to update the various kinds of sins and personages to the modern world. I’m sure they had a ton of fun writing it (especially with the tomb of Kurt Vonnegut). While N&P injected a lot of their own views and politics into it, that’s entirely appropriate; Dante included his own in the original as well and was not in the least bit shy about it.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Have you read the sequel? Escape from Hell

          It’s not as good as the original, naturally, but it does tackle some interesting ideas such as “what would hell look like after Vatican II?” and “What would hell look like after 9/11?”

          They hit some interesting notes in the book… Sylvia Plath is the Muse this time rather than Benny. We, of course, meet new friends (and some old friends) and Ted Hughes shows up, the bastard.

          Anyway, if you haven’t read it, it’s worth a read. (I probably wouldn’t read it a second time, however.)Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

            Ted Hughes has been turned into a cardboard villain by a few tendentious feminists.   The reality was quite different.   Sylvia Plath was a difficult and tortured soul, a terrible mother and a horrible wife.  Hughes had followed her around for years and lived in her shadow.   Plath had flung herself at Hughes, hiding the reality of her own mental illness from him until she’d set the hook.   As far as I can tell, and I’ve read most of the poetry of both Hughes and Plath, the only person Sylvia Plath ever cared about was Sylvia Plath.

            Suicide, speaking as someone who’s had to carry the coffin of a young man who told the world Fuck You and took his own life with a gun, is the nastiest thing someone can do to the people who loves him.  I watched his grieving father punch a dent in his son’s coffin.  Several of us had to physically restrain him.

            Ted Hughes had a knack for loving tortured, highly intelligent women.   They left him weeping.   I will always defend the likes of Ted Hughes, for he was a fine poet in his own right, a good man, a master of the English language, not the mere companion of the entirely overrated Sylvia Fucking Plath.Report

  6. Avatar Andrew says:

    Nicely put, Dad!Report

  7. Avatar James K says:

    And Dante didn’t know about those fraudulent conjurers and sellers of risky securities composed of bundles of home loans on the verge of bankruptcy.

    It’s only fraud if they realised the assets were doomed and acted like everything was fine.  For my money, I think they actually believed everything was fine.  That makes them fools, but not frauds.Report

    • Avatar Art Emlen in reply to James K says:

      Good point, and probably true of some, since they were operating in an environment that was not transparent about the risks that lay hidden. What you say was truer of he buyers—the lemmings—than of the sellers and facilitators, some of whom not only  knew better but took short positions to profit from the pending disaster. But I think you raise a good point. There’s no culpability in being wrong or even in wearing blinders, if it’s your own money. On the other hand, greed is a blinder, and a greedy buyer is not  the same as a greedy seller or facilitator of risky goods who held a position of responsibility for the well-being of others. Much of the fraud was deliberately executed, facilitated, or allowed by those who took advantage of others, Greed was in the air, and in large gray area, many unknowing souls allowed themselves to be fooled or just mistaken. And it brought down the house.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Art Emlen says:

        than of the sellers and facilitators, some of whom not only  knew better but took short positions to profit from the pending disaster.

        When you have a lot of money invested in an asset class it is perfectly reasonable to unwind some of that risk by shorting it.  Shorting assets you are invested in is no more suspicious than insuring your house.

        I’m not just saying fraud was limited, I’m saying it was insignificant.  Speculative bubbles are the product of collective mania, not large scale fraud.Report

        • Avatar Art Emlen in reply to James K says:

          “Speculative bubble” and “collective mania” are nearly synonymous. Collective mania and fraud are alternative explanations. Not if you look inside and see the movers. To a significant extent I think collective mania is intertwined with greed and fraud. Quite a number of influential people were hard at work inflating our last mania. See Mortgenson and Rosner’s Reckless Endangerment (2011).Report

          • Avatar Art Emlen in reply to Art Emlen says:

            I must correct my last comment, second sentence: mania and fraud are NOT alternative explanations.Report

          • Avatar James K in reply to Art Emlen says:

            I’m a proponent of Hanlon’s Razor – never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.  I see enough incompetence to make malice unnecessary.Report

            • Avatar Art Emlen in reply to James K says:

              I think it is worth pointing out that although Republicans have been vocal advocates of deregulation and unfettered markets, the Fannie and Freddie train wreck was enabled more by Democrats—from design of the engine to hiring the engineers, laying the track, and dismantling the warning signals. What happened to our economy was a bipartisan disaster.Report

  8. Avatar A Teacher says:

    What amazes me is that really so much of the Corruption we have could be fixed by simply looking at our laws for bribery and enforcing them.  A politician who’s offered to be flown somewhere to discuss something?  Either he flies on his own dime or it’s considered a bribe.
    I read a book in college about people preparing for the New York PD.  One of the big things I remember is that they were totally freaked out when buying things while in uniform.  They had to double check their reciepts to be sure they didn’t get anything for free.  If Internal Affairs caught them accepting even a free sandwich for lunch they could get fined (or fired) for accepting a bribe.

    Why do we hold beat cops to a higher standard than our highest elected officials?

     Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to A Teacher says:

      Because we want our highest elected officials to break the rules if they’re on our side.  We cheer this quite loudly.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to A Teacher says:

      … prosecute the blackmail instead, it’ll work quicker.

      (Honestly, I agree with you, but the PD around here gets discounts for eating at particular establishments. to be fair, I’m pretty sure gangcritters eat there too, so the establishment is merely saying “thanks for keeping it safe”)Report

      • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Kim says:

        Sadly that still translates to graff.

        If I’m a cop where am I more likely to frequent?  A place that gives me a 20% discount on food or a place that doesn’t?  So if someone who does ~not~ offer a PD discount needs a police officer to break up a gang hanging out there, they have to wait for someone to come, where the guys who are willing to suck up the cost offering a PD discount have the cops right there.  It creates a system where it’s just better policy to “Pay for Police Protection”.

        And there’s a problem with that.  Or there ~should~ be a problem with it.  I know I’ve heard interviews from guys in other countries who just accept that bribes are part of the cost of doing business….Report

        • Avatar wardsmith in reply to A Teacher says:

          I was actually in Seattle when some fool robbed a donut shop. Seriously, I forgot how many times he got shot.

          Siemens seems to have done well with their US government bidding since paying a fine for bribery.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to A Teacher says:

          ya but they’re

          1) the only place open that time of night (4am)

          2) right across from a police station.

          still non-ideal, but understandable.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to A Teacher says:

      It’s not much different in New Zealand’s civil service.  There are strict rules on gifts (limits, reporting etc.) though truth be told people just tend not to give you stuff since that saves on the hassle of declaring the gifts in the first place.

      Mind you, our politicians don’t take the kind of gifts yours seem to receive either.Report

  9. Avatar Audrey says:

    Hoorah, Art!  I appreciated the review of Dante (last read in 1983 — I should revisit it!) and your compelling writing.  This is just one reason I’m an “Emlenphile,” as Tod put it!Report

  10. Avatar wardsmith says:

    I kept looking for a good place to place this (IMHO) excellent artwork on OWS

    Report

  11. Avatar Charlie White says:

    Thanks, Art, for a thoughful piece.  While Dante relegates the bankers and coupons clippers to everlasting torment, the top ten incomes in US in 2010 were all in the health services, a category which Dante would not recognize.  Is OWS writing a Dante sequel?Report