by Tom Bair
I’ve been vaguely aware of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement since its first sighting on September 17th. Actually, I’d picked up The Post the day prior to find a little information on the coming weekend of football, and found something more alarming than Eli Manning’s sullen face. In that issue, Mayor Bloomberg — who speaks not only as Mayor of New York City, but also as the second richest man in New York (second to David Koch) — warned of possible rioting in the U.S. due to unemployment and stagnant job-growth. He says, “You have a lot of kids graduating college who can’t find jobs. That’s what happened in Cairo. That’s what happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kinds of riots here … ”
As a recent college graduate I felt compelled to share the good news with a few friends, and during my scouring of the web for an attachable article found to what Hizzoner Bloomberg may have been alluding — Occupy Wall Street.
I’m in a weird place when it comes to this sort of thing. By “this sort of thing,” I mean protests and civil disobedience at large. I was not alive for any of that most decadent and celebrated decade of the 1960s, but I’ve heard the stories. And in many ways, I am how far we’ve come. That is, I’ve seen various forms of racism, economic inequality, elitism, plagiarism, sexism, etc. first-hand. As for my freedoms, as I said, I’ve heard the stories. I may have even participated in a few of those. Who knows? I might be doing it right now.
But that is only background, and its purpose is to tell you this–I am both an enthusiast and a skeptic of “Occupy Wall Street.”
What has been and is being accomplished here is no small matter. I spent this evening in Zuccotti Park, or Liberty Square as it is now being called. A well-organized and well-maintained show of public disapproval for our current economic situation is exactly where I want to be. And make no mistake, Occupy Wall Street is a tight-knit crew. Liberty Square is home to a generator, wi-fi, and team of professional activists. Occupy Wall Street is now an active protest in sixty-six American cities. Cardboard protest signs line the Northwestern parameters (closest to WTC, oddly) of the park, and passers-by are invited to make their own. Free food and water are offered to even the briefest of guests. A drum-circle was had by all, to include: a tuba player, a chess player, Captain Jack Sparrow, several able-bodied white men, a black man in a tie, a white woman in a tie, a few babies, pieces of granite and quartz and sage, a woman dancing with a rat, a hula-hoop, a Muslim with a trumpet, hand-clappers and tamborines, and a sight-seeing bus, among others. All under the name of occupying a foreign land — the Financial District. Thus, if you are willing to look closely, this movement is striking a balance between free-love and free-market.
And that is part of what worries me. To mine young eyes, Occupy Wall Street is looking a lot like Long Island — 1/2 business professional, 1/2 Cherry Garcia. My apologies. Poking fun. But as a person who works, I need to make it clear that I resent the fauxhemian knee-jerk trend of liberal politics. It isn’t my can of semiotics. What’s more, this form of activism appears to only be viable under a tricky stipulation — previously acquired wealth. But maybe that is my prejudice. Someone, for the love of Ground, correct me.
But there is more of which I am dubious. Adbusters, a magazine known for confrontational liberal politics is the primary stakeholder in this protest. Tell me if I am wrong, but is Adbusters a business? What? Is this protest then a matter of trading their politics for ours?* By this I mean, is this then not a matter of power simply changing hands? What then? What after that? Are we working against power or are we working against the clothing it is wearing?
*For chrissakes we’re not communists. 😉
Occupy Wall Street’s very campaign stinks of last year’s politics. Do you remember all of the catch-all, hot-button slogans used during the 2008 Presidential Election? Change — whose change, what change, why change, how change, pocket change? Maverick — so you play for Mark Cuban? What does “Occupy” mean? In its most recent contexts, I know it from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan; not really wars, but rather, occupations-of. So, are we planning to have the same positive effects we did in Iraq? Kill the leader and then stand around for a few years? Even out of the context of war, “Occupy,” as defined by Merriam-Webster, is to engage the attentions or energies of. So what do we do with Wall Street once we have their attention?
Part of this is entirely Occupy Wall Street’s fault. For all of their efficiency, which can be underrated, there has been a seemingly deliberate attempt to blur the mission of this mission. Is the goal purely to raise awareness? To generate political sympathies? Is Adbusters on a national tour? Is this a worker’s revolution? Is this a revolution of compassion? Are these the riots Bloomberg was talking about?
And why should I support you? Because if you’re not going to be clear, my break is up, and I have to get back to work.Tags: Occupy Wall Street