So I haven’t been down to the Occupy Wall Street protests yet, but I have been following them a lot. I have friends who are there a lot, one of whom gets to sort of report about it sometimes. I’m a little split about them, though.
On the one hand, yay protests! Good for them! And the actions of the police, deplorable! And the transit union and pilots have joined them! And, I just read, some Marines are stepping up and joining to show their support and protect people from the cops. So that’s pretty fantastic.
But on the other hand, I don’t quite know what they’re protesting. It’s scattered, seemingly on purpose. From what I’ve heard, anyone with anything to protest is welcome. For the most part, it’s about corporate accountability and all that. But what do they want? What’s the end point? I’m worried that this is just going to kind of peter out and fizzle and look pathetic.
But, it also is an giant experiment in community building. They have things organized, they have meetings, issues are dealt with, information is distributed. It’s an amazing demonstration of cooperation and community, and I appreciate any and all working examples of cooperative living.
But (and I hope this is the last time I start a paragraph with that), returning to the scattered idea behind the protest- I think it’s about nostalgia. I think people in their mid 20’s to mid 30’s feel stagnant and left out. They missed the anti-war demonstrations, the de-segregation marches, the sit-ins and arrests, and they want to have that. They want their moment, their movement, their mark. They want that experience. One of the things I’ve read had a quote of “Of course this will end at some point, but it’s not just about being here,” he said. “It’s not just about causing change. It’s about us living that change.”
And that, to me, is both the pride, and problem, of this protest. There is no definable goal, and that is the point. The point is to be a part of some kind of change. And they are having a protest to enact that change. But what’s the change? If half of the people there have different ideas about it, then they all have different ideas about a satisfied ending. And if there isn’t a unified message with concrete demands, or terms, or actions to be taken, then no one is going to acquiesce to anything. And it will just fizzle and peter out and be pathetic.
So, I fully support the protesters. I’m interested in it. I probably will stop by sometime to see it for myself. And I hope that it comes together as something more unified and complete, and as more than just an exercise in cooperative outside living.
Update edit- I also posted this to facebook and a friend of mine had a really good reply- “something to consider is that this generation is dealing with an enemy that isn’t just the federal gov’mnt, its not just the president, its not the FBI, its not just policy + legislation. the 1% of the USA that holds most of the country’s wealth is a hard group to target, but that being difficult isn’t a reason to not make noise. Protest isn’t always rooted in policy changes and government overthrow. Protest is a tool used to show dissent, frustration and, in this case, role-model the kind of communities we would like to be a part of. SO: i think that people who are saying that this group lacks focus and direction are really reacting to the kind of abstract enemy we are being faced with. If there were a formula for dealing with the horrendous state of the nation that is taking homes and jobs and money away from folks who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, then that could be incorporated into this movement, but there isn’t. That’s no reason, however, to stay quiet. If everyone waits for the perfect resistance, there won’t be any.”