Not that my opinion is required, but I’ve been relatively mum on the subject of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, partly because I’ve been long-stewed in political hopelessness, but mostly because it all seems very far away. When you live in Venice Beach, California – where nude performance artists rollerblade past medicinal marijuana superstores – any act of “civil disobedience” seems a little redundant.
There was a small gathering of people with signs near the post office traffic circle, and some people did honk their Smart car and Prius horns in support, but let’s face it: it’s impossible to drudge up righteous indignation in a community that already agrees with you.
The goings-on in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan are another kettle of scrod entirely, and today – for those blog readers 40 years from now – was the day everyone was kicked out. Whether this is the slow leak that deflates the movement or the spark that ignites the next level remains to be experienced, but my money is on the former.
I say this not to be a pessimistic, nihilistic, cynical dick, but because the weather will soon turn cruel, the cops have gas and guns, and it doesn’t take much to demoralize a movement that had yet to become the foregone conclusion of civil rights, temperance or suffragism.
Obviously, you know me, my lot is entirely cast with the OWS movement, whether or not it continues as a physical presence on the street. But tonight’s actions by Mayor Bloomberg, after two months of occupation, provide a moment of reflection: did the movement succeed despite everything?
One major complaint against OWS was its supposed “lack of focus” or “inability to articulate a message”. Sure, “America’s distribution of wealth is unfair” may not have the urgency of “Black men should not be slaves”, but it’s plenty obvious. Hell, I rallied against the 1% three years ago.
The key is this: given the OWS is not asking for a specific place to spike the football, can it declare a kind of victory by moving the goalposts back to where they belonged? Has the movement created an atmosphere where enough spotlight and shame has centered on CEO pay, bonuses and bank shenanigans, to at least give the system pause?
Given the amount of coverage it gets, and the fact that I’ve seen this graph ten times over the last month, you have to believe it’s seeping in:
But here’s the thing: there has to be some recognition of the last two months. You can’t pretend it didn’t happen. Obama has to refer to the movement itself, offer some kind of legislation, and deflect some credit back to the people that temporarily gave up their lives for an idea.
Because if it’s all nightsticks and beatings, tear gas and curfews, tires being slashed and jokes about drum circles, there’s going to be trouble. If all the fat fucks in monocles go back to counting their billions in front of a $35,000 commode, the OWS movement will metastasize into something much uglier. The original Luddites destroyed the machines that dehumanized them; a few motivated protestors could do a lot worse. And then we’ll be that kind of country.