Monday, October 3, 2011

Occupy Wall Street...and then what?


“Separate money from politics.”  “Take to task those who perpetrated the economic meltdown.”  “End crony capitalism’s ownership of political institutions.”

Ok.  Like where this is going so far.  How do you do it?

Lay siege to Wall Street and the financial districts of several other cities by flooding said areas with billowing tides of young people covered in piercings and tattoos, giving vent to their rage over financial policies…and the fact that Burning Man is done for another year.  When that peters out, show up dressed as a zombie and eat Monopoly money.  That’ll get your point across.

Young people are angry.  They’ve gotten through college and now cannot find jobs…just as student loan bills are coming due.  Middle-aged people are angry.  We’re trying to make ends meet and live a decent lifestyle.  By that I don’t mean country club living but more like pretzels and beer.  We’re all suffering financially because of the actions of the wealthiest one percent of this nation. But this movement called Occupy Wall Street does not seem to have any real cohesion to their actions nor do they appear to have any focus or clarity in their messages.  Part of the issue that the group is facing, as Cornell West argues, is that it is difficult to distill the problem of Wall Street greed into just one or two talking points.  True, but still…

What is the end game here?  What is the “exit strategy,” so to speak?  Hard to tell.  Right now it just looks like a mob of angry kids who are looking for something to do.  That might be the furthest thing from the truth but that’s exactly how it’s coming across to the American public writ large.  Just because you’re screaming doesn’t mean anybody’s listening to you.  A more apt description of my point comes from the Boston Globe: "It’s hard to take a protest fully seriously when it looks more like a circus.”

I am far from one of those right-wingers who are decrying these people as “liberal radicals” who are out to end industry and the American way of life or some such idiotic allegation.  In fact, I agree with the principle arguments that Occupy Wall Street is putting forth…as near as I can parse them, anyway.  But this tactic of street protest and pseudo-anarchist, V for Vendetta emulation is a rock ‘n roll approach.  Rock ‘n roll is about the impossible.  The reforms we need must be about the possible.  They need to be articulated in a mature and intelligent manner and delivered to political leaders from across a table, not a barricade. 


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