Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupying History: a very rambling draft

it seems odd for a blog that runs toward progressive issues not to be commenting on the Occupy movement.  i haven't even gotten over to Occupy Boston yet, though i've been avidly watching whatever coverage there has been. that is growing, but still not a lot.  strange, when it seems pretty clear that whatever happens with this, it will likely be a large part of what history recalls of our era.  or maybe not so strange; maybe it's too terrifyingly big for most of the media to acknowledge.  big not just in numbers, but in a new approach.  anyway i've been moderately ill, which is as good an excuse as any, and directions to the place are hopelessly confusing.  of course there's no question of my camping out--nor in truth would there have been if i were years younger.  in the late 60s/early 70s when all young folks were going camping and getting in touch with nature, i tried it twice and found it truly loathsome, and that was when it was supposed to be 'fun.'  but then, i could certainly go for an hour or so.....and probably will.  so why haven't i at least written about it?

i think i just don't have anything to say.  it's astoundingly important, and inspiring, and whatever happens with it, too wonderful to be believed.  maybe that's why i feel distanced; i'm afraid to believe again, to hope.  a cynicized soul harbored in an aging and weakening body.

or maybe i'm just numbing a fear.  the very thing that has made this happen may  kill it.  literally.  so far there's been only a small amount of predictable police bullying, and numbers of cops even in new york seem aware that they're part of that '99%'.  che guevara once said that US americans were lucky; we had the real possibility of making change because we 'live in the belly of the beast.'  are these kids getting closer than ever to the ultimate beast, the people who own and own and own and care about nothing but owning more?  the nearly overt admission by the conservatives that they are owned by the rich may have overstepped itself, a kind of 'let them eat cake' arrogance that has triggered a so-far mildmannered, sensitive response that really is a threat.  how  much will the people in power allow before they begin to fight back with all their weapons?  they are willing to kill off the poor of our own and other countries; we know that already.  how soon before they openly and directly start killing protesters?

or are these kids, with their nameless and clear demands, really capable of doing what needs to be done,  and to capture the conscience of the country?  are we all, in our various forms, part of whatever has created the arab spring?  human greed is destroying the earth;  maybe the demonstrators represent some deep emerging awareness that this  our last chance.

time to get energy, time to put in my hour or two among this crowd of messianic dreamers.....


Ken Goldstein said...

On Thursday morning I went to the humble start of Occupy Santa Cruz; 45 of us on a drizzly, gray day setting up camp and having a loose discussion of goals and tactics.

Like you, I am not a camper in the best of situations. But I went for a few hours to show support, and shoot some photos & video to help spread the word and show what's going on.

But I have been holding off on posting any commentary besides simply sharing the images. I am excited and supportive, but cautious and standing one step back.

We'll see where this all takes us...

Jim said...

I AM a camper, and I won't go, because (a) nothing like that will happen around here, in the middle of nowhere, and (b) I have some kids to get through high school and need my job at least through then, and I WOULD get fired for doing such a thing (VERY conservative employer).

Which is a bummer. Because just typing that out makes me feel like a sellout. Is this the same guy who not only read Steal This Book as a teen, but STOLE it to do so? :)

I keep fearing this is going to become co-opted/irrelevant (like the Coffee Party before it), and seeing their long laundry list of demands didn't help:

"Abolish capitalist society!," he tweeted from his iPhone without any hint of irony.

...and all that.

The thing I keep thinking is that we HAVE seen this before - think late 19th century. The various economic "panics" and resulting hard times, the slums and oppression of migrants, union-busting tactics, robber barons, vast disparities between the wealthy and the majority of people (when "a dollar a day" was a working man's wage), corrupt politics at both the local "machine" level and nationally, etc., etc. Sound familiar?

There were some populist politicians that arose, and some progressive reforms got passed (such as the FDA in the wake of The Jungle). But at the end of the day, not much seemed to have changed permanently.

I hope I am wrong, but I see the same thing happening again. Sigh.

karen lindsey said...

jim, check out naomi klein comment on i haven't figured out how to post it onto my blog from facebook, but it's well worth reading.

what the corporations are doing isn't new, of course. nor government complicity with it. what's new is this sort of demonstration. as you see i'm only a shade more optimisitc [less pessimistic?] than you are. your reasons for not participating make sense, and we all draw our own compromise lines somewhere. even in the 60s i avoided demos where i thought there would likely be arrests. and i didn't go south for voter registration etc in the freedom riders day.

you're a praying person, i gather from your posts anda from your blog's title. so that's what you CAN do. pray for these kids. they may be the next step after the 60s and 70s actions.

and there have been changes since the 19th century, though the current right is doing its best to get back there. but we do have a minimum wage and child labor laws etc. we even had some changes from the movements of our own youth. not what we wanted, but not nothing....

Bob Lamm said...

Karen--I urge you to stop referring to the protesters as "kids." Having been in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, there are a good number of older people involved. But, more important, most of the younger people involved are in their 20s, rather than teenagers. They are NOT "kids." And although I don't believe you mean it this way, any such use of "kids" in our culture inevitably has an ageist implication.

karen lindsey said...

bob, 'kids' isn't totally inclusive, but my experiences with 20-someethings is that in good and less good ways they really are kids. at least so it feels to me on te edge of 67. and i do thiink the young ones are the core of this thing, howver embraced and supported and joined they are by older folks. there's an energy, a fearlessness, even an inventing-the-wheel conviction that's needed to do what they've done. and continue to do. they do hve things to learn from the 60s movement folks, but not as a 'here my child i'll give you the truth' but simply b/c struggle history is there. my epereince as a 'kid' in the left was that by and large we ignored the 30s leftists and ignored the forms and expereinces of their struggles. we would have increased out own numbers [and eventually did] and perhaps avoided some mistakes. and perhaps learned ways to syntheisize the useful stuff fro the past into what is new in their own forms that are evolving. but then i havent even been down there yet--sick for a few days, etc--will try tommorrow afternoon. but i rregret that my word choice offended you.

Bob Lamm said...

Sorry, Karen. We don't just agree. In our culture, use of the term "kids" to describe ADULTS in their 20s is dismissive. I know that isn't your intention, but it's an ageist term. It is NOT a term of respect in our culture when used by adults who are older than their 20s.

What you say about the ageism of those of us who were young adults in the 1960s is of course true and, alas, was certainly true of me. Ageism is unfortunate in either direction, from young to old or old to young.

len said...

Karen what about this development?

Small Business Owners Fight Back Against Occupy Wall Street

Small business owners and local residents fed up with the “Occupiers” at Zuccotti Park in New York City are planning a counterprotest and news conference of their own Monday, to make clear the crowd has long overstayed its welcome — and that businesses will not survive if the “occupation” continues.

Flyers “Protest against the Occupy Wall St. and Mayor Bloomberg who does nothing to get them to leave.”

The news conference is scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. on the steps of City Hall.

In recent days, shopkeepers, restaurant owners and others with small businesses located near Zuccotti Park have been quietly meeting to share stories of the damage they say has been caused by Occupy Wall Street: theft of property, vandalism, threats, violence and even incidents involving the throwing of fecal matter.

“It’s time for them to go,” Leslie said of the Occupiers.

One of his employees said the urination and fecal matter in the neighborhood are among the worst of the problems. A construction worker who works nearby said he saw someone defecating into a newspaper, which was then rolled up and thrown across the street.

Other business owners asked that their names not be printed out of fear of further harassment and vandalism. They said Zuccotti has become home to an increasingly violent and unsanitary crowd, including some looking to commit crimes.