“This could be the high point of this generation’s political lifetime”
October 14, 2011 Leave a comment
This said it was a fad; they said the Internet could never create such a massive popular movement. They thought we would go away, but more than a month after its humble beginnings under the indian summer sun, Occupy Wall Street just claimed its first victory over the very establishment it is fighting against. Around 4 in the morning last night, more than two thousand people joined in solidarity with the permanent residents of Liberty Plaza, dubbed “Camp Zuccotti”. Mayor Bloomberg had announced he would send his overzealous police force to “clean the park” at 6 am. He called it off at the last minute, once foreign press, nurses unions, and regular New Yorkers on their way to work formed a human chain around the park chanting “We are not afraid”.
Entering Zuccotti park in early October is either a political statement or an act of sheer curiosity. I went, fairly familiar with the goings on, to satisfy the latter. I wanted to see what it was, what it was trying to accomplish, and more importantly, where it was going.
The park was guarded on all four sides by police, most of whom seemed to be nervous, as though they’d been warned of terrible things to come. The park was capped at either end with lines of protesters holding signs and, at the time, two separate drum circles. My initial impression was not good. What could these unorganized hippies actually be trying to do, aside from dance around with signs about “corporatocracy” and “greed”?
I walked several times around the perimeter of the park and slowly filtered into the crowd, silently trying to figure out what was actually going on. I realized that perhaps I wasn’t there to look. A photo album would not do this justice. This thing had power, and I felt compelled to sit down among the droves and breathe in my surroundings.
The protestors ranged from very young to pretty old, and every race, creed, and class seemed to be represented. I was struck by the diversity of the general crowd. However, the occupiers themselves — the people actually living in the park — were generally a more consistent demographic: young, poor, and perhaps most dangerously, obviously used to similar living conditions. Squatters, freight-train hoppers, crusty punks, and hippies all had their packs and bedrolls spread out on the floor of the park, with donated mattresses and other comforts scattered here and there. This is the source of the power: their constant presence gives them strength and inspires others to come, either to just watch or to join their ever-growing ranks. Most of the protestors can go home at night, comfortable in the notion that they can always come back because the occupiers are always going to be there. This means that the hordes of people dissatisfied with the current state of the union can come and go as they please, because there is a solid, constant, and unwavering backbone supporting them. This could lend amazing strength to these demonstrations, I thought.
The trouble, though, is this: The life changing, once in a generation power may be there. The pure message hasn’t been refined yet, though, and the protests might be halted. While the general unhappiness of the masses has been expressed, a cogent, unified goal hasn’t been clearly presented to the public. While real social and political change can come from people uniting in protest, the lack of a practical, tangible objective becomes a problem when the protests are ended. Demands must be made for demands to be met and it appears now that the occupation may be forced into a retirement more premature than Sarah Palin’s.
Even if the only problem were that winter is coming, it would still be a difficult thing to maintain. The protests may not even get a chance to weather the weather. As of today, October 13th, it looks like the park’s owners are determined to put a stop to things, and likely have the cooperation of the city. While this may not be the stake through the heart they must be hoping for, the power could certainly be diminished.
The fact that they’re so concerned with shutting it down means they’re actually concerned. This is why the occupation must become a Hydra. Come back. Keep practicing. Sharpen your rhetoric and clarify your goals. The support of honest, hardworking people will be there as long as the backbone is there. This could be the high point of this generation’s political lifetime, so long as it’s clear, reasonable, and persistent.
With the proper execution and a bit of luck, maybe, just maybe, we can bring down the bank.
Evan Petersen is from Colorado Springs, CO and has been living in New York City for a year. A trained and skilled sound engineer, he has always been writing, now displaying his musings on his blog. Living the life between his bar in the East Village and his apartment in Brooklyn, Evan is most known for losing his phone at 3am on Locust Street, contemplating a master’s degree in English at CUNY, and his indefectible loyalty.