The Continuing Necessity of Occupy Wall Street (in Spirit, If Not Presence):
There were two disheartening things that the Rude Pundit heard/read this morning related to the actions going on with the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. The first was on an OWS Ustream feed where the incredibly diligent cameraman announced, "We are blocking the sidewalks!" as a kind of small victory, as if making bankers and brokers mildly inconvenienced is the same as shutting things down. Hell, walk on Fifth Avenue in December if you want to see sidewalks brought to a halt.
The other was the tweet "OWS Puppet Guild is performing in front of the National Museum of the American Indian" (which is actually right near the Museum of Finance). Goddamn the motherfucking puppets, even if this one is kind of a cool, grotesque Lady Liberty.
Again, one has to constantly battle one's natural cynicism to support Occupy. But this is not going to be another liberal ragging on protest.
The media is filled with stories now that ask some variation on "Whatever Happened to Occupy Wall Street?" The stories are about internal dissent in the movement or the dissipation of the energy and the activists. They talk about not having a central goal or real leadership. Essentially, it's pretty much the same thing that was written about the movement from its outset. And it's an empty narrative that leaves out the concerted effort by the FBI and police action to infiltrate and discredit, if not destroy, the movement, as they do every leftist movement in this country.
Here's the thing, and perhaps it sounds a bit like what the Obama campaign has been saying about its accomplishments: Change takes time. Yes, we are an impatient, informed-by-the-second, instant gratification-craving people now. What Occupy accomplished is to lay the groundwork for a future where protest is not only possible, but is part of the culture once again, something we haven't seen since the early 1970s. And it's hard to argue that the discussion of the economy in this election, especially for President Obama, wasn't seismically shifted by last year's long season of Occupy actions. But a real change in how the 99% relates to the 1% is gonna take a lot longer.
The movement, still in its nascent, wild phase, has had effects that have reverberated out from lower Manhattan. While the Chicago teachers strike might have happened on its own, one could argue that the support the teachers have gotten is part of that shift in the culture caused by OWS. Yes, once more, we can appreciate workers asserting their power. Eventually the movement will need to coalesce around some specific goals in specific ways. It will need to have, for instance, an Occupy candidate for Congress, like the antiwar candidates of the 1960s. And that candidate might actually have to be a Democrat.
Obviously, New York City is taking the protests today very seriously, with the NYPD having already arrested over 100 people. But the greatest threats to OWS are not the cops.
Those threats would be the media tiring of the story and moving on to something new and the apathy of the mainstream left to the hippie dreamers in the streets. We here in Left Blogsylvania can actually have an effect on at least one of those so that even if OWS, in its current form, fades away, its spirit can continue to influence our politics.