Over the past several months I’d become sadly aware of my growing cynicism. The last time I’d been politically active was during the ’08 presidential campaign, and though I’d had no regrets about the position I’d chosen at that moment in history, I’d become disillusioned with this administration, particularly after Obama’s quick concession on extending the Bush tax cuts. While I think there is such a thing as a healthy level of cynicism, I had become very reluctant to get involved with any struggle, which of course is the opposite of what an ‘activist’ is.
I became aware of the #OccupyWallSt movement the day before it happened, because I was in Oberlin and a bus was leaving that afternoon for New York. Remembering such expeditions from my own undergrad, I didn’t think too much of it, until two weeks later I was in New York and it was still going on.
I think my main outrage with this administration and this political system in general is how compromised it is by corporate interests, not only in lax regulations but in corporate subsidization and privatization of goverment functions, which amounts to private industry pillaging public wealth. #OccupyWallSt’s first official statement as a group came out yesterday and while I’m not completely on board with everything in the document I’d say we share the same spirit. But that’s not what won me over. What got me was being there.
I went over with my friend Melissa on Friday afternoon. The atmosphere there was calm, warm and communal, and I was actually quite encouraged by this. As I tweeted at the time, “People criticize #occupywallst for being unfocused, but I preferred it to a protest where I’m whipped into a frenzy with chants…Not just another crowd. We need a gathering instead.” And also, “I like the idea of protest without end, just like war or occupation or corporate subsidy without end.” It’s one thing to chant ‘Heck no, we won’t go’ and it’s another thing to actually DO IT. Some douchebag on Twitter wrote something about how the protesters were the ‘future minimum wage earners and welfare recipients of America’ (don’t feel like looking up who exactly penned this abhorrent, bigoted remark, and besides why would I do the favor of linking to him?); but the truth is the reason that the occupation has been able to sustain for so long is because so many of the 99% are out of work, laid off or just have never been able to find a job after school in the first place. They’re there because it’s quite literally their only play, and that is a powerful thing.
I hope this peaceful, even energy carries them for a long time. They’re going to need it. For my part, I don’t have the resources to order them pizzas or donate cash (which is awesome if you do), but I am considering trying to attend an #occupy event in every place I visit for the rest of tour. I know it’s valuable for me to lend myself to their numbers even temporarily, and I think I’m in a unique position to witness and document it.