Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - Part II

 Say what you will about capitalism, they know how to make an effictive sign.

I first visited Occupy Wall Street protest on the eve of what was to be their eviction from Zuccotti Park. It was around 11 at night, and raining, and the atmosphere at the camp was one of tense preparation. The group at that time seemed loose-knit and rough around the edges, but everyone seemed to be on the same page, focused, and serious.

I decided to check out the scene again, to see how it had changed since the mayor had backed away from the ‘cleaning’ of the park and the protest had grown to an international movement of sorts. This time I dropped by the park over my lunch hour on a beautiful afternoon, and to no surprise the event was much more of a shit show. The hardcore crew from a few nights ago had remained but was supplemented by a large contingent of attention seekers, freak-flag-fliers, LOUD TALKERS, goof balls, drop-ins, and  people looking to argue about anything they could.

I was expecting a very energized and increasingly organized situation, perhaps with some fresh recruits and a growing sense of purpose, but instead found the already disparate group to appear even more fractured. The serious political element was getting along fine and showed some progress, but the large contingent of kooky characters seemed to be stressing the boundaries of the “all inclusive, non-hierarchical, no leader” structure of the protest.

The begrudging tolerance shown towards the fringe-of-the-fringe seems likely to fade quickly, and may force the rise of a concentrated and focused core of leadership. To be effective you have to control your message and to a certain extent the messenger. With all the media at the site, anyone willing to go on camera will be interviewed, so you end up with a guy holding a sign that reads “Fart Smeller Movement” being treated as your spokesperson.

To be perfectly honest, I left my first visit to the camp with an increased sympathy and camaraderie for the protesters, and excitement to see what would come next. My second visit basically reset me to neutral. If this ‘movement’ is to become a legitimate force, there is going to need to be some sort of discipline and structure.  The problems that the left has faced for 20 years are all on parade (zoo?) here. Cohesion, discipline, intellectual infighting, and no one willing to tell someone else they are bat-shit crazy and get the fuck outta here cause you’re making us look like assholes.