Wednesday, October 5, 2011
It's scary and inspiring. It's flawed in a whole bunch of ways. It's worth being a part of.
It struck me as a very different kind of protest than any other I've seen. Because it encompasses so many issues--healthcare, education, war, corporate personhood, national debt, jobs--and yet the central one is clear and emotional and obvious: "99% of us are eating the crumbs of 1%, and fuck that shit."
It's a different kind of protest because in many ways, it's less a protest than a forum. There was a lot of talking at the Occupy Boston camp. A lot of disagreement. A lot of different issues being raised. The camp was being run as a mini-democracy, not a party headquarters. This is why the Occupy movements aren't releasing demands--because their goal isn't "enact a solution now" but "we need to start working on solutions." That's a confusing, messy cause to be marching for, and also a tremendously humble and important cause.
The Occupy movement is also a different kind of protest because of the strange way it encompasses both the radical and the eminently reasonable. Or really, how it shows that the reasonable has become radical.
The radical-looking people in the photo--the dirty-hippy types and the scary black-masked folks--most of them weren't screaming for the downfall of the State or the overthrow of capitalism. They were shouting things like "fund healthcare and education" and "reduce the deficit." I live in a country where people are putting on masks and writing a defense attorney's phone number on their arm so they can say things like "rich people should pay more taxes."
Maybe the crystallizing moment came when some doofus yelled "get a job" at us, and the crowd yelled back--not "fuck the system," but "we want jobs."
There was another crystallizing moment, though, of a different sort. We were gathering and preparing to march, and one woman asked timidly, "are we allowed to march here?" The answer: "we're always allowed to march."
Maybe all that we're proving is that protest still exists in this country--that a person with no "power" except the ability to stand in the street and hold up a sign is still a person with a voice. That's pretty fucking important right there.
I don't know, now, if this is the start of a powerful snowball of dissent or if it's a little blip. I don't know if it's going to be co-opted by people with ulterior motives or if it's just going to whither away as people have to go back to school and work. I don't know if it's going to turn scary and violent or if it's going to turn big and important. I don't know if it's going to change the country.
All I can say right now is that I'm glad it wasn't just another day in the Financial District.
P.S. Occupy Boston is ongoing in Dewey Square just outside South Station. If you're going tomorrow, tweet me @pervocracy and I'll say hi!
P.P.S. The people who are saying "this is just a bunch of silly hippies who don't even know what they want" are the same people who said "this is just a bunch of silly girls who want to wear slutty clothing" about the Slutwalks. Pay them no mind.