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By Tom Cushing

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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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There's something happening here

Uploaded: Oct 4, 2011
With apologies to the Buffalo Springfield, what it is really Ain't exactly clear. What we know is that thousands of disaffected, mostly young people have descended on lower Manhattan, in a now weeks-long demonstration known as Occupy Wall Street (OWS). And that it appears to be spreading to other cities, fueled in part by social media. Its driving grievances are an unfocussed amalgam of issues from 'greed' (in several of its baser forms) to global warming. A common thread appears to be concern for the direction of the society, and the protesters' perception that working for change within The System won't work.

The inclusive nature of the demonstration is reminiscent of recent protests organized around meetings of international bodies like the World Trade Organization. Gatherings of the WTO in Genoa, Seattle and Ottawa were met with opposition from various causes including workers' rights, environmental degradation, ethical lapses and that hardy perennial, 'greed.' Those sometimes-violent protests, however, were events that did not coalesce into any kind of an ongoing movement.

What's different in these 'occupations' is their apparent spontaneity ' there does not seem to be a specific precipitating happening that set them off. The fact that a unifying energy sustains them may also lead to greater focus and coherence, over time.

The Occupiers are certainly not alone in their manifold frustrations. Their parents have been organizing groups like 'America Elects' as an alternative to working within the established two-Party political structure. AE was born out of a perception that neither political Party was responsive to real world concerns of the Great American Moderate Middle ' that Special Interests have steamrolled the General Interest. You can also make a case that the Tea Parties are expressions of the belief that the world has gotten away from most of us, and that neither Party has good answers for what ails the Republic. Indeed, there is a strong sense abroad in the land that the pols are 'dancin' with them what brung 'em,' and that 'them' ain't 'us.'

Even well-established movements with a common theme are composed of disparate elements with widely varying motivations. I once read a study indicating that Environmentalism is composed of do-gooders, true believers, deep ecologists, opportunists, conservationists, social reformers, and anarchists, to name a few. Each constituency has its separate emphases, but they manage to hang together under that capital 'E.'

So perhaps it's too much to expect Occupy Wall Street to immediately express a common, coherent theme. Maybe such a direction will emerge out of the ongoing conversation. Or maybe the revolution will be canceled, like the one temporarily fueled by the cathartic 'Mad as hell' window screamers in the movie 'Network.' But it would be a mistake to easily dismiss OWS as an ephemeral expression of youthful idealism or ennui. For what it's worth, I don't think these are just the tantrums of slackers with an overgrown sense of entitlement.

With the monumental and utterly unanticipated influence of the Arab Spring so recently etched in our collective memory, it'll be worth figuring out what 'that sound' represents, and looking seriously at what's goin' down.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by LMP, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 5, 2011 at 7:09 am

I've seen a number of the protesters interviewed. They wore college sweatshirts, including one young woman with a "Harvard" logo. They were incredibly uninformed! One commented the military had been privatized. They appeared to be a bunch of bored trust fund babies looking for a cause. Unlike the UC protesters in the '60's protesting Vietnam, there seemed to be no real purpose.

Like my San Fran uncles used to say in the 60's, "Hey, what's going on in the park (Golden Gate) today?"


 +  Like this comment
Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:26 am

Aren't these protests fueled by envy?

Maybe these protestors should be thankful for what they've got rather than lusting after what their neighbor has.

The poorest American enjoys luxuries that most people can only dream of. Half the world lives on $2 a day or less. American capitalism has been kind to these protestors. They need to be reminded that they've got it pretty good.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Donna, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:16 am

I agree with Tom and hope that OWS is able to formulate a "manifesto" and plan of action. Where is Abbie Hoffman when we need him?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm

One of the news photos today shows a protester with a sign that reads: EAT THE RICH. Isn't that a Hoffmanism? Not even "eat the job creators" -- things are getting serious.

I have no doubt that there are some trust beneficiaries in the crowd; obviously, they won't provide the leadership OWS gets, if it gets it. As to the count-their-blessings argument, I'm guessing the future looks quite lousy to those millions who are trying desperately to enter, or return to, the labor market.

The bedfellowage will get still stranger later today, as union members join the fray.



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