Occupy Wall Street
“People who fear disorder more than injustice will only produce more of both.” — William Sloan Coffin
Mojo Nixon & Jello Biafra’s take on Phil Och’s “Love Me, I’m a Liberal.” (lyrics at the end, after the jump and after my rantiness)
Joan Walsh is very concerned. She’s concerned the rabble being abused on a daily basis might not act nice enough for her delicate sensibilities. She’s not worried about police violence, or their massive efforts to generate violence where none existed previously. Nor is she concerned about the politicians who are issuing the orders to ramp up the brutality being visited upon the haplesss proles. Instead, she is busily taking offense at the Oakland GA for not banning violence outright.
City officials served a fourth eviction notice Sunday evening, after a murder at the camp’s borders Thursday night validated worries about crime and safety even among some camp supporters. Some Occupy Oakland leaders insisted the victim had nothing to do with the protest, but once police announced Sunday night that the 25-year-old man, Kayode Ola Foster, had been camping there, and so had at least one of the suspects, it seemed it could only be a matter of hours before cops moved in to close the camp.
I made my first trip to Occupy Oakland midday Sunday, and I wasn’t going to write about it without returning, because the movement is too complicated for a drive-by report. Several people I admire, including Alternet’s Joshua Holland, have been doing day-in, day-out shoe-leather reporting. But now that Foster and at least one murder suspect have been tied to the camp, and now that it’s gone, at least in its present form, I’m going to try to make sense of what I saw.(emphasis mine)
As in, “Some economists say next year will bring ponies to all the poors,” Walsh applies the oft-overused ruse of a negative suggestion that “some leaders” suggested this murder did actually have something to do with The Movement, even though every account I’ve seen that involved real reporting suggested that incident was simply a symptom of Oakland’s larger social problems. And that’s the lede!
Read the rest of this entry »
From ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’:
and from ‘Democracy Now’:
If we are to launch from a moment to a movement, we will have to broaden the “us”. We must win in the arena of values, and not allow ourselves to be narrowly defined by our tactics.
A month and a half ago a few hundred New Yorkers set up an encampment at the doorstep of Wall Street. Since then, Occupy Wall Street has become a national and even international symbol — with similarly styled occupations popping up in cities and towns across America and around the world. A growing popular movement has fundamentally altered the national narrative about our economy, our democracy, and our future.
Americans are talking about the consolidation of wealth and power in our society, and the stranglehold that the top 1% have on our political system. More and more Americans are seeing the crises of our economy and our democracy as systemic problems, that require collective action to remedy. More and more Americans are identifying as part of the 99%, and saying “enough!” This moment may be nothing short of America rediscovering the strength we hold when we come together as citizens to take action to address crises that impact us all.
Occupation as tactic
It behooves us to examine why this particular tactic of physical occupation struck such a nerve with so many Americans and became a powerful catalyzing symbol.
On some level we have to separate the reasons for this broad resonance from some things the physical occupation has meant to the dedicated people occupying on the ground. Within Liberty Square there is a thriving civic space, with ongoing dialogues and debates, a public library, a kitchen, live music, General Assemblies, more meetings than you can imagine, and all sorts of activities. In this sense, occupation is more than just a tactic. Many participants are consciously prefiguring the kind of society they want to live in.
But it is also a tactic. A tactic is basically an action taken with the intention of achieving a particular goal, or at least moving toward it. In long-term struggle, a tactic is better understood as one move among many in an epic game of chess (with the caveat that the powerful and the challengers are in no sense evenly matched). A successful tactic is one that sets us up to eventually achieve gains that we are presently not positioned to win. As Brazilian educator Paulo Freire asked, “What can we do today so that tomorrow we can do what we are unable to do today?”
By this definition, the tactic of physical occupation in the case of Occupy Wall Street has been enormously successful already. We have, at least for a moment, subverted the hegemonic conservative narrative about our economy and our democracy with a different moral narrative about social justice and real democratic participation. We are significantly better positioned than before to make bold demands, as we can now credibly claim that our values are popular—even that they are common sense—and connected to a social base.
While the Occupy movement targets the 1 Percent, we want to introduce you to the elite among the gang of superrich: the war profiteers. War industry CEOs make tens of millions of dollars a year, putting them in the top 0.01 percent of income earners in the U.S., and they use their corporations’ massive lobbying dollars to keep their job-killing gravy train rolling. We’ve got to stop them.
And another video from the same site. Leon Panetta and Boing are worried military spending cuts will cripple the U.S. industrial base and hollow the national defense offense force:
Remember last spring budget deal? Remember how Barack Obama pulled a fast-one on John Boehner and didn’t really cut anything? Well, Scott Lilly at the Center for American Progress says there are 370,000 reasons that the cuts weren’t harmless:
… Indeed, the magnitude of the job cuts in the budget legislation adopted last spring—as demonstrated by the committee’s listing of 250 spending cuts—is so great that it is difficult to keep track of the human dimension. For that reason, I have focused on three program areas which were singled out by this Congress for particularly deep reductions:
- Federal support for local law enforcement
- Environmental cleanup of nuclear weapons production facilities
- The Federal Buildings Fund of the General Services Administration
Estimates of the number of jobs directly lost by these cuts run upwards to 60,000. The jobs losses that are a direct result of those actions will have a secondary impact on a wide array of businesses ranging from automobile producers to local restaurants and dry cleaning establishments, causing the disappearance of a significant number of additional jobs.
Similar stories could be told about many other budget cuts made in this bill—cuts that resulted in further job losses—but that would require many more pages and exhaust the patience of most readers. All of the various 250 program reductions in the FY 2011 continuing resolution probably eliminated more 370,000 jobs. The three areas selected for discussion in this paper are in my judgment neither the worst cuts made by the committee from a policy standpoint nor the best. But without a doubt they demonstrate the consequences of slashing government spending in a weak economy.
Download this report (pdf)
Read this report in your web browser (Scribd)
I was asked weeks ago by some in the Occupy Wall Street movement to make suggestions for how to frame the movement. I have hesitated so far, because I think the movement should be framing itself. It’s a general principle: Unless you frame yourself, others will frame you — the media, your enemies, your competitors, your well-meaning friends. I have so far hesitated to offer suggestions. But the movement appears to maturing and entering a critical time when small framing errors could have large negative consequences. So I thought it might be helpful to accept the invitation and start a discussion of how the movement might think about framing itself.
About framing: It’s normal. Everybody engages in it all the time. Frames are just structures of thought that we use every day. All words in all languages are defined in terms of frame-circuits in the brain. But, ultimately, framing is about ideas, about how we see the world, which determines how we act.
In politics, frames are part of competing moral systems that are used in political discourse and in charting political action. In short, framing is a moral enterprise: it says what the character of a movement is. All politics is moral. Political figures and movements always make policy recommendations claiming they are the right things to do. No political figure ever says, do what I say because it’s wrong! Or because it doesn’t matter! Some moral principles or other lie behind every political policy agenda.
Two Moral Framing Systems in Politics
Conservatives have figured out their moral basis and you see it on Wall Street: It includes: The primacy of self-interest. Individual responsibility, but not social responsibility. Hierarchical authority based on wealth or other forms of power. A moral hierarchy of who is “deserving,” defined by success. And the highest principle is the primacy of this moral system itself, which goes beyond Wall Street and the economy to other arenas: family life, social life, religion, foreign policy, and especially government. Conservative “democracy” is seen as a system of governance and elections that fits this model.
Though OWS concerns go well beyond financial issues, your target is right: the application of these principles in Wall Street is central, since that is where the money comes from for elections, for media, and for right-wing policy-making institutions of all sorts on all issues.
The alternative view of democracy is progressive: Democracy starts with citizens caring about one another and acting responsibly on that sense of care, taking responsibility both for oneself and for one’s family, community, country, people in general, and the planet. The role of government is to protect and empower all citizens equally via The Public: public infrastructure, laws and enforcement, health, education, scientific research, protection, public lands, transportation, resources, art and culture, trade policies, safety nets, and on and on. Nobody makes it on their own. If you got wealthy, you depended on The Public, and you have a responsibility to contribute significantly to The Public so that others can benefit in the future. Moreover, the wealthy depend on those who work, and who deserve a fair return for their contribution to our national life. Corporations exist to make life better for most people. Their reason for existing is as public as it is private.
A disproportionate distribution of wealth robs most citizens of access to the resources controlled by the wealthy. Immense wealth is a thief. It takes resources from the rest of the population — the best places to live, the best food, the best educations, the best health facilities, access to the best in nature and culture, the best professionals, and on and on. Resources are limited, and great wealth greatly limits access to resources for most people.
It appears to me that OWS has a progressive moral vision and view of democracy, and that what it is protesting is the disastrous effects that have come from operating with a conservative moral, economic, and political worldview. I see OWS as primarily a moral movement, seeking economic and political changes to carry out that moral movement — whatever those particular changes might be. …
[I didn't see any copyright notice on Lakoff's memo so I copied and pasted the rest inside. If I shouldn't please tell me to remove it or if you're an admin feel free to do it yourself.]
Cross-posted at BeyondtheChoir.org
Glenn Greenwald asked yesterday whether Occupy Wall Street “can be turned into a Democratic Party movement?”. He discusses how the tone of establishment Democrats has quickly shifted and how many in the Party—including the White House—are now clamoring to figure out how to ride the anti-Wall Street populist wave.
Judd Legum of the Center for American Progress even told the New York Times that “Democrats are already looking for ways to mobilize protesters in get-out-the-vote drives for 2012.”
After detailing the hypocrisy of a Party that is deeply in the pocket of Wall Street, Greenwald concludes:
So best of luck to CAP and the DCCC in their efforts to exploit these protests into some re-branded Obama 2012 crusade and to convince the protesters to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested all to make themselves the 2012 street version of OFA. I think they’re going to need it.
Greenwald is right, I think. Very few of the committed folks who are sacrificing time, safety and comfort to make these occupations happen are going to switch uncritically into re-elect Obama mode.
However, the fact that establishment Dems are clamoring to figure out how to co-opt this energy is a serious victory for genuine progressives and Left radicals. This is what political leverage looks like. Radicals haven’t had it in this country for a very long time, and now we’re getting a taste of it.
Read the rest of this entry »
A week into the Occupy Wall Street actions in New York, I wrote a short article with perhaps an overly harsh title, Occupy Wall Street: Convergence of a Radical Fringe. I have to admit that I was not very hopeful about the prospects of this mobilization. The rhetoric of the initial call to action seemed out of touch (except for reaching radicals). As inspired by the Arab Spring as I have been this year, I didn’t think—and still don’t think—you can neatly transplant a tactic from one context to a radically different context. Indeed, history is littered with tragically failed attempts to do so. More to the point though, it looked to me like the brave radicals who kicked this thing off were doing the usual thing of putting their counter-cultural foot forward first, and dooming the action to be locked onto that lonely path, where so many Americans who agree with our populist sentiments are inoculated against us as the messengers.
But grassroots movements for change are more often than not rife with all kinds of clumsy missteps. And thankfully the factors that I pointed to have not been enough to stop the growth of this audacious and persistent movement.
This weekend House Majority Leader Eric Cantor decried the “growing mob” of Wall Street protesters, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed her support, and the New York Times also endorsed the protest. Overnight, a political force is being born; one that has the potential to frame the national debate and finally create real populist pressure, a counter force to the formidable power of conservatives and big money.
This thing has, no doubt, gone big. It needs to go bigger. And it needs all of us who are sympathetic to help it to go bigger. If you’re waiting to join the perfect action, where you have no critique of any of the visible actors, you will wait forever. History will pass you by. Social change is a messy enterprise. Now is the time to dive into the wonderful mess. Bring your skills, your time, your money — even your critiques.
Most importantly, bring the people you know — not just the “activists” you know. These issues resonate with most Americans. So let’s challenge ourselves to have uncomfortable, unpredictable conversations with the people we know, from our workplaces, our families, our places of worship, our neighborhoods — not just the self-selectors who we meet in explicitly “activist” spaces.
It’s up to us to make sure Occupy Wall Street’s growth trajectory continues. See you in the streets.
Have you noticed the Occupy Wall Street protests have suddenly gone mainstream? Maybe there is some hidden 14 day or 15 day or 18 day trigger that only the media knows about before they’ll cover protests that challenge their view of the world.
More seriously, here is a quick round up of what I’ve seen that people may want to discuss. Feel free to add yours in comments or posts.
First, a silly meme from MSNBC, Wall Street rallies could be left’s Tea Party:
Born on the streets of New York, growing protests aimed at the heart of capitalism have sparked hope among liberals that they’re witnessing the birth of a movement to counter the conservative Tea Party.
The pieces are all there: ordinary citizens banding together for a cause; signs and protests announcing their grievances. Could the nation be witnessing the creation of a new political uprising?
The “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations started last month in New York and have since spread across the country, born out of anger toward the financial community’s success during a time of prolonged economic hardship.
Liberals are optimistic that those protests will translate into the kind of lasting political movement achieved over the last two years by the Tea Party, which helped reshape the trajectory of American politics, particularly within the Republican Party.
Yeah I saw the Koch brothers on the street the other day, passing out wads of money to the protestors, didn’t you? And there’s an astroturf organization with some clever Orwellian name that organizes these protests, right? This meme seems a great fit for Fox where I also heard at least one talking head saying this with a straight face. However, getting Bernie Sanders to say Obama should co-opt these protests is bizarre and out of touch with what is happening with the protests and in the country. Obama is part of the problem. Read the rest of this entry »
Why haven’t the protests on Wall Street sparked a prairie fire of populist rebellion across the country? Why, when Adbusters called for “reinforcements” did these not magically arrive? Why, if the protesters represent the feelings of “99% of Americans” have so very, very few of those represented bothered to support the initiative in any way at all?
Isn’t just about everyone furious with Wall Street right now?
Yes, but turning latent sentiment into coordinated collective action is never as simple as a mere call to action.
But it’s easy to see how a contingent of radicals could come to believe the delusion that the right call to action at the right moment is how mass rebellions are ignited. This formula for instantaneous revolution ignores quite a few essentials, including context, organizing, and leadership.
Context matters. Wall Street is not Tahrir Square. The United States is not Egypt. We have very different cultures, economic conditions, and political structures. Just because something on the other side of the globe seems awesome and inspiring to you, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to replicate it here. And trying to do so shouldn’t be your starting place.
Organizing matters. A notable “Tahrir Square” moment in the United States was November 30, 1999, when over a hundred thousand people effectively shut down the ministerial meetings of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. It was quite inspiring. Unfortunately, just like now, a lot of young radicals wanted to magically and formulaically replicate that everywhere, and attempted to do so at similar summits for the next two years, with diminishing returns. Seattle was only possible because of the grassroots organizing that had been steadily building in much less flashy, less glorious campaigns for the previous decade (e.g. anti-NAFTA organizing).
If your big introduction to collective action is a moment like November 30 in Seattle, it’s quite understandable, however mistaken, to try exclusively to replicate such magic. It’s like arriving at a farm during the harvest. Wow, all this delicious food is everywhere, and all you have to do is pluck it from the vine! You just want to keep harvesting and harvesting — why would anyone try anything else?! That the harvest was only possible through planting, watering, and diligent tending (including weeding!) escapes your notice. And this isn’t entirely your fault; if the farm had more resources, your elders would be taking the time to give you a better orientation.
Leadership matters. In a call to action, it matters who is making the call. Their legitimacy among already constituted social identities matters. It will make a difference, for example, if the call to action is being made by the head of the AFL-CIO, by prominent religious leaders, or, say, by Adbusters. You’ve got to start with a realization that there are plenty of reasons why people would not want to go to Wall Street to take action. They have other commitments in their lives, including jobs and families. And they might get arrested or hurt. However, in moments of real social upheaval a surprising number of people often prove willing to make significant sacrifices… if they think their sacrifice might actually make a difference. People are more likely to believe their efforts will make a difference when they are being asked by leadership that has already earned their faith and trust. (This leadership can be institutions and organizations, not just charismatic individuals.)
These mistakes are not entirely the fault of the brave young radicals who are taking the streets. The smallness and fringe-ness of the Occupy Wall Street protests is symptomatic of a much broader cultural pattern. This is part of a world in which politics is more about individual self-expression than about strategic engagement. This helps explain why the freak flag flies so freely at the protests, and why protest “organizers” probably didn’t approach the leadership of the AFL-CIO or the NAACP to try to build buy-in from social bases that are bigger and broader than their own small self-selecting circles. Radicals, like a lot of other people, are caught up in their own self-selecting, self-reinforcing information universes. A few nodes in their network put out a call to occupy Wall Street, all their “friends” repost and retweet, and suddenly it seems that the whole country may just be on the brink of revolution.
Cross-posted at BeyondtheChoir.org
Crossposted from My FDL
I had an interesting experience participating yesterday in FDL/The Dissenter’s live blogging on the Occupy Wall Street action in NYC. Someone posted a link to the NYT Saturday (9/24) front page article (posted Saturday evening around 8 p.m. on the “cityroom.blogs” section online; don’t know if it was in the print edition) on the demonstration. Here is the passage:
The continuing protests, against a financial system that participants say favors the rich and powerful over ordinary citizens, started last Saturday and were coordinated by a New York group called the General Assembly.
I complained in the live blog that identifying the event as coordinated by a New York group called the General Assembly minimizes the significance of the protest and does not connect it to the larger global movement begun by UK Uncut that crossed the Atlantic as US Uncut. The link is to US Uncut about page:
US Uncut is a grassroots movement taking direct action against corporate tax cheats and unnecessary and unfair public service cuts across the U.S. Washington’s proposed budget for the coming year sends a clear message: The wrath of budget cuts will fall upon the shoulders of hard-working Americans. That’s unacceptable.
US Uncut is a horizontal movement. There are no centrally planned protests. If you want one in your town or city, you’ll have to take it on yourself. Read our blog about what to do next.
Neither did the article connect Occupy Wall Street with its idea forebears: Adbusters, the non-profit, reader-supported Canadian magazine, from their about page, “concerned about the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces,” or Anonymous, the internet collective of users promoting acts of civil disobedience.
Participating in the live blogging, I learned how misguided and factually wrong I was with my complaint of the NYT story.
Someone on the live blog posted a link to the NYC group protesting Mayor Bloomberg’s budget cuts. The group Bloombergville.org came together in summer 2011 to “stand with all those struggling against austerity around the world.” And, “We are in active solidarity with those refusing any and all cuts when solutions to deficits are clearly available. The solution demands a reorientation of the fundamental priorities of our countries. We reject our money going to war, tax breaks for the rich, and subsidies to banks.”
Bloombergville called for a meeting on August 2 of the People’s General Assembly at the Bull on Wall Street to “discuss the planned occupation of Wall Street set for September 17, or we may come up with a new date. Whatever we decide, we need YOU there!”
While the Bloombergville group clearly considers themselves part of the larger global network of UK and US Uncut, participants on FDL/The Dissenter’s live blog suggested it might not be advantageous to our nascent movement in the U.S. to connect itself to umbrella groups.
Snapdragon had this to say: “I believe that tracing that sort of credit would not be helpful to building a larger movement. I suspect that the decision was to put the general assembly front and center in the press session that the media committee had with the media this afternoon.”
And Tar Heel Dem wrote: “And it’s authentic. The general assembly has worked through some stuff that starts institutionalizing a grassroots process in the US. As opposed to being limited to three or four initiating organizations. It starts to work through ironing out unity as the movement grows.
They directed me to a TruthOut article that tells the story of how the Bloombergville group General Assembly became connected to occupywallst.org, by accident and circumstances it turns out. More importantly, the Truth Out article describes the on-the-ground-work, not the internet organizing, of how so large an event as the Wall Street Occupation gets off the ground and just may live on as a milestone in the beginnings of significant social movement to take our country back from the Wall Street/Washington oligarchy. Here is the meat of the TruthOut article:
For someone who has been following this movement in gestation as well as implementation, it’s painfully easy to see which news articles take their bearing entirely from a few Google searches. Some reporters come to Liberty Plaza looking for Adbusters staff, or US Day of Rage members, or conspiratorial Obama supporters, or hackers from Anonymous. They’re briefly disappointed to find none of the above. Instead, it’s a bunch of people – from round-the-clock revolutionaries, to curious tourists, to retirees, to zealous students – spending most of their time in long meetings about supplying food, conducting marches, dividing up the plaza’s limited space and what exactly they’re there to do and why. And that’s the point. More than demanding any particular policy proposal, the occupation is reminding Wall Street what real democracy looks like: a discussion among people, not a contest of money.
As is now well known, the anti-consumerist group Adbusters made a call on July 13 for an occupation of Wall Street. That and a bit of poster art were the extent of its involvement. Adbusters floated the meme and left the rest to others. The trouble was, though, that most of the others were meme floaters, too.
The occupywallst.org web domain was registered anonymously on July 14, and it soon became the main clearinghouse for information about the movement’s progress. It remains so now and is getting, on average, about 50,000 unique visitors per day. It’s maintained mainly by a man and woman who met through the Anarchism section on the web site Reddit.
Soon came US Day of Rage, the project of Alexa O’Brien, an IT content management strategist. Since March, she has been trying to build a nationwide movement for radical campaign-finance reform—“One citizen. One dollar. One vote.”—and decided to peg her efforts to the September 17 action in New York, together with organizing similar ones in five other cities.
Then, of course, there’s Anonymous. The most-wanted hacker-activist collective indicated that it would join #occupywallstreet in late August. Within days, the Anons’ presence in the movement was being felt through Anonymous-branded viral videos, the bombardment of the movement’s Twitter hashtags (of which there is an ever-growing number) and rumors of scrutiny from Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, quietly, a group of several hundred mainly young activists, artists and students started gathering as a “General Assembly” (GA) – a leaderless, consensus-based decision-making process. They met weekly in public parks, starting on August 2 and continuing until the occupation began, with the intention of building an organizational and tactical framework for the action. It grew out of New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts, which had recently held a three-week occupation near City Hall called “Bloombergville” to protest against austerity measures. They had learned a lot from that and were ready to try something bigger.
The GA formed an Internet Committee, which quickly became fraught with infighting about process, security concerns and editorial control. These problems consumed hours and hours of the whole Assembly’s time. Their site went up, then down and then finally up again just days before the occupation began. It is now online at nycga.cc, but it receives only a small fraction of the traffic of occupywallst.org. Only on Thursday afternoon did the two sites figure out how to formally coordinate their activities.
As a result of these hiccups, in the lead-up and early days of the occupation, media coverage almost always associated it with meme floaters like Adbusters, US Day of Rage and Anonymous. But none of them alone was as responsible for what would be happening on the ground starting on September 17, ultimately, as the group gathered in the GA.
Others, it seems, have taken it upon themselves to fill the GA’s media vacuum of their own accord. One document being circulated and discussed online is “Occupy Wall Street – Official Demands,” dated September 20 of 2013, which includes
detailed proposals for reforming the financial system, none of which has been approved by the GA.
“This is definitely not ours,” says Marisa Holmes, a facilitator of the GA since the first planning meetings. “All decisions made by the GA are made in this space.”
Worse, thanks to some imaginative theorizing by Aaron Kein of the right-wing online publication WorldNetDaily, the idea began circulating that the movement was “closely tied” with ACORN, SEIU and that it took its inspiration from the Weather Underground; George Soros; and, ultimately, President Obama himself. Five minutes at a GA meeting would easily disabuse one of such associations. The GA had no official organizational ties and, besides a food fund that has been stuck in an inaccessible WePay account, almost no money. Many wish that they had the support of unions, but so far they still don’t.
What’s actually underway at Liberty Plaza is both simpler and more complicated: music making, sign drawing, talking, organizing, eating, marching, standoffs with police and (not enough) sleeping. It’s a movement in formation. As protesters
sometimes like to chant, “This Is Just Practice.” There are a handful of guys with Anonymous Guy Fawkes masks backward on their heads, but they’re just one affinity group among many.
O’Brien didn’t appear on the plaza much for a couple of days—she and her colleagues were “running the back-end,” monitoring police radios, or delivering ponchos and tarps—and there has been almost no talk of “One citizen. One dollar. One vote.” Adbusters sends the occasional package of posters in the mail and offers confusing advice to organizers on the ground. Nobody’s exactly sure yet who is doing what, but they’re learning. For the most part, the occupation is riding the momentum started in the GA meetings that were going on for a month and a half beforehand. They built a community of people who trust each other, who have a sense for each other’s skills and who are in some basic agreement about ends and means.
Finally, look at this conclusion of NYT 9/25 story (a version of this article appeared in print on 9/25 Metro section page 1 under the headline: Gunning for Wall Street, With Faulty Aim, according to the NYT.)
The group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgably is unsettling in the face of the challenges so many of its generation face — finding work, repaying student loans, figuring out ways to finish college when money has run out. But what were the chances that its members were going to receive the attention they so richly deserve carrying signs like “Even if the World Were to End Tomorrow I’d Still Plant a Tree Today”?
One day, a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Adam Sarzen, a decade or so older than many of the protesters, came to Zuccotti Park seemingly just to shake his head. “Look at these kids, sitting here with their Apple computers,” he said. “Apple, one of the biggest monopolies in the world. It trades at $400 a share. Do they even know that?”
Does the trader or the NYT know it is the people’s first responsibility to make their protest known. Before tackling the single issues of “finding work, repaying student loans, figuring out ways to finish college when money has run out,” we must first challenge the national discourse to even consider these single issues as more important than solving long term deficits by cutting social programs. We must challenge the national discourse that says our first priority is to not tax the wealthy and ensure Wall Street bankers and financiers continue to get their bonuses.