Monday, October 03, 2011
The War at Home
I've been putting this off for a while, mostly because I've had so much preoccupying me lately, but it's probably time I at least went on the record about the burgeoning protest movement that's captured the attention of the country and -- finally -- the country's media.
When "Occupy Wall Street" first started, it bugged the hell out of me. Anyone who's read this site long enough should immediately understand what my issues might be with a bunch of kids who seem pissed that they missed out on the 60s -- and to a lesser degree, that the summer Phish tour wrapped up -- storming Lower Manhattan to unleash a metric ton of inchoate, incoherent rage through drum circles and a whole lot of Guy Fawkes masks. For years now I've very publicly decried the old school model of left-wing protest for the simple reason that the rules have changed drastically and to pretend that they haven't will quickly render any form of push-back activism moot.
The fact is that while at one time in our nation's history individualism was seen as a serious threat to the status quo, now not only is it not dangerous, it's an almost comical anachronism. There is no individualism these days. Nothing truly audacious can stand in our culture, not when our culture has become so monstrously adept at assimilating all forms of rebellion until they become completely meaningless and utterly impotent. Prepackaged, homogenized non-conformity is as close as your local Hot Topic. Agitation is fashion. Defiance is a slogan. Insurrection is product placement. The revolution is not only televised, it can be DVRed and enjoyed at your convenience.
So, no, hundreds of people wearing different colorful outfits, each carrying a sign emblazoned with his or her personal agenda not only constitutes an ineffective mess, it provides endless fodder for the idiots at Fox News, who get to smirk patronizingly and present it as good news from the front, as Matt Taibbi once called it, for their audience of bitter old people.
The protest itself was important -- too important to be incompetently executed to the point that it could be easily dismissed by the masses.
But admittedly, something has happened over the past week or so: A single, fundamental message of Occupy Wall Street has begun to coalesce, and a series of disorganized grievances has slowly started to dovetail into one, coherent movement. What's more, the outrage voiced by a few has lit a match to the anger felt by millions -- and the resulting fire is now spreading rapidly, with similar protests flaring up across the country. Occupy Wall Street may have started as a muddled gathering of occasionally conflicting ideas, but it was the spark that was needed to potentially create a conflagration. And it's damn well about time.
I've always believed that in order for a protest of this kind to be effective, it would have to draw the support of -- and present as a public face -- more than simply the youth, since young people can always be shrugged off as misguided or simply in need of a job to better occupy their time (the latter criticism being wonderfully ironic given the very reason for the protest in the first place). Maybe that's why the photo below -- posted by Digby and circulated by Matt Osborne -- really struck a chord with me.
It's more than just a bunch of "deluded kids" now. It's the impossible-to-deny men and women who've found themselves crushed under the heel of an unaccountable and out-of-control corporate culture -- of those consistently on the winning end of the rigged, zero-sum game that success in America has gruesomely morphed into at the beginning of the 21st century. They're part of the vanishing middle-class -- and they're fucking sick of it. We're fucking sick of it.
I'm not a fan of the Rage Against the Machine brand of social upheaval, which is the reason I was wary about Occupy Wall Street at the beginning. But the band was right about one thing, and it may provide the perfect summary of what's erupted on the streets of New York City: It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?