Wednesday, October 5, 2011

THE MARCH ON WALL STREET

Just got back and it's late so this'll be short. But...

...my any-day-now fourteen-year-old, his mother and me arrived where the march was happening, about four blocks before it reached the square that protesters have been occupying now for a few weeks.

We were an hour and a half late for the start of the march so figured we'd head for close to where it ended and hopefully there'd still be some marching or at least we'd see the protesters in the square.

But not only was the march still going strong, we stuck around the square for two hours or more and when we left, there were marchers still arriving! That means the march was going on for several hours, which means there had to be many many more thousands than the two thousand the organizers expected.

It was exhilarating to be among people with mostly shared beliefs and aspirations standing up for those beliefs and aspirations in a joyful but powerful way.

There were so many handwritten signs that were witty and/or succinct in ways our politicians unfortunately haven't been on the left and in the center. There were some dumb ones too, the socialist worker party had signs against the NYPD, good thinking guys. The cops are suffering the same fate as the rest of working "America"—losing their jobs, taking pay cuts, paring more for health insurance and medical expenses. You should be trying to win them over not putting them down.

And there was one guy with a handmade sign that said "OBAMA=BUSH" who I couldn't help accosting and challenging, reminding him that that kind of reductionist oversimplification is playing into the right's hand because they want young people to think there isn't any difference so they won't vote or will throw their vote away.

I know I know a lot of you think Obama has been a big letdown and in some areas he has been, but in others he's done pretty well with what he had to work with and stopped or reversed some of the harshest rightwing policies and undertakings that began under Reagan and intensified under Bush Junior.

I pointed out that convincing young people that Gore was just as bad as Bush Junior and not voting or voting for Nadar instead led to all the deaths in the Iraq War and all the debt as well. I had to shout to be heard over the noise of the continuing to gather crowd spilling out into the closed off street (and surrounded by more cops than I've ever seen at any demonstration I've taken part in including ones in DC in the 1960s and '70s at which crowds of hundreds of thousands and in my estimation over a million were gathered) and I guess I was also getting a little angry and the overstimulus of the noise and crowd was baking my brain in ways it hadn't been since the surgery almost two years ago...

...by this time he was trying to convince me that what happened in '68 when the left opted out of the election or voted, as I did, for third party candidates which put Nixon in power until he resigned in disgrace and extended the Viet Nam war for several more years and widened it into Laos and Cambodia and thereby ruined three countries and caused endless death and destruction etc. was irrelevant because according to him what happened in 2000 and 2004 were "different" than now...

...but just as he was maybe about to say this time the protesters would actually see that neither Obama or a Republican won the presidency, (because he sounded that out of it)...

...my son was pulling on me, upset that I was in what he took for an argument that looked like it might turn violent, so I let him pull me away, trying to explain that this is what the left does at protests, we argue over tactics and goals and individual understanding of the realities we're dealing with and trying to reform or reverse etc...

Anyway, this wasn't as short as I thought it would be. Michael Moore was there and my sister-in-law's boyfriend (who was already there when we arrived, she got there later after work) got some footage of him but we couldn't get that close, and lots of drumming and singing and dancing and unique outfits and colorful flags and signs and chants...

..it was the best, most moving, and maybe largest protest I've been at for many years. By the time we left, my brain felt like it had been soaked up by a large sponge now encased in my skull. I couldn't have gotten there or home by myself, but I was so happy that I was able to be there, to experience it, to smile at the few other gray heads in the crowd and give a thumbs up to all the union members there though I never saw the three I belong to (which may mean they still hadn't reached the park by the time we left!).

It was sweet too that my youngest got to experience a piece of history, because there's no doubt in my mind that the energy displayed at this protest is not going to dissipate any time soon. In fact, I suspect it might just change some history.

[PS: Here's a shot my youngest son' mother took of him at the protest with his aunt's boyfriend and the gray-haired gentleman behind them with his hair blown sideways by the wind, hmmm who could that be...]

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

MIchael, glad you were there and that you all got out safely...we've been following the live streaming all day...hearing about all the macing and baton beatings right now on Keith Olberman...8:50 pm CA time...

suzanne and tony

Lally said...

Thanks Suzanne (and Tony), I didn't hear about any macing and beatings, must have occurred after we left, but I did notice that when I turned on the news after I wrote the above post, there was nothing on any of the channels except Steve Jobs's deat. I'm sorry he passed so young, and no doubt he was one of the most influential men of his times and his passing deserves attention, but that's all I could get for the hour I watched and kept switching channels to try and see something about the march! I guess I should have been looking online or figure out what channel Olberman's network is on.

Jamie Rose said...

Fascinated by this post Lals. And I love the pic of Flynnie! He looks like a Dead End Kid. xoJ

harryn said...

You look like you're in your element brother ...

Sounds like a real 'skull bongo' experience - even without brain surgery, but I'm glad you guys made it out safely.

I really hope the 'movement' doesn't dissipate from a lack of clear focus as the media has been portraying it.
Our culture has become so driven by 'branding' and sound bytes that it seems unless there's clear cause and effect things just get passed off as insignificant.

Besides, why would a few thousand protestors be any less difficult to dismiss than the millions that are distressed every day by the policies of the people that are being protested?

The media has to get hip to this as well or they should be among the issues of dissent.
Hopefully a clear and intelligent voice will arise from this soon.

Miles said...

Wow, great to hear about your experience at OWS dad, wish I had been there with you all.

Paul, I agree with you 100%. There needs to be a concise demand connected to the demonstrations arising from the OWS movement. And as Yeselson said in his guest article for the Washington Post yesterday (link below), the demand needs to be for something that, if enacted, would immediately impact the quality of life of those involved in this outcry. He suggests restructuring personal debt which would lower millions of people's monthly bills. Hopefully, messages like his will rise to the top of the cacophony of cries for change.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/the-four-habits-of-highly-successful-social-movements/2011/08/25/gIQAeifVNL_blog.html

harryn said...

Sorry to take up more space on this, but there's something that's been troubling me about this "March on Wall Street" from the beginning.

As stated previously, I'm inspired by the will and commitment of the people involved. But I'd like to see 'value added' benefits for the energy and resources expended before it fades from lack of cohesion.

In many ways it seems symptomatic of the larger problem; a lot of voices and opinions without a central intent or leadership - like shooting without a target. Isn't it that lack of clarity which got us into the mess that's being protested - all the financiers, politicians, corporations, and military mechanisms all rallying and lobbying their personal agendas without regard for anything more than their own personal profit or ass-covering behavior? And it's the same lack of leadership that's causing such legislative paralysis in Washington today.
The principles of this democracy are being confounded by the individualized voices and agendas - this is where the 'divide and conquer' application becomes most effective - as it has in our 'flash politics' today ...

Social media is a wonderful tool as demonstrated with the 'Arab Spring' uprisings, but I'd hate to see this March on Wall Street become the froth that covers the substance because of a lack of branding that aspires to achieve something other than a headline. That would be sooo Warholian ...

At the moment, this 'March' doesn't seem to jeopardize anyone's way of life; Wall Street continues to function, legislative stale-mating continues, the media continues to make disparaging remarks against the protestors involved, and self promoting schemes are beginning to be launched.
It seems in the past there was consequence attached to protest in the same way union strikes prevented the operation of a company. Civil Rights, Vietnam War, etc.
I'm concerned that the people who are being protested look down from their offices and see it as nothing more than an amusing distraction in the same way they step over a homeless person on their way for a morning latte ...
We wouldn't be in this mess if it wasn't for the 'clear and decisive' actions of misinformed (or conscienceless) to take advantage of a large portion of the population.
There needs to be a message, a target, and consequence - and with attention spans being what they are today, I'm not certain it will politicians any great discomfort ...

thanks, that feels a little better ...

Miles said...

Paul,

Paul, I share your desire to see this movement make a real impact. In my opinion, it seems to have a chance.

Here is a link to the first Declaration of the Occupation of New York City:

http://nycga.cc/2011/09/30/declaration-of-the-occupation-of-new-york-city/

Seems like a viable start, even if a bit too broad. If they focused on just the first two items (illegal forclosure, and holding wall st criminals accountable), it'd be hard to argue against them.

Link to Occupy Wall St. general assembly site:

http://nycga.cc/

Also, http://www.occupytogether.org/ is a site designed to facilitate taking the protest to the streets of communities outside of NYC.

And finally, Krugman links to this (long) academic article about protest in America that is a must read:

http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=00580

Anonymous said...

This is an answer to some of your concerns guys.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/05/opinion/rushkoff-occupy-wall-street/index.html

I don't see a need to get a clearer message, it's clear to me. We the people are sick and tired of the same old crap and we will sit here until you the leaders change it for real. That's what I've gotten from going to the website set up by Occupy Wall Street. Want to go badly, glad you went pops.

Caitlin

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Yes, as I tried to say in my comment on Michael's "PS to last post" entry below:

The first step of change is awareness then acknowledgement that the problem is real, then stemming the cause and then, solution. The Wall Stree Occupation is bringing attention to the problem and mobilizing those affected to say we want to change, we can change and we will change it. Now we need solutions, options, roads to pave and travel. Much of it has to do with holding those accountable and stopping further exploitation. There needs to be a redistribution of wealth and if the ignorant want to call this socialism let them because when people can no longer afford to buy things, the corporations will collapse. It's in the corporations best interest for everyone to be living comforably and to be able to afford to buy shit. There's no need for anyone in on this planet to be a billionaire. Everything above a billion should be spread to the many. It's been said around before, but if the stimulus money went to the people instead of the corporations, the crisis would be over and we'd be out of debt.

Miles said...

Cait,

That is a great link, thanks. The article points out succinctly how this movement's narrative is more like the internet while previous revolutions were more like books. However, I still think this movement could take some cues from traditional protests.

If a clear set of demands are never articulated, the protest will be relegated to the sidelines. However, if a simple demand is made and then ignored (like Obama forcing the Republicans to vote on his jobs bill, if they don't they look horrible, but they can't because of their screwed up loyalties) the movement will gain momentum as more regular folks who don't relate to radical politics see themselves connected to the outcome of the simple demand. For example, there have been millions of foreclosures that are at least technically illegal (the foreclosing bank didn't actually posses the title!). If a simple demand was made to right this wrong, the movement would stand to grow by the millions!

Furthermore, the solutions aren't distant and unknown. Like Robert says, if the bailout had been for the people, rather than for the banks, we'd be over the crisis. And that isn't some crazy sentiment cooked up by a creative artist type. That is a macro 101 textbook solution. One that has been voiced continually by people inside and outside of the establishment!

So while I'm all for storming city hall/wall st./ etc. I feel strongly that once the camera is pointed at the protest, there should be a focus on solutions and not just an airing of grievances.

Finally, I understand this is just the beginning, and I hope folks feel the way you do Cait, that they're fed up and willing to stick it out until real change is made.

JIm said...
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JIm said...
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Miles said...

By the way Cait, Krugman agrees with both of us :)


His latest column offers a succinct summary of how the economy got so off track. It also offers a couple solutions. But interestingly, Krugman touches on exactly what we are discussing here (whether or not the OWS needs to congeal around specific demands). He says that he wants to see specific demands from OWS eventually, but he also describes how it's not essential that the OWS generate those demands. In fact, he goes on to say that the responsibility for determining policy rests on professionals like himself and Joe Stiglitz (who, in contrast to many of the policy professionals in power, have been pointing out all the missteps as they happened in real time), because it is one's duty to press their expertise into service for the good of the American people! Pretty cool stuff.

Krugman's column is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/07/opinion/krugman-confronting-the-malefactors.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Lally said...

Mies, i read that Krugman column. Terrific, as always.