Thursday, October 6, 2011


Wipre [I meant "Wiped" but firgured I'd leave it to show how my brain's functioning the morning after] [and "firgured"!] out today from my excursion yesterday into the city and Occupy Wall Street march and demonstration, but I want to clarify what I posted last night and respond to comments on the post or in emails I've received and conversations already.

When we left the scene and my youngest son's mother asked me what I thought the media would say about the size of the demonstration, I said probably what the organizers estimated before it happened, around two thousand folks.

She said there had to be at least ten thousand people who marched and filtered through the square where the march ended up and the occupation is going on. I think that's probably right, but because the some marchers stuck around but others left and more came coming [I obviously meant "kept coming"] once the square and the blocked off street beside it were full it was impossible to tell that it stayed full because more people arrived as others left.

Had it been Times Square I have no doubt it would have filled that much larger space as well, or even a good section of Central Park (I remember an anti-nuke protest I went to with my two older children and their stepmother back in the early 1980s in Central Park with what was estimated as more than a hundred thousand people and it didn't seem like many more than I saw passing through the scene last night).

But all I heard on the news this morning (dropped in for a minute or so between more tributes to Steve Jobs) was what I expected, "a few thousand" "a couple of thousand" etc.

As for my focusing on a small group of protesters with anti-NYPD signs or the single protester with the "OBAMA=BUSH" sign, I didn't mean to be misleading, because the majority of people we marched with and I watched filter into the park as the march continued for several hours held signs that either echoed the Occupy Wall Street manifesto as in "We are the 99%" or said "Tax the Rich" or echoed the chants of "Banks get bailed out! We get sold out!"

The handwritten individual signs said everything from "We're too sexy for the system" or "Minor literary celebrities..." I can't remember the rest, something in support of the protest and against "Wall Street." There were some really funny and original signs I wish I had written down or got someone to photograph, but unfortunately I didn't.

But the main point I want to make that maybe I didn't make clear yesterday is that despite the presence of some protesters with individual agendas that might not serve the process of protesting and hopefully changing the ways corporate wealth influences not just our politics but almost every aspect of our lives, the most important thing about the protesters was their diversity.

I don't just mean racially, though that too, but age, gender, ethnicity, and group identity (at least for the march) as in "Korean-Americans for..." and "Filipino-Americans against..." There were nurses unions, doctors, transportation union members, NY fire department members, my union members (i.e. Writers Guild, American federation of Television and Radio Actors, Screen Actors (some said they saw Mike Meyers among the marchers), gay and lesbian etc. marchers, Verizon workers (the various unions were mostly represented by pre-printed signs), airport workers unions, and so on endlessly.

There was a World War Two veteran in a wheel chair, and there were children with their parents as young as pre-school age. There was a gray-haired woman in cap and gown and that shawl-scarf-like thing they wear around their necks meaning I think they have their doctorate (she looked like she could have easily been a university president for all I know), there were hippy looking young and old and folks in business suits and clothes carrying brief cases (we ran into a friend from our town on his way back as he was getting into the NJ PATH train we were exiting at The World Trade Center stop and we didn't have to say anything as he said, "Oh, you're going to the thing..I work in a building right across the street from it...good luck...wish I could join you..." or words to that effect.

That latter is a reminder of what I meant to make my main point (partly in response to your comments Paul) which is, when what became known as "the 'sixties" started, I'd say with Mario Savio's speech at UC Berkeley about throwing ourselves into the gears of the machine to stop it around 1964, those against what our government was becoming and what now seems like but at the time didn't an almost benign impact on our world by the corporatization of "America" (in a much more limited way than now but already negatively effecting life) it would be a few more years before the focus would be more precisely targeted against Lyndon Johnson's war (Viet Nam) policy and that was a result of the draft holding all young people as hostages.

It is normal at this phase (as it was in Cairo and elsewhere in the Arab Spring) to vent anger at one person or aspect of "the system" but surround that anger with other pleas for a variety of causes and perspectives, some of which counteract each other. But the important thing is that the initial surge of protest be inclusive, display the diversity of not just people's group identities but ideas and beliefs and goals.

This is what gives the movement energy and challenges preconceived notions about goals and agendas for getting there, as well as sharpening the methods for doing so. I believe more focused agendas will emerge. The biggest challenge, from my experience, will be not giving up before before that happens.

I remember watching from my unique perspective (a little street, a lot working-class background and attitude, yet advanced education and radically individual creative involvement and identity, etc.) as it became clear that the anti-Viet-Nam-War activists had finally convinced many, I believe a majority, in the then older generation that the war was a waste of time and effort and money and human lives, and that was just when many of the younger leaders in the movement began to give up, drop out of the struggle, get into esoteric religion or personal gain or etc. and the energy began to dissipate until with the final fiasco of our troops withdrawing from Nam the left seemed to almost collapse in on itself and return to fragmented factional bickering as the right was just beginning to initiate its strategy of building a lasting movement for gaining political and media power using corporate resources that had been shaken by the "power of the people" as manifested in the anti-war movement.

Those of the older generation went back to accepting the status quo, though again from my perspective many of them had become ready to actually support a movement to re-order the growing dominance of corporations on our government and get back to the ideals of Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt regarding the necessity for government to make sure no corporations got so big and powerful that they could dominate government at all.

Phew! You have no idea how many times I had to rewrite each sentence above to finish this post. I think I'm definitely taking it as easy as my youngest and whoever else I encounter today allows me to.

[PS: This link to a good article on why the movement has been slow to start etc. was in the comment from my older son Miles in my past post, worth checking out.]

[PPS: And this link is another (with the one of the best signs from the march), this time from my daughter Caitlin's comment on the last post.]

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