Last week I found myself in lower Manhattan. With a bit of time to kill, I decided to satisfy my curiosity about the Occupy Wall Street protests (I hesitate to describe what I saw as a movement). So, I wandered over to Zuccotti Park and waded in. First, as an historian with a passion for medieval history, I have often wondered what odors would assail the senses if one was among a large group of individuals who had only a passing acquaintance with concepts of hygiene. I no longer have to wonder. If any of you are planning to send CARE packages to the OWS folks, please, for the love of God, include soap, along with instructions for its use.
I also noted that the average OWS revolutionary is rather lazy. I began my wanderings at about 10:00 a.m., and at least half of the OWS occupiers were still wrapped up in their sleeping bags and tarps. If the day ever arrives when I feel compelled to lead a revolution, job number one will be recruiting folks ready to roll out the banners and start chanting slogans at the crack of dawn. I may make some exceptions for those leading midnight marches the night before, but that’s it. Everyone else will be manning the barricades by first light.
I was not alone in my disappointment. Spotting a milling crowd in the center of the encampment I wandered closer. A man on the outskirts of the mini-mob was yelling at the crowd. I assumed he was attempting to stir them from their lethargy, possibly preparing them to march on some millionaire’s house. Given the buzz of activity around him I was sure I had found the epicenter of the revolution. It turned out, however, to be the feeding station, where free eggs and what I think was bacon were being given away. Milling around waiting for the free food was the most motley collection of vagrants I have ever witnessed. And the man haranguing them from the sidelines was in actuality condemning them for their lack of commitment. Over and over he shouted, “You’re only here for the free food — not the revolution,” alternating with, “The revolution is not about free food.” I stood to one side for a while, and it was soon apparent to me that for the majority of those at Zuccotti Park, their revolutionary fervor was very much related to getting a free meal.
Disappointed to discover that for many of those in the encampment the revolution really was mostly about filling their bellies on someone else’s dime, I moved on. As I made my way across the park, I was accosted three times by folks asking me for money. Possibly my business suit identified me as one of the 1 percent with a few dollars to spare. Unfortunately for the panhandlers of the revolution, there are a number of worthier causes for me to distribute my limited assets to.
As luck would have it, though, many of them will not have to worry about money for much longer, as several OWS occupiers had the answer to everyone’s financial problems. This innovative group, all sporting $4-bill badges, claimed to have reimagined money. Intrigued, I asked how such a reimagination worked. In short, it seems that people are to create money as they need it for their own happiness and the happiness of others. This I liked, as I have a wonderful imagination and a deep need to use my money so as to increase my own happiness. I promptly imagined a page of my notebook into $10,000 and gave it to one of the $4 lapel-badge ladies. She looked at the sheet of paper and smiled at me. So far, so good. I then asked for her laptop and told her she could keep the $8,000 change I was due so as to further increase her own happiness. She quickly turned away, taking her laptop with her and leaving me short $10,000 of reimagined money. I assume the system has some kinks that the revolution will figure out as it goes.