Occupy Wall Street gets all the press, but the world-changing assemblies are happening all over, you know. Here in Minnesota the locals formed OccupyMN and took over Government Plaza. It’s a few blocks from my office, so I stroll over now and then to see if the number of protesters can be counted on fingers and toes. When cold weather sets in, the protesters will drop off, along with fingers and toes. It gets brutal here.
A few have already moved on. At the end of the first week a car pulled up, and a scruffy character leaned out the window and waved a friend over. “Came to see the global movement in action, dude,” said the man in the car. “Yeah, it’s happening,” said his friend. And it was! Fifty people! Teach-ins! Signs! A unanimous consensus that Glass-Steagall must be reinstated! “You joining?”
“No, headin’ south,” said his friend. They exchanged a complex handshake to indicate solidarity with People Against Things, and the friend drove off.
As the weeks went by, a lot of people went south. Gone was the great Pile of Signs, a heap of placards from which you could choose a ready-made argument — Need a grievance? Take a grievance! Have a grievance? Leave a grievance! — and gone was the kindly man who sat on the steps and offered a critique of capitalism, like Lucy in Peanuts with her psychiatry stand. (The Socialist is “IN.”) Most days you’d find scroungers at the free-food table, a half-dozen people spread out over the great barren space, and the Obligatory Drummer. Gotta have a drummer. Nothing rankles The Man like the incessant sound of someone whapping an upended pickle bucket. There’s still a daily schedule, which reads something like this:
1 p.m. Meeting: Facilitating community responses to systemic change.
2 p.m.: Engendering inclusive strategies to holistic organization.
3 p.m.: Changing responses to community facilitation.
4 p.m.: Cross-cultural community-inclusive change-facilitation training.
Occasionally they march to banks and express their displeasure in rhyming couplets. There hasn’t been this much drama since the LaRouchies showed up with a poster of Obama sporting a Hitler mustache. Turns out that’s disrespectful! Please make a note of it.
Larger “Occupy” events have drawn more attention, partly for the gibbering lunacy of some of the attendees. But that says nothing about the issues, does it? Of course, when the media wade into a tea-party rally and find a coot with a Dixie flag who tells a reporter he thinks this Hussein fella in the White House oughta have his slogan bein’ “Yes We Kenyan,” that’s sufficient to invalidate the entire Tea Party and its critique of the entitlement state. The Collective Boomer Memory has no analogue for Dad protesting, let alone for legitimate reasons, so all these old Yankee Doodles are just here because the lynching got rained out. Unless an old Stalinist like Pete Seeger is winched down from the folkie pantheon to bless the multitudes, and everything resembles the organizational precision and bacterial free-for-all of Woodstock, it’s not legit.