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Frigid Pink

by James Lileks

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.

Anyway, you’ll always get fringey folk. Just because people have Che signs doesn’t mean they share his sociopathic murder fantasies; it means they admire the way he combined state-directed economies with natural, free-flowing hair that doesn’t require any conditioner or gel to stay lustrous and touchable all day. Just because someone waves the anarchists’ flag doesn’t mean they want to eliminate government; those fellows are just useful for getting the ball rolling. Just because there’s a fellow selling copies of Marx doesn’t mean they’re Communists, and even if some were, well, at least the Communists tried to build a better world. Sometimes you have to break 100 million eggs and confiscate the chicken coops to make an omelette, and if you don’t have an omelette after all that, it’s the Jewish chef’s fault. Purge ’em all.

Speaking of which: The local “Occupy” event had lasted about 36 hours before someone chalked a message demanding opposition to the Zionist lobby on the plaza bricks. A nearby message encouraged veganism. Talk about your big tent. But could a kabob-noshing Hamas member find common ground with post-industrial pagan lentil-gnashers? Of course. It’s not just hatred of the banks or capitalism or Zionism or soapism or workism that binds them all. It’s all you people who can’t see how wrong your lives are.

The Man whose love of sport institutionalizes violence against women! The anti-feminist Woman who overstresses the crowded planet by having children and driving them around in a van, which kills the earth, and then they have hamburgers, which is cruel and supports factory farming, and they live in the suburbs, which is unsustainable, and go to church, which is probably bad but depends on whether there’s a rainbow flag outside, and they’re married, which buys into the whole heteronormative-patriarchy thing, and sure the family’s cutting back but they’re doing okay, and they don’t realize they should be here yelling at the bank that gave them the mortgage.

These people are the problem. Not the regulatory state, not crony capitalism, not state budgets groaning under the weight of union pensions, not even the 1 percent, really. The problem is the 99 percent who don’t realize that every moment of every day is a lie in this hellish funhouse culture, and every act that perpetuates the system a crime against humanity. If they don’t come around, well, we can tear all this down on their behalf.

Beyond that? Details, details. There’s a meeting at 5 p.m. on post-revolutionary paradigm management. They should figure it out by six.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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