OWS deserves praise for strong message
November 3, 2011
With ongoing protests in 70 major U.S. and in 900 cities and towns worldwide and with at least one general strike, it was only a matter of time before the demonstrations known as “Occupy Wall Street” made their way to Williamsburg. Considering the situation in which students everywhere have found themselves, what’s surprising is that there hasn’t been an event at the Crim Dell sooner. The average loan debt for a student at the College is approximately $13,000, and those debts aren’t exactly easy to pay. What middling reform there’s been by President Barack Obama’s administration has been fought tooth and nail by the moneyed interests the Occupy movement speaks out against, so it would seem that students might be inclined to support these protests.
Yet the all-too-familiar voices of reactionary campaigners have begun their condemnation, simultaneously arguing against a popular movement while shooting themselves in the foot. Forgive me for being critical, but shouldn’t shilling in favor of the one percent be reserved for that exalted group? It’s pretty clear they could afford it on their own. Let’s assume, however, that the naysayers feel so strongly for the “job creators” that they simply must give these people a defense. What have they been saying about the folks in Zuccotti Park, dubbed by protesters as ‘Liberty Square?’
A common complaint leveled at the movement has been aimed at its lack of focus and clarity of purpose.
This is true, but I must ask: Who cares? It’s counter to the movement to delve into any specifics, especially with regard to the adoption of a formal agenda. What’s been so impressive about the protests so far is their resistance to the very idea of policy positions. If they were to come out with a pet cause, they’d be like any other interest group, with boundaries and an ideological “line” to toe. By keeping their message broad, they resist co-opting by any of the forces within the system they consider to be broken. To make this claim against the protestors is to betray utter ignorance of these demonstrations. One might well ask a surgeon to cure a patient’s chronic liver disease by just working with what he has. The time is nigh, say the occupiers, for a transplant.
And who are these occupiers? Some wrong-headed apologists would suggest the people in Lower Manhattan and around the world are just a bunch of misguided, privileged kids. I suppose I must refute this with my own experience: I was fortunate enough to be in New York a couple weeks ago, during the Saturday when upwards of 8,000 people demonstrated in Times Square. I don’t mind admitting that, as a student in college, I could easily and rightly be called a “kid.” But don’t let my presence there fool you. There were all kinds of people, young and old, white and black, communist and capitalist, in various states of dress and cleanliness. I even spotted a few folk wearing suits. You’d think someone would have told them it was a beatnik-only affair. No one, not even the good people of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, seemed to care, though.
The very best part of this whole movement is just how nice everyone is. I’m in the somewhat unique position of having attended both a Tea Party rally and an event for Occupy Wall Street, and I have to say, in Zuccotti there aren’t a lot of angry people. When I marched to Washington Square, we yelled slogans and chants, but we invited everyone on the streets to come and join. Because a movement like this isn’t so simple that it can be reduced to blunt and uninformed objection, I invite everyone to have a frank and open dialogue on what it could mean to them. The Occupy Wall Street movement, in all its inclusiveness, could mean a lot to anyone.
For me, it’s most refreshing to have a group with no political boundaries; after all, that means the possibilities are endless.