I HAVE NEVER been fond of protests. I was inculcated into lefty protest culture at a young age, and it seemed to mean belonging to a marginal subgroup yelling irrelevantly, much like when I had to go to Lakers games and root against the Lakers.
I did not expect, then, that my heart would warm to the Occupy movement as it has. Here in Oakland things have gotten out of hand every possible way, and the local news is often painful. But I also got to watch news chopper footage of the Port with an ant swarm of Oaklanders, publicly agreeing on something quite important. Precisely what that thing is I can't say any more than they can, and I think that is fine. Not everything is articulable, after all.
The agendalessness criticism not only misses but subverts the point. Why must it always be anti-government nuts and right wing media screamers who get to be generally aggrieved, while lefty poindexters are supposed to tiptoe into the halls of power with their briefcases full of bullet-pointed 'demands' in a sensible font?
Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in the New Yorker:
Yes, O.W.S. has 'changed the conversation.' But talk, however necessary, is cheap. Ultimately, inevitably, the route to real change has to run through politics.
And for the very first time I disagreed with him. In a world where Congressional Republicans are three hundred-pound brutes in pads who look plumply ineffectual but prove startlingly strong, and are single-minded enough to block our gallant, lean-muscled president from passing even a bill saying please let's at least keep teachers and firefighters...general shouting may be just the thing.
Rather than being based upon an agenda, Occupy is a manifestation of a feeling, one we all sort of have. When we see those protesters out there, we know what they mean. They don't have to spell it out. That they should make particular demands is great--like financial tranfers tax, awesome. But to focus exclusively on such would be a sign not of maturity but of timid self-limitation.
Occupy is a fresh wind blown in. The recent past has seen America awash in wealth worship. The vast cultural force that is Entertainment News scolds against hating on the rich. It's so flippin cool to be rich! cheer the Entertainment Newspeople, out of whose whitened smile mouths come terrible things. But hateration is about envy. The 99% solidarity ethos is about anger. Anger over wrongness.
Wealth can indeed be unethical, I believe. Hard core 1%-er wealth is inevitably built others' backs. The work of armies of immigrant gardeners and nannies and housekeepers hums along in the background. Regular people turn off lights when they leave rooms, while the fabulously wealthy keep a heated pool at a third home. And of course there's the elaborately choreographed fucking-over of other people that led to the 2008 financial meltdown.
There actually are limited resources in this world, and when they are allocated preposterously it's many ways helpful to yell about it. Even as cold and cops blow Occupy adrift, it does something.