13 Ways to Look at the Occupation of Wall Street
1) I had brunch on Sunday in Chinatown with a friend who works in local television news. He complained that the Occupy Wall Street people had sent over video that they said showed demonstrators getting maced. It didn’t show any such thing, my friend insisted. After brunch I walked over to occupied Zuccotti Park (two blocks north of Wall Street) and told somebody at the Media table that they had to be careful about claiming more for their video than it actually showed. Then I went home and looked at the video, and it clearly showed several young women, who presented no physical threat, getting wrapped up by police in a plastic net and pepper sprayed in the face.
2) My friend’s other complaint about Occupy Wall Street was that they didn’t have a list of demands. Nobody knows what they want, said my friend. It is true that they don’t have a policy statement yet, nothing to spoonfeed the corporate press. But they are trying. On Saturday night, I sat through their General Assembly meeting in the park and heard the report of the One Demand Working Group. Basically, they wanted to demand that other autonomous groups in other cities join them. Most of the General Assembly pointed their hands down and wiggled their fingers, meaning disapproval (in a supportive way). Several people said that you can’t demand solidarity from an autonomous group, you can only encourage it. And everyone seemed to think the language wasn’t “provocative” or “funny,” which meant it had way too much Process jargon and not enough Anglo Saxon monosyllables. It was suggested (not decided) that the One Demand Working Group try another draft and perhaps combine their efforts with the Principles of Solidarity Working Group.
3) The Process is how stuff gets worked out when you don’t have leaders, only Facilitators who facilitate group decisions. There are lots of Facilitators, so the police can’t nail anyone as a leader, not that anyone would want a leader anyway.
4) The Ad Hoc Caucus of Non-Male Identified Individuals wanted help writing a letter to Stephen Colbert, who had done a report that focused on a Non-Male Identified Individual who was in a state of disrobe while protesting Wall Street on the sidewalk. The report featured only interviews with Male Identified Individuals commenting on the naked Non-Male Identified Individual. The Ad Hoc Caucus of Non-Male Identified Individuals wanted Colbert to rectify this imbalance. Male Bodied Individuals, who were not wholly Male Identified, were welcome at the meeting of the Ad Hoc Caucus of Non-Male Identified Individuals.
5) I think that the corporate press has a difficult time understanding Occupy Wall Street because, like 99% of Americans, they have no experience with democracy. They spend most of their time enslaved by large totalitarian collectives known as “corporations” and have never once decided anything for themselves as a group of equal workers. Instead they follow orders and write about elections, which are big puppet shows financed and scripted by Wall Street.
6) Most journalists wouldn’t know democracy if it bit them on the ass.
7) In 1991, Charles Bufe wrote a great book called Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? (See Sharp Press). Bufe found the 12 Steps unacceptably irrational with their emphasis on God, but he strongly endorsed the 12 Traditions as a model of anarchist organization. After all, AA has been around since 1935, it has millions of dysfunctional members, it very self consciously has no leaders, and it is by far the largest anarchist group in the world. Zuccotti Park is a lot like a big AA meeting for the purpose of sweeping Wall Street into the dustbin of history.
8) Occupy Wall Street is living proof that people can organize around egalitarian principles and do things for themselves, thereby demonstrating in real time that the moguls who cook numbers in the skyscrapers around them are at best useless and at worst lethally dangerous. Just look at the guy from the Sanitation Working Group who zips around on his skateboard sweeping cigarette butts into the dustbin of history. Nobody ordered him to do it, and the sidewalk is remarkably clean.
9) No Woodstock-esque mountain of garbage for this generation.
10) At the southeast corner of Zucotti Park, there’s a four-story red/orange sculpture built with I-beams. It looks like a giant Nazi tank trap on the beach at Normandy. At the northwest corner, there’s a cherry-picker with a bullet-proof cab on top, which takes cops up and down to observe the park. It seems useless, since the park is surrounded by cops who can see everything, anyway. Maybe the cops use the cherry-picker to take naps. They seem pretty bored amidst all their paddy wagons, flashing lights and high tech anti-terrorist doodads. It makes for a vibe just outside the park that is a cross between1984 and War of the Worlds. Inside the park, rumors abound about when the police might clear the place. So far, Mayor Bloomberg appears to think he can wait them out by making life as uncomfortable as possible (No tents! No structures of any kind! No writing in chalk on the sidewalk!).
11) I met a couple who drove from North Carolina to be part of the protest. I met a “student and seasonal worker” from Oregon who bought a one-way plane ticket to New York. I met a drummer with a Masters degree in urban planning, a lot of debt and no job. I met a topless Non-Male Identified Individual who had wrapped a python around herself. I met a lot of people from the surrounding neighborhood who were bringing food and money and a desire to chat. People from overseas were phoning in orders of pizza for everybody (a neat trick from the occupation in Madison). Everything was transparent except for last names. Last names weren’t cool. You didn’t want informers figuring out who to target for arrest.
12) If you want to make a ruckus and annoy the ruling class, I would suggest you go to Zuccotti Park during the day. If you want some wonderful free entertainment at night, I’d suggest you go at 7 p.m. and catch the General Assembly. Then wander around and talk to people who want to change the world. If you get arrested, call the National Lawyers Guild at 212-679-6018. Write that number on your arm, because the police take all your stuff when they put you jail.
13) On Sunday night I saw a terrific band (Megafaun) at Mercury Lounge and walked down Broadway for my second trip of the day to Zuccotti Park. Nice warm night. No rain. A few hundred people in little groups around the park. Very little noise in the Wall Street area at that time, just the hum of intense conversation. If you want to talk about something that matters, this is probably the best place in America.
“I hitchhiked here from Maine,” said Troy Thibodeau (last name used by permission) under the giant Nazi tank trap sculpture. He was 47 years old, had long hair, shapeless jeans and dried paint on his sneakers. It was about 2 a.m. “If the police think we’ll go home just because they’re making things difficult, then the police don’t know how difficult things are at home. I’m eating better here, with all the donations and stuff. Back in 2008, I was so depressed that I wanted to kill myself. The only thing that stopped me was I couldn’t figure out how to do it without hurting my family. You don’t want to leave people with that thought about you.
“I was a handyman in Ft. Lauderdale for 24 years. All the work dried up in 2008 when the economy collapsed, and somebody stole my drum kit. I used to play in a band, Spontaneous Combustion, and be out all night, then get up after an hour’s sleep and dig post holes all day. Didn’t think anything about it, until it all just ended. Finally, I called my brother and said, ‘I got nothing. I’m on the street.’ He let me move into his attic in Maine, and he let me use a computer, for the first time ever. Oh man, I went down every rabbit hole doing research on that computer, learned the truth about the scumbags who work in these office buildings. Now I spend every nickel I got on making DVDs and printing flyers, trying to get the word out. In a couple days, I’m going back to Maine for the Harvest Festival. Then I’ll go to Washington on October 6 for that demonstration, or come back here. If you’re depressed, protesting is the best possible thing to do. This is how I’m going to spend the rest of my life. The only way I could be happier right now is if I was getting a blow job.”
CHARLES M. YOUNG is a founding member of ThieCantBeHappening!, the new independent alternative online newspaper.