Since I’m blogging from the Seasonally Occupied Territories, you must have guessed I’ve had something to say about Occupy Wall Street, but my occupation — which is to say “editing” — has preoccupied me big-time for the last couple of weeks.
Two deadlines are met, my time is my own (at least for the next 24 hours), I’m pondering Occupy Wall Street.
I’m in favor, of course. I favor any sign that people are disgusted with the state of affairs in this country, and that they’ve identified economics as an underlying cause, and that they’re willing to take to the streets. Maybe it’s catching on among the younger generations that there’s more to political organizing than clicking and texting and signing cyber petitions.
On the other hand, the framing is facile. The 99% vs. the 1%? How cohesive could that 99% be and, more to the point, how big is the percentage that’s claiming to speak for it? Everyone’s the hero of their own story, as I repeat ad nauseam. 99% makes nearly all of us — at least everyone we know — heroes. The flip side is that nearly all of us define the problem so that we’re part of the solution. The civil rights movement made a lot of white people nervous, women’s liberation made a lot of men nervous. If 99% of us are part of the solution, what’s to be nervous about?
It’s too easy. Obsessing about corporate greed and greedy plutocrats is too easy. Those greedy plutocrats didn’t get filthy rich with their own two hands, no sirree. They had help. Lots of help.
We staff their corporations from bottom to almost-top. At least 99% of their workforce is us. Fixing computers, driving cars, setting up meetings, making plane reservations, doing all the myriad tasks that make it possible for 1% of the population to be filthy rich. What if we stopped doing it? What would it take to get us to stop doing it?
Aha. Now you’re beginning to think like a labor organizer or a civil rights activist or a radical feminist. What if we withdrew our support from the system that’s oppressing us? How could we keep them from eating us alive?
All politics is local, as the late Tip O’Neill so famously said. Occupy Wall Street is politics seen from the wrong end of a telescope. Seen from the other end, politics looks more like the Martha’s Vineyard Commission meetings I’ve been to in the last few months: banal and boring with just enough flashes of courage and insight to keep you going. How many Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation contributors and board members are part of the greedy, villainous 1%? Not many. Possibly none. They’re still doing a pretty good job of holding up their end in the greed-and-villainy department.
If all of us are heroes and none of us is part of the problem, if we meditate and eat island-grown produce and go to town meeting, why do the problems keep getting worse?
All politics is local, and Wall Street is a long way away. Where is our Wall Street? What should we be occupying? Should we be sitting in at the banks, or the real estate offices, or the Steamship Authority dock? The more I ponder, the more complicated it gets, and the less satisfied I get with Occupy Wall Street. Good theater it is. Good politics? Not so much.