Saturday, October 15, 2011

More Occupy Wall Street

For the last week or so, I've been involved with a small-city offshoot of Occupy Wall Street. I haven't wanted to blog about it because I'm always suspicious of people who blog about protests as Carnival. It's easy for people to get caught up in the social aspects of protest, and not so much in the long-term work after; look at the comparative numbers of posts about the protests in Wisconsin and the subsequent recall efforts. Anyways, with Occupy it's far too soon to tell what the consequences will be, and my own self-chosen role, far from being carnivalesque, has much more to do with setting up Google Groups and helping people figure out how to use it.

But a few early observations:

1. There are a number of older people, like me, involved. But I'm genuinely surprised at the number of people for whom this is their first significant activism.

2. What is the first thing that happens when you set up a camping site in the city center? Of course the site becomes a haven for long-term homeless people, most of whom are more or less apolitical because politics requires that you first be able to deal with society well enough to do things like find shelter. "We are the 99%" is a great slogan, but the people directly involved have to deal with society's neglect of the lower 1% in a much more immediate way than with the politics of the upper 1%.

3. I'm also genuinely surprised at the low level of preexisting technology use here. I know that Occupy Wall Street itself is large enough to have all sorts of advanced technology projects, and I'm located in what is basically a hinterland. But the movement itself is a complete rejection of the techno-optimism of "Twitter Revolutions" and so on, involving as it does even the rejection of sound amplification. And at least where I am, the people are in general not technology types at all.

Lastly, the "We are the 99%" Tumblr has spawned a host of imitators. I'm not going to link to the tired right-wing "We are the 53%", although I will link to this post about it. What strikes me about the 53% bit, other than the obvious -- people on the left want to include almost everyone, people on the right want to divide the country in two and take the just slightly larger half -- is that the 53%ers tend not to hide their faces as much as the 99% pictures do. It's self-promotion vs shame, basically.

Other Tumblrs: We are the 1% and we stand with the 99%. The cruel and very, very funny Actually, you're the 47%. And one for comics fans.


  1. Good on ya mate. Our local crew has held strong for nearly two weeks now. I am fortunate to have an available food source, that i can access for the folks holding the constant vigil.

    One interesting note: a number of the protesters set up an encampment on tribal property so that the city/county/state can't evict them. This is about a block away from the protest site, and is well protected from the weather. It is however a powerful mythic tribal art structure. There is a large inscribed spiral recounting, in the words of Sherman Alexie, the coyote myth of the creation of the Spokane Falls. Most of the protesters had no clue what they were camping upon. In short, the myth is about the creation of an obstacle based on stubborness, and the need for cooperative engagement to get around it. Perfect.

  2. That's really cool, spyder. I assume that they got permission from the tribe?

    Our local group got evicted by the police from our city park a couple of days ago. The park was donated to the city under the condition that people could sleep there overnight, but the city said that we needed a permit in order to have tents. So, in theory, it's fine to sleep there overnight in mid-October in Massachusetts as long as you have a sleeping bag, but no tent. This is course means that you can't sleep there.