They are the faction. O conspiracy,
Shamest thou to show thy dangerous brow by night,
When evils are most free? O, then by day
Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough
To mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none, conspiracy;
Hide it in smiles and affability:
For if thou path, thy native semblance on,
Not Erebus itself were dim enough
To hide thee from prevention.” –Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Act II, Scene I
The Occupy Wall Street protests began weeks ago. Everyone thought they would be over by now, but they remain. From what I’ve seen, many have weighty student loans, many have working jobs, most are young; and the old ones are just hoping to relive the 60s. Also, a surprising amount have Master’s degrees, some even with honors.
There has been much debate and question as to what the protesters are really about. Many have reached one singular conclusion: nothing in particular. Whoever they are, they claim to make up 99% of the general population; a claim that is not too outrageous to make when everyone there stands for something slightly different. Charles C. W. Cooke with National Review found a very telling interview with one of the protesters whose sign read, “I Hate Stuff Too!” When asked if there was any real consensus or coherence to their message, his answer was a plain, “No, not really.” But since everyone hates “stuff,” it would be a good place to start.
This fact has only been reaffirmed by the speech given to protesters by Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek. “We know what we do not want,” says Zizek. “But what do we want?” Many of the protesters are calling for “economic justice.” But, as Kevin D. Williamson in the October 31 issue of National Reivew pointed out, they don’t know what economic justice is; but whatever it is, it’s “Not this.” Yet a major gap in thought is demonstrated with this statement. You cannot claim that you know what isn’t economic justice when you don’t even know what economic justice is.
Some have come out in support of Occupy Wall Street. From a former grand-wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to President Obama (now how’s that for wide-spread support?) “The most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership letting people know that we understand their struggles and we are on their side,” Obama said. Well, since you’re “on their side,” could you please, Mr. President, clarify for all of us what exactly that “side” stands for? After all, you seem to be its most credible representative. . .
Anyway, President Obama not only supports the protesters, but finds them conveniently similar to the Tea Party. “In some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party,” he said. “Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren’t looking out for them.” Yet, an important difference between the two is that the Tea Party wants to work within the system, but the Occupy protesters (as far as can be discerned) would prefer the system to be removed.
Jonah Goldberg points out another principal difference between the two groups in the October 31 issue of National Review: “Every tea-party meeting beings with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. As far as I can tell, every Occupy Wall Street meeting begins with a pagan drum circle and advice about which local restaurant protesters can steal toilet paper from.” Speaking of drum circles, there are a lot of those at the Occupy protests. So many, in fact, that it’s turning a profit. And they hate that. (At least, the ones who are anti-capitalist — which is quite a few.)
And so for many weeks they remained the aimless, pointless, grungy, sleeping street gang that we knew and could predict. Until recent times, when one of the spin-offs of Occupy Wall Street — Occupy Oakland — turned violent, and a protest turned into a riot.
Windows smashed, trashing stores and banks, graffiti, fifteen-foot flames, using children as human shields, trapping disabled individuals from leaving buildings, pushing old women down the stairs. This kind of wanton violence demonstrates a much darker side to the protests. And these people have Masters degrees? In what, graffiti — I mean, graphical design? (Actually, yes.) Apparently, they want “freedom” badly enough that they’re willing to incite anarchy to get it. Freedom from banks, student loans, responsibility, stress, trouble, acne — it all starts with a burning trash can and pushing grandma down the steps, right? Wrong. Americans are allowed to protest and should be allowed to protest — but this liberty must never stretch itself into the right to commit unlawful violence. (But if you ask the Oakland Tribune, the protesters were, “powerful and mostly peaceful.” By that I assume they mean vicious and violent.)
Some, though, would like to dismiss my last statement as mere opinion. They would assert that what we need, in fact, is more violence. United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard said, “What we need is more militancy. . . . I think we’ve got to start a resistance movement. If Wall Street Occupation doesn’t get the message, I think we’ve got to start blocking bridges and doing that kind of stuff.” In Oakland they have already obstructed and disturbed the work on the nation’s fifth-largest international shipping port. The majority of which is exports. Obstruction of international commerce and violence — can the police have any more justification to end the protests?
Obviously, that’s still not enough. Oakland’s Mayor, Jean Quan, denied the use of police force, or even sending out “peace negotiators” on the first night of violent protest. A member of her government justified her decision by saying, “She didn’t want to incite the anarchists any more than they already were.” My question: Which encourages the violent protesters more, the lack of resistance, or the end of the riot? I mean, really: police officers with shields, pads and guns verses an untrained mob with bandannas and rocks.
Many of these individuals claim that they’re looking for the “American Dream.” (The term seems to always come up between quotation marks, these days — as if it isn’t real.) And the strong impression I get from the protesters is that they believe someone is supposed to give you the American Dream. Almost as though it is the obligation of a bank or governmental entity to bestow upon each individual their American-ness. But that’s not the way the American Dream was ever supposed to work. The beauty of the American Dream is that it’s whatever you make it out to be. If you want to be a graphical designer, you have the freedom to do so. Just like your freedom to be a banker, investor, bartender, hotel manager, trash guy, or business owner. The American Dream lies in liberty, not money or things. But that liberty must never encroach upon the property (or liberty) of another individual.
The one-percenters may hate “stuff” as much as the protesters do, by golly. The only difference between protesters and people who are getting their windows smashed is that one has made better decisions than the other. One may have waited for their education rather than take out a fifty-thousand dollar student loan — is that their fault? One may have studied in an area that is in higher demand in the market and pays more and the other in an area of lower demand — is that their fault? No, if the American Dream isn’t what you want it to be the only person to blame is yourself.
It all comes back to Willy Wonka:
I want the world,
I want the whole world.
I want to lock it all up in my pocket
It’s my bar to chocolate
Give it to me now.
I want today,
I want tomorrow.
I want to wear them like braids in my hair,
And I don’t want to share them.
I want a party with roomfuls of laughter,
Ten-thousand tons of ice cream.
And if I don’t get the things I am after,
I’m going to scream!
I suppose I could have substituted terms like “ice cream” for “student loans,” but I think you get the idea.
No matter how well it is hidden in smiles and affability, the ugliness within this movement has now been put on display for all to see. We can criticize the protesters to our hearts content telling them that they march without purpose, but it would be in vain. For they do not need a purpose to disturb the peace other than “fun.” This was clearly demonstrated by the British riots. No one knew, or really found out, what was wanted; it was a demonstration to show the respectable of the world that they may do whatever they please. And I suspect, on the bottom line, that the Occupy movement is supposed to satisfy similar emotions. (Or it’s a massive conspiracy to overthrow the American system. But I doubt that these individuals in particular would be the ones to devise such a sophisticated plan.)
As for the peaceful Occupy protesters, I still have no idea what you’re talking about.