Occupy This!

This is one of the posts that I wrote on Wednesday during the great NaBloPoMo purge of 2011.


A recurring thought in my mind is what would have happened if I had been born 20-25 years earlier than 1974. Would I have been a protester, a marcher, a sitter-inner, a free-lover, a Weather Undergrounder? Or would I have been a “Get a job, you dirty hippy!” kind of guy? I can see both streaks in me, each conveniently made moot by time and a blanket of post-Watergate political apathy.

In high school I was comparatively liberal and a bit of a spacey free spirit. In college I was comparatively conservative, lacking in small-liberal-arts-college savoir faire and cultural sophistication, and rather disdainful of the sloganeering of the politically active folks on campus. Don’t just tell me, convince me. And, no, shouting loudly (or taping over your mouth in symbolic protest) is not at all convincing. If I had been in college in the late 60s and early 70s, which way would I have gone?

In 2003 I went to the one big anti-war protest in Boston that I heard about before it happened. (Was it just me or did the media do a terrible job covering pre-war dissent?) But I treated it as a sort of anthropological exercise, since I felt very ambivalent about the invasion. Looking back now, of course, I feel like a big dope for ever believing the administration. I took a lot of photographs of what I saw, but I think I missed the point that most of the people there were basically like me, just with more conviction.

So it was interesting when I was in France to hear a few of my fellow travelers relive a similar debate from an earlier generation. The woman whose husband was an Air Force wing commander during Vietnam argued that if we had helped the French with materiel and support at Dien Bien Phu, we would never have needed to go to war in Vietnam. On the other side was the former member of Students for a Democratic Society, who took time off school to protest and was ready to go to Canada to avoid the draft. He obviously saw things a bit differently. In the middle was the thermonuclear physicist who didn’t express much of a political opinion at all but just argued the facts.

That’s me. I’m the thermonuclear physicist, just 20-25 years younger.

So now that we have Occupy protests/camp-ins going on everywhere and local officials and the police moving against them in scenes straight from 1972, I’m torn again. I support the message of the Occupy folks. (I’m the 99%, too.) And I support many of the progressive causes that have glommed onto the original anti-plutocracy movement. But they’re often being presented in a way that makes them seems to me (at best) uncoordinated and (at worse) silly, vapid, elitist, or out-of-touch.

Maybe that’s it. I probably would have been a marcher but not an occupier/draft-card-burner. I can see myself having gone to protest along with the sensible people that I know and respect, rolled my eyes at the hippies, and then gotten on with the rest of my life.

Whew. I’m not a reactionary or freeloader (but just barely).

This entry was posted in Life Lessons, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, This is who we are. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Occupy This!

  1. mary says:

    i feel pretty much the same way you do about the occupy movement, but i also feel a bit guilty – why aren’t i out there protesting? i am pissed off about the situation and agree that something needs to change. it’s mostly because i don’t have time to do so, if i want to keep my job and keep my grades up, but it’s also because i’m selfish and a bit of a wuss. i’d rather spend my little free time doing enjoyable things, like watching TV and knitting, and i am also not really into confrontation. so i certainly do give the protesters credit for being out there all day and all night (well, depending on the protester – some, if not many, of the tents here in providence are empty at night).

    from what i’ve heard from friends who have joined in their local protests (not here in providence), the media seems to be focusing on those who are “silly, vapid, elitist, or out-of-touch” and not on those who actually have their shit together. i don’t necessarily agree with some of these friends that this is some sort of media conspiracy (well, not counting whatever fox news is doing), but i do think it has something to do with grabbing more viewers. it’s just like how the media focused on the scary, racist tea partiers during their protesting hey-day.

  2. Scott S says:

    I concur, and I have the NYC occupiers literally at the footstep of my office. While they have (for the most part) been respectful of people trying to earn a living, the same cannot be said for their treatment of local businesses. For example, a Chinese restaurant owner in the area complained that the occupiers were dumping feces and other refuse in the dumpster that he has to pay a private company to haul away (the Department of Sanitation does not do that for private businesses, occupiers), and the local Au Bon Pain complained that occupiers were hogging all the seats for hours at a time to use their free WiFi (and restrooms) while denying other patrons the ability to have a seat. Not the way to win fans, folks. My biggest issue is that the occupiers aren’t really having much influence on the lawmakers that made the plutocracy possible. Those people are in Washington, DC and K-Street, in particular, where all the lobbyists are. Also, the lack of a coherent list of demands, or even whom they are demanding these things from, is a challenge for them. When the weather turns snowy and cold, it remains to be seen whether they will stick around. But I would say they might want to camp out in DC more than they have so far.

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