A friend of mine was recently “inspired” (his word, not mine) to blog because of me. (Check it out – tell him “B sent you”.) In his first post – Lessons of History – he writes about Occupy Wall Street. I thought about commenting, then thought better of it, then thought about it some more and came to the conclusion that while I have something to say I’m not sure I can sum it up in a short comment. (Besides, I’ve got my own blog to write here and words ain’t cheap, buddy! :-))
So I guess my main reaction – one which I typically have about any sort of protest of this size – is “What on earth is it that they’re actually protesting?” My friend seems to have boiled it down to “wealth redistribution”, but it seems like a larger and perhaps slightly more nuanced movement (if it can be called such) than that. As with anything, any time you get this many people together for a “common cause” it seems like the cause becomes not so common at all. This time is no exception. I hear everything from “I don’t want to pay any taxes” (no less ridiculous for being trite) to “We need to separate politics from money” (seems reasonable…but how?) to…well…to fuckers running around in Guy Fawkes masks. Not even sure how to categorize the latter.
What I do know is this: The protest would seem to be in response to some pretty fucked up things that have happened over the past few years and that people probably should be pissed off enough to protest. If the message – and as I said above, I have no idea if this is correct – happens to be “The system failed, but we propped it up and nobody seems to give a shit. Well, we give a shit!” then I reckon I can get behind it. If, on the other hand, the message is “I don’t want other people to have more money than I do”… well, I’m afraid I’m not on board for that. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, and the fixes probably lie somewhere in a relatively boring solution space that includes things like more-progressive taxation and better algorhithmic trading regulation.
I wasn’t around for a lot of the world’s historic protests, but I wonder if they had the same sort of confusion surrounding them; i.e., a solid core of ideas that got more and more fuzzy at the fringes. Was the civil rights movement viewed as “A bunch of crazy colored folk that wanna take over the world”? Women’s rights seen through the lens of “Just a buncha broads that don’t wanna wear bras any more”? The American Revolution as “Some upstart colonies that need to get their heads right”? Note that I’m not comparing these to OWS in any sense other than the one of “fuzziness of core message”. They say “Hindsight is 20/20”, so will I look back on this 20 years from now and say, “Oh, of course! That’s what they were talking about!”?
Tell ya what – I’ll let ya know in 20 years. 🙂