by Lou Hammann
Patricia and I visited the “Occupation of Wall Street,” October 17th and 18. We were not especially interested in getting a head count as we were in getting in on the conversations. However many bodies were in Zuccotti Park, as we ambled through the crowd, the most conspicuous experience was the courtesy that everyone showed to everyone. There was a lot of necessary jostling and casual nudging but the sense of being part of a community of like-minded folks was quite conspicuous. Then, when we took some time to engage strangers in conversation, what was clear was the friendliness, optimism and sincerity of the talk. And people knew what they were talking about. The conversations were both knowledgeable and personal.
One of our motives for the trip to Zuccotti Park was to show our white/gray hair in a conspicuously youthful crowd. Oh, there were other elders besides us, but no one seemed especially interested in the age distribution. The focus of concern was money: its unfair distribution and its bullying intrusion into the political process at every level. There was, of course, interest in the healthcare crisis, global warming, the cost of education and the other worries that currently affect most citizens. The people in the Park had a consistently broad vision of what kind of world they are NOT living in, and the personal/human responsibility that we all need to take on.
The media were conspicuously present, gathered together and sharing observations and information. These folks, however, were not representing the “corporate media” so much as smaller operations and free-lancers. And they were as willing to talk as to listen. In short this was a futuristic snap shot of the kind of world the folks, young and old, are hoping for—a time when a sense of community will define our world.
If you want verification of the cliché that “Everybody has a story,” this was the place to be. Still, the folks in Zuccotti Park were neither heroes nor idealists; somewhat naïve occasionally, but not idle dreamers. The “battle” has just begun and how long this movement can keep its momentum is uncertain. But the theme is, sooner or later, there must come a fairer, more honest distribution of the society’s resources. To put is simply: Money must be redefined and wealth redistributed. Not only money, of course, but also power must be redistributed so human community becomes the “life style” of the immediate and the long-term future.
It is also encouraging how some of the celebrity pundits at least try to take the side of the “Occupation.” If some such folks can set aside their reflex skepticism, the movement may continue indefinitely. This is not simply a repetition of Woodstock. The “Occupation” is not only an effort to redefine popular culture. The stakes are much higher, the motives more sophisticated, having to do with human rights and the economy. The values played out at Zuccotti Park are communal not selfish. If on-lookers suspect that there are no well-defined goals or strategies, they may be right. But what we will see if we look for it is a new perspective on personal existence and our national life emerging. Is it possible that Darwin is actually watching a stage in human evolution, when the Law of the Jungle is giving way to the Law of the Commons?
I remember a cartoon in a recent New Yorker: Two plutocrats sitting next to each other in a private jet; one says to the other, “I’d be willing to pay higher taxes if some one would make me.” The visionaries of the “Occupation” are perhaps getting ready to do just that. How remains to be seen.