Occupy Wall Street marked their two month anniversary of existence with a nationwide day of action. Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgwNyq2p89A . This is a fairly graphic video of the NYPD beating on a demonstrator, then ignoring the physical damage they had done while they search his pockets.
As a friend of mine said, ‘This is not my America.’
And yet, unfortunately, this is the America we’ve created over the last couple hundred years. Is #ows any different from the early days of organized labor? Are the NYPD any different than the Pinkertons? And, perhaps most importantly, are the robber barons of yesteryear any different than the untouchable billionaires of today. I don’t believe they are. It’s a bit of a cliche that history repeats itself, but cliches don’t become such without truth.
The scene may be different, the arguments may be different, and the responses by the media and by the citizens may be different, but one fundamental thing has not changed; the rich and powerful are keeping the many poor from doing anything of substance about their condition.
This is, of course, a natural side effect of a primarily capitalist society. This is what happens when the invisible hand Smith coined is allowed to play its own version of chess, unfettered by the rules governing the movement of the pieces. This is not to say that capitalism is inherently wrong as an economic model. It is, however, inherently destructive. Capitalism rewards the man who cuts the deepest without affecting profits. The only way to find out how deep that cut can be is to keep cutting. Thus, capitalism rewards the man unafraid to cut deeper into his own flesh; to destroy the very organism that gives him power.
Occupy Wall Street began with a simple concept; the 99% are getting fucked by the 1%. I’ll be the first to admit my skepticism. In the early days, I couldn’t figure it out. Why were these people camping? Who’s bright idea was it to start this right before winter? They’re missing the point and pissing people off. These refrains ran through my head, but I knew there was something there. The movement had potential, if it could just get off the ground. Then the Oakland PD hit Scott Olsen in the head with a flash bang grenade or tear gas canister. That was the pivotal point. Future writers of history will easily identify that moment as the catalyst for the growth of the Occupy movement. All of a sudden, ordinary people had something to rally behind, a face, a story, a name, and a cause.
This scared the new generation of robber barons. So, they did what scared men with lots of power have always done; they pulled the lever that moved their puppets into position. The police and their general overreaction have been a common theme in the time following that initial Oakland ‘crackdown.’ Fingers point to different origins (War on Terror, the Seattle WTO protests, lack of training) but most can agree that police forces across America are proceeding with a level of violence not seen in recent years, domestically. From quick-trigger pepper spray to brutal beatings and rubber bullets, the narrative of Occupy has almost become one of the protesters vs. the police.
I believe this is a pretty unfortunate, if unavoidable development. The police are getting screwed just as badly or worse than the protesters by those in power, but are put in the position of being the enforcers for the powerful. It’s an unwinnable situation. Occupy needs to figure out how to get the police on board. There were a few glimmers of hope in the early days, but the 1% have demanded so much brutality and force that a broad-scale joining of the movement by the police seems extremely unlikely.
The problems are many, and complex, and perhaps unsolvable. But one thing seems to be clear to me now; Occupy has a message that is resonating with more Americans than any quasi-political movement in recent memory. it is drawing more support by the day as the police try to crush it. It has no clear leaders for the FBI to infiltrate, assassinate, or compromise. It has very few specific talking points that can be refuted by talking heads. It is too big for that. In the parlance of the financial industry, it may well be ‘too big to fail.’