We grew up in a generation in which being serious seemed like it would get us nowhere, and to pursue any kind of serious life felt like a martyr’s march—a pursuit that people used to admire, and ignore. Life in America grew ridiculous with excess and greed, because it felt ridiculous.
In the nineties and early aughts, kids dreamed of pop stardom or plush sports lifestyles, and the previous generations allowed kids to dream this way. America ran a profit. The technology spewing out of this country astonished the world. If you had a bad voice, auto-tune. If you wanted a six-figure job, computer science looked like an open-ended and far-reaching stretch of frontier to explore—at least to us kids then.
Most damaging… we allowed ourselves to have goals that in all previous generations would have seemed fantastic—scenarios that only a winning lottery card, or a never in a lifetime bet could bring a person. Then the later years of the first decade of this century hanged over the delicate, bright fabric of those dreams and shat terrifying realities all over them.
If people who got on with the Tea Party Express wondered why more young Americans did not join them, it was probably because the Tea Party did not address the ridiculous extremes of private excess that a very small amount of people had been able to get with the help of a system that encouraged cheating. The Tea Party took up problems with government, which has and will always have severe flaws, however the basic battle cry of the Tea Party was smaller government when it seems to many that a lack of regulation caused the problem.
At the core, though, the Tea Party had more interesting and logical ideas than liberals allow recognition of. And without the Tea Party, it’s interesting to wonder if an equal—if not more influential—reaction like Occupy Wall Street would have occurred.
When the Tea Party emerged it easily gathered many pissed off Americans who wanted change. What kept many Americans from joining in was a perceived racist undertone in the movement, and an infectious absurd wave of crazy ideas and conspiracy theories.
To hear crowds of disillusioned, predominantly white men and women screaming their throats hoarse to reduce government after a period of time when government reduction had actually allowed a collection of people—who should never be allowed to go down in the books as resembling anything less disgusting than wet sh-t-stains—to build strange new titanic investment ships with aluminum foil hulls that looked like titanium and brilliant-looking sails constructed of thin tissue paper. Few people understood a new way of banking that leveraged companies against themselves, and long after sails melted in rain and hulls caved-in, few understand it now. But it is insane to regulate the crooks who drove us into recession less.
Many if not most Americans feel at least a little crazy right now as a result. That’s one of the worst problems any country can have. Student loan debt rises past recorded levels. Unemployment appears to go down, but only because hundreds of thousands of Americans have stopped looking for work. Congressional leaders are unwilling to tax the top percent of Americans who, if the bottom ninety-nine percent did not exist, would not have money at all. Many reasonable people think that the top percent owe a debt to America for allowing the top percent the marketplace to amass wealth. But that does not appear likely right now.
Top Republicans, and some Democrats sympathetic to big banks, publicly worry about the degenerate protesters who they believe refuse to get jobs.
Postures of that nature brings out the crazy in people—when their representatives infer that the average American is at fault. It causes the cornered kind of animal crazy that gets violent quick, and does not calm down for a while.
Crazy people are good for a country’s health when they’re in the minority, because they reveal the depths and heights of humanity, and remind us of our sanity… but when everyone begins to slip into crazy to escape the fear and anxiety that alcohol and most highs cannot numb, crazy suddenly seems normal because everyone feels it, and then the craziest thing to be is serious.
Art loses its power. Stupid dangerous ideas walk around unnoticed. Pop culture unrivets itself from reality. And then men and women in all the representative places cannot grasp the common person because average people struggle so much that they weigh themselves down with glib phrases like “staycation” to make their poverty seem okay.
At its core, the Occupy movements feel serious and natural enough that in just a few weeks the movement ballooned in population, and changed how we talk as a nation. Whether it itself lasts does not matter, because it has had permanent effects. There have been days of solidarity coordinated throughout the world with Occupy Wall Street. The Tea Party never had that scope and reach. Possibly because it began as a political statement writhing with anger and a general goal, rather than a societal statement brim with wild raw emotion simmered by anger.
The movement that began as a poster-ready statement written under a ballerina posing on a bull with a line of people emerging from tear gas—an Adbusters creation—is over two months old and coming up on its third.
The fact that the roots of the protest inspired an outward wave of swarm mentality is interesting because it disproves the cynical notion that our generation can’t do much more than play video games and watch shocking porn.
The movement at one of its cores reportedly took inspiration from a man named Raimundo Viejo, an activist in European revolts earlier this year. His quote:
“The anti-globalization movement was the first step on the road. Back then our model was to attack the system like a pack of wolves. There was an alpha male, a wolf who led the pack, and those who followed behind. Now the model has evolved. Today we are one big swarm of people.”
Swarm mentality is interesting because it goes against journalistic instincts to nail down a few themes, and pretzel wraps the usual narratives proposed by the media. Having a degree in journalism, it’s been embarrassing to watch the media try to grapple with themselves for some way to peg the movement, instead of just reporting the thing and letting the public decide the narrative.
The Tea Party was ready-made for the media. That hurt the movement gravely because it could be categorized and filed away in the mind. Occupy Wall Street inspires wonder and curiosity because it has so many sides—and they only seem to get stronger the harder they get hit. The events at UC Davis, the military-like shutdown of Zuccotti Park, and the string of crackdowns this month have shown nothing but growth in the movement.
The Tea Party might have hosted a Republican presidential debate with CNN—but the Occupy movements did not. And though Occupy’s narrative is complex to explain, it can be summed up in part as “not the Tea Party, and not the media.” Also, the Tea Party does not get the media coverage that Occupy events get now—positive or negative. This makes sense because the Tea Party hasn’t been clubbed or pepper sprayed with oleoresin capsicum while kneeling, completely non-violent.
On top of that, one huge advantage Occupiers have over the Tea Party is that they are much less predictable, possibly crazy, and therefore perceivably more dangerous to paranoid police chiefs and lieutenants… which gets some of them sprayed and abused, and if nothing else, that’s bare tits for the media, which gets them ratings—the magic word that drives what will be covered and what won’t, no matter the importance of the thing.
Occupy Wall Street has arrested a large part of our conscious. Its continual spryness appeals to anyone looking for an alternative to the ridiculous, and at times the movement has had the same vibrant energy and charm that reminds people of past decades when things seemed to suddenly change a bit for the better.
The creativity of the participants stands out. It was captivating to wake up about a month ago on the eve of the protest’s two month anniversary, and read headlines about a media blackout engineered by New York City Mayor Bloomberg, and then to watch the video of the protesters evicted from Zuccotti Park regroup without hesitation. It’s so shocking that Bloomberg could not see that his gambit would fail in one of the most liberal cities in the world that you want to believe that he secretly knew better, and is now just waiting to smirk and say that he did it on purpose because he feels for the movement.
He forced people who slept on concrete and either left simple comforts behind, or never had them to begin with, to adapt—hardcore protesters. Adapting is exactly what they’re great at.
The Occupy movements has helped the public learn certain names and phrases like Hank Paulson, “mortgage-backed securities,” and “Alan Greenspan f-cked up.” People are now interested in what the Volcker Rule is, which is great, and people are learning that collateral debt obligations are the herpes sores of our generation.
Occupy Wall Street, with any bit of luck, will have one solid achievement, and it does not matter whether a person agrees with the movement or not—it may pull our minds out of the hazy escapist cycles of sh-tty TV, alcoholic binges, boring movies, pointless news, video games, and porn.