You Say You Want A Revolution

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. TC mark

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  • beatrice

    What the main street (occupy wall street) rioters don’t get is that without wall street, they themselves don’t earn any finance or capital since their not the ones who can make money happen in the economy. So either ways, they can’t win. We’ve evolved too far off to be able to go back to rudimentary economic stages. I’m sorry, the whole occupy wall street is totally redundant. But hey,  as you said, occupy wall street may have one solid achievement. 

    • Anonymous

      They aren’t trying to get rid of Wall Street, they’re trying to get rid of corporate influence on government and enforce more regulations on banks and investors.

       And before you say “WELL WHY DON’T THEY GO PROTEST OUTSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE DURRR”, it’s because the White House and Wall St. are completely intertwined. Goldman-Sachs alone have had far too many people working in the government.

    • Anonymous

      Get real, I’m sure you’re smarter than what you suggest with this comment. You mischaracterize the movement in order to support your thesis. The movement OBVIOUSLY isn’t about ridding the world of Wall Street or rich people.

    • Emma

      actually the people who “make money happen in the economy” (whatever that means) are not on wall street. wall street makes money by betting against things, like mortgage backed securities. they don’t “earn finance or capital” (ps. what the fuck kind of economics are you doing? you can’t earn finance) since they don’t actually create anything.  “money happens” for example, when the real estate market’s up because the 99% are building and buying houses. bankers are earning interest on mortgages that they did zero due diligence on and lied to loaners about being able to afford, which they then bundled up and sold to wall street which bet against them. without the builder and the buyer and the lies, bankers wouldn’t have any money.  capital comes from actually being able to produce something that can be used, not from betting against the value of something that someone else made and bought. take some basic econ before you run your dumb mouth.

    • Hank

      Disgusting.

  • http://twitter.com/rpulvino Rich Pulvino

    Well said. Very well said.

  • Sara

    “and people are learning that collateral debt obligations are the herpes sores of our generation”– Oh my god. You’re fucking brilliant. 

    • Joshua L Durkin

      Hah. I think brilliant is a bit strong, but thanks for the compliment. I appreciate that. All I’ve read of CDOs keeps leading back to that thought.

  • macgyver51

    I feel dirty for defending the tea party like this but this piece was terrible. At least the they had the gall to make unified statements and goals. Unlike OWS they were less concerned with how they looked, how cool their signs were, and how they were going to be viewed down the road. They were seeking results. Hell, they actually got some. They didn’t actually care about being some epic force, being unpredictable, and all that bull. For the most part, and although they weren’t my cup of tea, most of the folks in the tea party just wanted their country back.

    If you want a picture of a protest movement that wasn’t selfish, naive, and sterile then take a look at the Civil Rights movement. King didn’t wax philosophical on the feelings of the group. The movement had principles before it ever began. There was a foundation to it. The goal was equality

    Clearly, this is a game to you. It’s not.

    • Anonymous

      “I feel dirty for defending the tea party like this but this piece was
      terrible. At least the they had the gall to make unified statements and
      goals.”

      I’d say they have more gall NOT making unified statements.

      By the way, LA City Council have resolved to vote AGAINST corporate personhood, and Gov. Cuomo has lowered taxes on low earners and raised them on higher earners.

      How’s that for “seeking results”?

      • macgyver51

        How’s this for having a clue? I’m glad the LA City Council has the time to divert attention from local issues that matter to their constituents who are real people that deal with crappy schools and high crime rates to make resolutions regarding federal issues. Typical Cali politics, ignore the real problems in your state until you have to take emergency measures.

        Governor Cuomo deserves credit for bringing Democrat and Republican leaders together on a pretty solid tax overhaul, one they had been working on since he took office, months before OWS. Give credit where credit is due.

    • EP

      King also fired one of his advisors (Bayard Rustin) for being gay, so how much did he really believe in complete equality?

      • macgyver51

        Well, I will say that King was altogether human, but I do tend to lionize him occasionally. I apologize if that seemed offensive, I did not mean for it to be. The Civil Rights movement was an interesting time and there was much infighting on a number of platforms from the nonviolence/violence crowds to the struggle for women’s rights. It is an altogether fascinating time to study not only for what the movement accomplished, but as you pointed out, what lain underneath the surface.

        I’ll admit I’m aware of Rustin only by name and a few vague points. Do you have any good sources I could learn more from?

    • Anonymous

      You’re wicked off-based and laughably so. The gall to make unified statements and goals? Like what? Demand the birth certificate of the black man in the white house? Get the government’s hands off their medicare? You are right about one thing, the tea party wanted their country back and that statement is inherently racist in itself.

      To pretend that OWS has some confusing, irrational and inconsistent message is pure stupidity. Let me guess, you think it is a coincidence they decided on Wall Street as their spot to occupy? That the “we are the 99%” chant is convoluted?

      What is inconsistent is your characterization of OWS. You claim they don’t have a message, but then go on to state that their message is “selfish, naive and sterile.” So which is it? Do you not like the message or do you not know what it is? Can’t be both, pumpkin.

      • macgyver51

        First, many thanks. Being wicked anything is a pretty cool way to be described as in this day and age. Second, i understand that you have allowed your hatred of Fox News has driven you to be just as blind and laughable as they are. Meet people, draw conclusions, use your mind. Writing off a group you know only from TV clips isn’t the way. Are some of those things true? Of course they are. Are you using that to generalize an entire group? Yep.

        I’ve been guilty of many types of stupidity over the years, pure stupidity must be the apex. I’ve been amongst a number of the protests, let me assure you there is much confusion and much inconsistency.

        What a excellent observation that was! I apologize, let me clarify. OWS does not have a unified message but I do believe that the movement itself has some consistencies  in terms of the reasons its members have found their way there. I believe some of those reasons to be selfishness and naivety. Because of that, the movement is largely sterile. I apologize again and hope that clears things up. Is that better, butternut squash?

      • Anonymous

        You’re engaging in the exact same behavior your criticize. That’s hypocrisy. 

      • macgyver51

        While I’m well aware that hypocrisy is found in any social setting or argument, even saying that it doesn’t is in itself, hypocrisy, you’ll have to be more specific.

      • Ldgahgoweihg

        specifics: “Meet people, draw conclusions, use your mind. Writing off a group you
        know only from TV clips isn’t the way. Are some of those things true? Of
        course they are. Are you using that to generalize an entire group? Yep.”

        You’re doing the same with OWS.

    • Ralphy

      Occupiers cared about ‘how cool their signs were’ over other concerns? The civil rights movement waited until they had principles and only then executed their calculated protest-algorithm which would obtain some justice? What an extravagant claim! If only the Occupiers had a foundation, like ‘economic justice’ or – waitaminute, you’re online, you have Google, yet you say things which are demonstrably false given 10 minutes of effort.

      • macgyver51

        Economic justice would require them getting a job and contributing to the economy they want justice in. I don’t mean that in a jackass “Get a job, hippie” sense. I mean that in a do more than hold a sign, when there are in fact jobs out there. Recognize that maybe you made some poor educational choices, just because you can’t get a job as a writer doesn’t mean you can’t work construction. Many do both. The people here have nothing to lose, therefore they’re not really fighting for anything.

        Suffragists had something to lose, as did civil rights leaders, LGBT rights leaders, abolitionists. All were(and sometimes still, are) risking much, and therefore needed strong principles to stand on.
         Again, this was not and is not a game.

  • Sophia

    I really like this line: “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.”

    • Joshua L Durkin

      Thanks Sophia. That was a favorite of mine too. I hope we’ll all figure out more ways to wrap our heads around this movement.

  • Catt

    “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.”
    Yeah, they can sit on sidewalks, suck up the taxpayer’s money that they claim to be defending, cost their respective cities thousands of dollars for every day they choose to sit there, leave their families behind, refuse to look for jobs, drive business away from stores near their protest sites, and then blame the rich for the recession and insist that, somehow, Wall St. is the problem. The problem is not with Wall St., it’s with Congress, the House, and the Senate. If the Occupy people really wanted to make a difference they should be dealing with politicians, not businessmen.
    It’s pathetic that no one in the movement (or outside) even knows what they want. I’ve seen countless arguments over Occupy’s goals, and since they refuse to band together and actually decide what they want and how they want to go about getting it, everyone will continue arguing until they finally get shut down. No one wants to talk to a “swarm”, people want to talk to reasonable representatives who are clear about what they take issue with, who provide alternative approaches, and who willing to negotiate and compromise, which Occupy has, as of yet, failed to provide.

    • Ralphy

      Any history of social movements in the 20th century will show you the idea that ‘people want reasonable representatives who are clear about what they take issue with, who provide alternative approaches, and who willing to negotiate and compromise’ is simply wrong. I have no idea how you could believe this. In the U.S. along, suffrage, labour rights, and the civil rights movement all show this to be completely incorrect.
      Also, the idea that Occupiers ‘refuse to look for jobs’ is nonsense – I think you’ve failed to consult any kind of evidence.

      • Catt

        “suffrage, labour rights, and the civil rights movement”
        You mean those movements constituting people who knew what they wanted? And that had leaders who clearly articulated their discontent to people in power? And who didn’t just sit around complaining and victimizing themselves, but actively worked to bring about change?

        I’ve taken trips through Occupy Boston, Worcester, and Wall Street and conducted interviews for a local paper I write for. When I asked about looking for jobs, nearly all the replies were either a) “This is more important”, b) “There are no jobs”, or c) “No one will hire me”. Don’t tell me I didn’t consult evidence.

      • Ralphy

        Why not tell you you haven’t consulted evidence? Do you really think the majority of Occupiers are unemployed AND not looking for work AND that this invalidates their position?  Compare your results from your interviews (where your questions already presumes people are unemployed) to the dozens of other interviews and self-reports on the net and have another go at it.

        “I want the right to vote” or “I don’t want to sit at a segregated lunch counter” are not substantially different in depth than “I want electoral/Congressional reform” or “I want corporate influence on politics to be severely curtailed” or “I want a socioeconomic system which represents my interests”.

        I’m inclined to listen to activist organizers, Occupiers, and history on what is possible and practical for social action; I am fully confident people who rehearse these superficial intuitions about what should happen have never actually tried to mobilize and realize political change.

      • Ralphy

        Addendum: the social movements of the 20th century lasted decades and obtained results through all kinds of means – the idea that civil rights have been established specifically through the rational presentation of specific demands and a willingness to negotiate and compromise (and that other actions are neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve results) is obliterated by two minutes of history on Wikipedia. And you’re faulting a three-month old movement because the lazy bums aren’t bootstrapping some results? holy loly

    • Joshua L Durkin

      Those “reasonable representatives” are failing this country, as you’ve mentioned. But don’t kid yourself or anyone else about the facts that led up to the 2007-8 balloon pop. Big business blew the balloon up, and then popped it. The Fed fucked up because Alan Greenspan and his cronies asserted that less regulation makes a stronger market. He’s since rescinded that claim, pulblicly admitted he was wrong, and will be remembered with shame like a festering sore on this country’s history.

      People are angry, and have many wants and desires. The fact that you think no one knows what they want, as you wrote, is a misguided platitude at best, and really just a boring and pointless comment.

  • M.Drew

    I think businesses and corporations sometimes live out of their means and use the government as a way to shield themselves from the repercussions of their own marketing and industrial decisions. Do we solve this by doing something about the government or doing something about the companies? Regardless of how people approach this, as Americans we have a tool that can help us change the entire infrastructure of government decision making, and thus indirectly, change the financial system and any other system that is broken: we CAN vote.

    We have the media right now exploiting personal flaws and family history, using the two-party system to polarize us, making it difficult for anything to pass on all levels of government because of this endless embittered battle of yes and no. We need to vote people in who truly represent us, not vice versa. We need to have a platform that honestly educates us on the
    actual merits of our current and potential representatives, with no bias.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ivanavi Ivan Dutton

    Bottom line: People are angry. They’re tired of struggling to simply survive. How many generations have treaded through hardship to better the economic situation of their kin? At what point do we realize that the present situation of this economy isn’t good enough? The public majority has spoken and they’re tired of it. All of it. There is a fire in me that praises the OWS movement to continue on in their efforts for change, in whatever way it can achieve it. At the end of the day people want to know that things are going to get better. That they have to get better. Fred Hampton put it best, ” You can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution”. The media, the government can try to censor these efforts, but it is obvious that it’s not going away. If anything it’s growing stronger and getting louder. It’s about time that people realized the power of numbers and used it to channel the universal message that enough is enough.

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