Posts Tagged ‘occupy wall street’

In this week’s New Yorker

May 9, 2013

The best reading is “Every Disease on Earth,” Rivka Galchen’s piece on Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, which apparently serves the most ethnically diverse population of any in the world, and Dr. Joseph Lieber (below, photo by Stephanie Sinclair), a dedicated resident and ace diagnostician.

dr joseph lieber

Also of interest: Ryan Lizza’s profile of Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper, and the state’s political shift in recent years over issues of guns, gay marriage, and marijuana; Dexter Filkins’ “The Thin Red Line,” about the Obama Administration’s internal debate over what to do about Syria; Joan Acocella writing amusingly, as ever, about the new burlesque scene in downtown Manhattan (“Take It Off”); and Kelefa Sanneh’s Critic at Large essay on anarchism, reviewing a number of books inspired by the Occupy movement and explicating the crucial distinctions between vertical and horizontal movements.

bull in china shop

Occupy: Halloween highlights

October 31, 2011
One of the most inspiring things about the Occupy Wall Street movement is the outpouring of participation in citizen democracy it has engendered.
Here are a couple of excellent contributions I’ve encountered, while spending a sick day in bed with the device that Nicholson Baker calls my “rectangle of slip-sliding joy”:
This excellent bit of cyber-activism intended to Keep Wall Street Occupied is not only an amusing prank but an intelligent analysis with good modelling of thinking-through-the-project AND its reminder that there’s no substitute for taking to the streets with your body.
Also, see Keith Boykin’s excellent eyewitness report in Huffington Post on the Top Ten Myths About Occupy Wall Street. Very moving and inspiring is the sign posted in Zuccotti Park listing “Principles of Kingian Nonviolence”:
1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
2. The Beloved Community is the framework for the future.
3. Attack forces of evil not persons doing evil.
4. Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve a goal.
5. Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence.
6. The universe is on the side of justice.
“You may retaliate against us with all the forces of hatred, but we will in turn respond with all the forces of love, and we will wear you down.” — Dr. Martin Luther King
Thanks to Craig Weltha for turning me on to both these links, along with Eduardo Porter’s sensible essay in the NY Times Sunday Review.

Occupy: on Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibi and the wisdom of no set agenda

October 19, 2011

My oldest friend in the world, Roxanne Reynolds (nee Green), who lives in Houston, turned me on to Matt Taibbi’s commentary on Rolling Stone‘s website about Occupy Wall Street. It’s worth reading — you can check it out here.

He notes that the images that have emerged so far of OWS have been misleading stand-offs with the police and nothing truly iconic. “That, to me, speaks volumes about the primary challenge of opposing the 50-headed hydra of Wall Street corruption, which is that it’s extremely difficult to explain the crimes of the modern financial elite in a simple visual,” Taibbi writes. “The essence of this particular sort of oligarchic power is its complexity and day-to-day invisibility: Its worst crimes, from bribery and insider trading and market manipulation, to backroom dominance of government and the usurping of the regulatory structure from within, simply can’t be seen by the public or put on TV. There just isn’t going to be an iconic “Running Girl” photo with Goldman Sachs, Citigroup or Bank of America – just 62 million Americans with zero or negative net worth, scratching their heads and wondering where the hell all their money went and why their votes seem to count less and less each and every year.”

He goes on to offer some thoughtful suggestions about demands that might be made to address out-of-control corporate dominance and economic injustice. But to me, the most ingenious thing about a constitutionally leaderless movement with no stated list of demands is that it puts the responsibility on all of us to transform ourselves from passive observers (O Leader, here’s what you need to do!) to active participants in citizen democracy. If you think something needs to be done, well, what’s stopping you from doing something about it? Did you have a response when you heard that Bank of America’s revenues took a big leap last quarter? Did your income take a big leap last quarter? If you have something to say about that, don’t wait for somebody else to say it for you. Occupy Wall Street is giving us all notice that it’s possible to have these conversations and ask these questions aloud.

It’s as much about cultivating a world-view as ticking items off a list, and the model that is emerging is person-to-person, which is really how consciousness gets raised.

It’s also fascinating to watch how apologists for corporate culture (not to mention any names…David Brooks) are reacting to the emergence of Occupy Wall Street. Someone sent me a link to an article from Investor’s Business Daily titled “Tax the Rich? Good Luck with That” whose basic point makes sense to me — that when you shift the tax rates, people with higher incomes simply report less (and nobody complains). But the language of the piece, which liberally refers to “leftists in general,” reflects the kind of paranoid thinking that sees correcting economic injustice in terms of rounding up the country’s 400 billionaires and confiscating their possessions (a short step to, you know, shooting them in the street). We’re going to see a lot more of this.

Occupy: New Yorker “Fighting Back” cover

October 18, 2011

I haven’t even read the issue yet, but I couldn’t resist posting Barry Blitt’s brilliant cover illustration for this week’s issue of The New Yorker. As my hyperbolic friend David Zinn would say: Best. Cover. Ever. It’s the ultimate Consider the Alternative, no matter what you think about Occupy Wall Street.

And then of course there’s this political cartoon making the rounds:

Occupy Wall Street: photo diary, Times Square, 10/15/11

October 16, 2011

I’ve been following the Occupy Wall Street movement since it emerged last month, always with the nagging sense that the mainstream media wasn’t conveying the essence of it properly. The movement really escalated while I was in Italy the last two weeks — with 700 arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge, a rally at City Hall on October 5 that drew 30,000 participants (including several key labor unions), and increasing tension about the occupation of Zuccotti Park in Liberty Square. So when the call went out for people to gather in Times Square yesterday (while similar actions took place all over the globe), it seemed like a good opportunity to show up and (as my friend Jonathan Lerner, an experienced ’60s radical leftist, puts it) “get a sense of the meeting.” I’m so glad I did.

The big question mark about Occupy Wall Street has been: what is the intention? what are the demands? It’s clearly emerged from a general sense of frustration and rebellion, the feeling that something’s got to shift. The skeptical part of me always gets concerned when political rallies try to rope in too many issues. But actually being in the midst of the energy, I completely understood: this is a movement whose core issue is economic injustice. And it’s a huge issue, very difficult to tackle. What that means is a little different for each of us, so to name one target is reductive. Change has got to start somewhere. The civil rights movement in the ’60s tackled the impossibly gigantic social injustice of racial segregation by starting with bus seats and lunch counters. This movement is starting by Occupying Wall Street. Here’s an irony that tickles me: for decades the rest of the world has been inundated with images from American media as the norm for representation, but this movement clearly takes its inspiration from Arab Spring, specifically the gatherings in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that brought down the Mubarak regime. Just show up, people, and something’s bound to happen.

I showed up a little after 5:00, and for the first hour or so, the mood was low-key, sort of like a big party, everybody looking around expectantly, wondering what happens next. The main action going on was people holding up signs so that other people could take pictures and post them online. There was no central focal point, but Duffy Square was the nucleus. The police had blocked off the bleachers with barricades. A ragtag marching band pumped out tunes. Street performers on stilts entertained. I ran into David Denby, an old colleague from Boston newspaper days, and we noted the diversity of the gathering — largely but not completely white, youngsters but also oldsters (like us). And of course mixed in with the tourists and everyday Times Square inhabitants buying theater tickets at TKTS were the usual array of nutjobs happy to have a larger-than-usual audience, like the guy with the enormous crucifix bellowing “Come to Jesus!” steps away from the Naked Cowboy posing for smirky photos with pretty girls.

The energy changed enormously with the arrival of 5000-6000 folks who marched up Sixth Avenue from Union Square. Instead of just milling around, they’d been moving and chanting, and they were charged up. “Whose street? Our street!” “Show me what democracy looks like/This is what democracy looks like!”

The police presence also intensified with the new arrivals. Half a dozen policeman on horseback made a dramatic entrance and zeroed in on the corner of 46th Street and Broadway.

Tension zoomed high, with the police using metal barriers to try to contain the crowd. I heard a cop on his cel phone saying, “They want to take over the street and block traffic. We can’t have that.” Right, the people are exercising their first amendment rights to assemble peacefully and to express outrage at economic injustice, and you’re concerned about smooth flow of traffic. The skittish horses made everyone very nervous — those things are dangerous weapons. Suddenly, there was a flare-up, pushing and shoving at the barriers on 46th Street and the cops fanned out in all directions pushing people with the metal barriers. Apparently, there were some arrests. A middle-aged woman near me got knocked down and hit her head on the pavement badly.

It started to look like one of those ugly us vs. them confrontations with the police. Cameras everywhere. Huge amount of testosterone and action-movie swagger on display. I saw one cop who looked exactly like a mad dog straining at his leash, looking for a fight. And there are always a few people in the crowd who unwisely stir things up — I watched a woman pointing a flag on a short sharp stick at the Mad Dog Cop from inches away. Taunting a frightened animal is a good way to get bit. The collective chant rang out across the intersection: “Who are you protecting? Who are you protecting? Who are you protecting?” That thought actually seemed to have a sobering impact on the police, and things settled down a bit. What were they protecting? I’d been standing on the west side of Times Square looking east, and when I turned around I suddenly understood what they were protecting.

Once the energy peaked, the question became: how to dissolve this gathering sensibly. It was getting cold, I was underdressed, and I didn’t want to get penned in by the barricades so I started heading home. Unlike the blue-shirt cops, the white-shirt superior officers seemed to keep a level head — the guy with the bullhorn here addressed the crowds as “Ladies and gentlemen” and managed to keep people and car traffic moving.

There was plenty of potential for tension and clashing — I heard that the cops were prepared to make plenty of arrests and were authorized to use tear gas to clear Times Square. That didn’t happen. Occupy Wall Street dispersed to a general assembly in Liberty Park and an occupation party in Washington Square Park. All in all, it felt powerful and triumphant. Walking through the crowd, I felt excited. I saw a woman sitting inside a blinking white hula hoop holding a sign that said, “Live in love not in fear.”

I went home and read the Occupied Wall Street Journal, with Naomi Klein’s inspiring October 6 speech — I encourage you to read the whole issue online (see instructions here). An editorial note titled “No list of demands” sums it all up:

“We are speaking to each other, and listening. This occupation is first about participation.

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers streamed into Foley Square on Wednesday — labor unions rolled out, students walked out. The occupation of Wall Street grew to resemble the city we live in.

What race, age, religion, occupation did we represent? None of them. All of them.

Barricaded in by steel pens, surrounded by a thousand cops and NYPD helicopters above, we saw our power reflected in their need to control us. But just as this is our movement, it is our narrative too.

The exhausted political machines and their PR slicks are already seeking leaders to elevate, messages to claim, talking points to move on. They, more than anyone, will attempt to seize and shape this moment. They are racing to reach the front of the line.

But how can they run out in front of something that is in front of them? They cannot.

For Wall Street and Washington, the demand is not on them to give us something that isn’t theirs to give. It’s ours. It’s on us. We aren’t going anywhere. We just got here.”

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