So Occupy Wall Street and its spinoffs have been going on for a couple of months now. Here in Denver, it’s been about five weeks. It seems mainstream media is paying more and more attention to the movement, but even with the increase in news stories about the Occupation, and even with more commentators discussing issues pertinent to the movement, there seems to be a lot of confusion out there regarding what the Occupation is about. There’s a very good reason for this: No one really knows, specifically, what the Occupation is really about. In some respects, it’s partially because the media has no real vested interest in actually exploring, in depth, the root cause of the protest. There is also the fact that there are no real spokespeople to speak for the Occupiers, and therefore there’s no concrete message to point to. And of course, there’s the fact that the Occupiers themselves can’t seem to agree on any definitions, and in fact seem genuinely opposed to having clearly defined goals. But all that being the case, please allow me to give you a brief introduction to Occupy Denver, as I see it based on the people I meet.
I have a good job. I’m lucky in that respect and I know it. That being the case, I tend to only join the Occupiers on the weekend, when I have some free time between my responsibilities to my job and to my family. On those weekends, there are a lot of people like me present. These people are responsible, working adults. Typically, they have enough education and experience to know how to work within the system, but because of their knowledge of the system, they are privy to its failings. The weekend Occupier has a very clear view of the glass ceiling we all face in the business world, and they recognize how difficult it is to make it, even with gainful employment. The weekend Occupiers haven’t been as victimized by the Great Recession as others, but they also know they could be, and they want to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Professional Occupiers are the reason the Occupation has its name. These folks have lost everything, or almost so. They would love to have a job to go to every day that would take them away from Occupying Wall Street (or Lincoln Park, as the case may be in Denver). The fact that they don’t, and that their prospects of getting one despite their qualifications are slim at best, coupled with the fact that their finances have been predated while their employment opportunities have been shipped overseas, leaves them with little else to do. They would attend town hall meetings like the Tea Party did, but there are fewer and fewer town halls to attend, and many are now charging admission that the unemployed cannot afford. And while I agree with the remarkably insightful and intelligent Jim Wright over on Stonekettle Station that voting is absolutely key, there is more to forcing change than the ballot. Time and again we have seen politicians get elected based on one platform, and then immediately do an about-face to pursue something entirely different than what they were elected to do. What, then, are people left with? Whether you agree with them or not, they are making their voices heard in the only way they feel they can.
Not all opportunists are bad. Some are simply homeless people who have seen a large concentration of free food, supplies, and company. This is how many of the homeless have spent years of their lives, small wonder that they take the opportunity to avail themselves of such resources now. And besides, of all the people victimized by institutionalized greed and the indifference of the “haves,” aren’t the homeless the group with the most significant grievance? They belong there. And they should be helped and aided by anyone who identifies with the 99% movement. They are the first victims of class warfare.
But there are other opportunists. Drug puchers. Pimps. Thieves. Violent extremists and various other criminals. While I admire the inclusiveness of the Occupation, there have to be limits. When it comes to these people, the ones who give the movement a bad name (and frankly, whose behavior is opposite the non-violence the movement is trying to promote), the Occupiers need to make sure these assholes know that they will not be tolerated. It needs to be crystal clear that if you’re hurting or exploiting people, you are not one of us. You are everything we’re against. You need to get the fuck out. I have no patience for these people, and I have no problem excluding them from an otherwise very inclusive organization. No one is better for being so open-minded as to tolerate that shit.
Anyway, that’s how Occupy Denver looks to me. I’m actually traveling for business for a while, so it will be a couple weeks before I get back down to the Occupation. But I’m optimistic that the Occupation will still be going strong when I get back.