Occupy Wall Street: Too Abstract? Will it Last?

31 Oct

Plus Zombies, Bicycles, and Fat Cats

John McWhorter and Glenn Loury have an interesting discussion, mostly about Occupy Wall Street. McWhorter went down there the other day and noticed that it’s small.

Yes it is. Was there yesterday afternoon (Sunday 30 Oct) and it IS small. A whole city block, yes, but a small block. And crowded with tents. It’s large in the imagination, but physically small.

And jammed with people taking photos, shooting videos, and doing interviews. Which surely is the point, get in the media however possible.


The crowd, more diverse than some reports suggest, though it’s hard to tell the OWSers from the one-time visitors. Some folks, of course, visit time and again. I got an armband of orange mesh—just like the police use to corral people—from an older couple who were helping out. I also saw some seminary students offer a sympathetic ear as Pastors for Occupy Wall Street (something like that, I forget the exact banner they flew under). Yes, lots of young folks, but also middle aged and old. Women as well as men, and a child singer playing a pink guitar in one placer, a child drummer in another. Black white yellow, probably red too.

Will OWS Last?

But back to McWhorter and Loury. McWhorter thinks they’ll all disperse in a month or so when the weather gets really cold. Perhaps.

What McWhorter and Loury were wondering is whether or not THIS is the sort of thing that really stirs the passions so that the protest will last and last. And thus really get in people’s minds and under their skin.

Yes, the 1% vs. 99% message is clear enough, economic inequality. But you push beyond that, and what do you get? They feat that the enemy may be too abstract. Financial manipulation, derivatives, that’s a bit abstract. Cheating is not abstract, but is that cheating? How so?

I think they’ve got a point. How to bring the message home?

Zombies on Bicycles

Meanwhile, there was a group of OWSers in zombie make-up and drag walking the periphery of the park. I THINK they were supposed to represent the top 1%—you know, they’re super zombies sucking our blood away. I think that’s the message. But I’m not sure.

Maybe that’s a way to make things more concrete. Though it’ll be tricky. On the one hand, zombies are hot right now. Everyone gets zombies. At the same time, we’re know they’re not real. They’re creatures of horror films. Can we bring them out of horror films and into the mundane world, as the Blood Sucking One Percent? That’ll be tough.

Finally, I note that Times Up!, and the New York City OWS environmental action group, has teamed up with the OWS Sustainable Working Group to provide electrical power for OWS. The city had confiscated electric power generators so Times Up! has arranged for five bicycle-powered generators to be in stalled in Liberty Park.

Which gives me an idea.

Why not rent time on the bikes to Wall Street 1% fat cats. They pay $5K an hour to generate power for OWS and $5K as an entrance fee for the Fat Cat Power context. Each Fat Cat’s power output will be measured for the hour. The one who generates the most power will have the privilege of donating $100K to OWS and $100K to the charity of their choice in the name of OWS. They’ll also receive a Fat Cat Supreme banner knitted by the out-of-work seamstress I saw on the sidewalk knitting for OWS.

Now, get Warren Buffett to be the first fat cat on a bike. They’ll all come drooling at the opportunity to out-power Buffett.


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