Occupy Wall Street movement peters out,but the spirit remains
The days of wine and roses may be over for Occupy Wall Street.
2011. Economic crisis; still no end in sight. People got angry, and decided to fight the system in their own blustery way. The Occupy Wall Street movement arose form the shambles of the unemployed and angry to attack the crooked bankers and fat-cat politicians who seemed content to enjoy caviar and fine cigars while the rest of us made due with our 76 percent share of the income.
To blame were the Republicans who’d been far too successful, and the Democrats who’d given in. Then it all lost steam, and the protests just sort of faded.
The movement was flawed from the start. One of the problems OWS always faced was its unwillingness (or inability) to work through the system to achieve its aims.
This should come as no real surprise, considering the fact that the OWS movement was always colored by a distinct air of anti-establishment, fight-the-system sentiment. There was, and remains, some genuine appeal there; especially in a time when dissatisfaction with elected officials rivals any other period in American history.
But such waves of firebrand passion and resentment tend to reach their crest early on. An idea that at once seemed fierce and capable becomes tired and beaten by the reality of politics. These days, OWS looks less like the 99 percent, and more like just another crazy, incomprehensible fringe group, too idealistic and alien to play by the rules.
This is a matter of simple demographics. a disadvantage against the Occupiers. It is a plain statistical reality that the age group most represented in the Occupy Wall Street camp tends to dither on the date of ballot casting. Voter apathy is, of course, rampant throughout the United States. But taken in mind with competitors like the Tea Party, which appeals to a relatively higher-initiative voter constituency (55-plus), this can spell doom in the long run.
On one hand, I can relate to the resentment expressed by OWS. The democracy we have is slow, sedentary and divisive. Compromise, by any other name in America, generally refers to an outcome with which no one is satisfied; a good and just initiative ruined by the other side’s stubbornness and inability to “just get it.” The impotence of the American democracy at times can be a frustrating and embarrassing mess.
But on the other hand, every real democracy is a mess. Such is the nature of a melting-pot of opinion. Case in point; try deciding on one pizza topping for three or more people. Here too, the outcome can be frustrating, embarrassing, and, sadly, often violent. But I digress.
Democracy is difficult; its method, an unforgiving and frequently unrewarding slog. But substantive change does not come easy. Though those intensely aggravating “Get Out The Vote” campaigns may not have the flash and bang of a good populist protest, they are a far more effective avenue for voters to express their dissatisfaction with government.
So don’t count out OWS just yet. With the 2012 elections just around the corner, and unemployment still agonizingly high (though gradually improving), the issues that OWS championed in its clean and admirable youth will doubtless rise to the fore. And it is possible that, in a display evocative of the 2008 election of then-Senator Barack Obama, the lust for change will indeed manage to drive the youthful and disaffected to the ballot boxes.
OWS is certainly not what it once was. But it is not yet gone. At least for the time being, OWS will continue to exist in some modest form or another. One need not identify with the Zuccotti Park or Portland encampments in order to identify with the ideals of economic equality and accountability in government so poignantly summed up by the cries of “We are the 99 percent.”
The protests and picket signs might not have changed anything. But OWS should not be discouraged. The protests, on their own, might not have been able to affect change—but then, they never do. What protests can do, however, OWS did, and did quite well.
Protests can make people pay attention. And if the messages of OWS can stick with people long enough to follow them to the election, then the efforts of OWS will not have been in vain.
Sometimes subtlety is the surer path to victory.