To paraphrase one of Bob Dylan's songs of youthful protest, "Something's happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you Ms. Bellafante?"
A New York Times writer, Ginia Bellafante, is but one of many establishment reporters and pundits who've been covering the fledgling "Occupy Wall Street" movement — but completely missing the story. Instead of really digging into what's "happening here," they've resorted to fuddy-duddy mockery of an important populist protest that has sprouted right in Wall Street's own neighborhood.
In a September article, Bellafante dismissed the young people's effort as "fractured and airy," calling it a "carnival" in an "intellectual vacuum." Their cause is so "diffuse and leaderless," she wrote, that its purpose is "virtually impossible to decipher." No wonder, she concluded, that participation in the movement is "dwindling."
Whew — so snide! Yet, so wrong.
While the establishment is befuddled by the plethora of issues and slogans within the protest, confused by the absence of hierarchical order and put off by its festive spirit, that's their problem. The 20- and 30-somethings who are driving this movement know what they're doing and are far more organized (but much differently organized) than their snarky critics seem able to comprehend.
It's silly to say that the protestors' purpose is indecipherable. Hello — they're encamped next door to Wall Street. Isn't that a clue? Their cause is the same as the one boiling in the guts of America's workaday majority: Stop the gross greed of financial and corporate elites, and expel a political class that's so corrupted by the money of those wealthy elites that it has turned its back on the middle class and the poor.
Such movements don't begin with a neat set of solutions pre-packaged for The New York Times, but with roiling outrage focused directly on the plutocratic perpetrators of an unjust economy and an unresponsive politics. The movement will find agreement in due time on specific ideas for stopping the injustice, but now is the time for the passion and creative, nonviolent confrontation that will energize others to stop moaning and join the rebellion.
Millions of people are mad as hell and yearning for some leadership to battle the bastards. They're experiencing the truth of the old Ray Charles song: "Them that's got is them that gets, and I ain't got nothin' yet."
A majority of folks now see that "them that's got" are not only getting theirs, but also getting ours. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans possess more net worth today than the bottom 90 percent of us combined. Worse, these privileged few and their political henchmen have structured a new economic "normal" of long-term joblessness, low wages, no benefits or worker rights, miserly public services, and a steadily widening chasm between the rich and the rest of us.
This is the alienating reality that "Occupy Wall Street" has arisen to confront. This burgeoning movement began in September, when fewer than a dozen college students pitched camp in Liberty Square, located in the heart of New York's financial district, and began daily peaceful marches down Wall Street.
This is not your grandfather's tightly organized protest. In fact, it's intentionally loose — there is no "leader" or leadership council. Instead, group decisions are reached through a consensus-based democratic process. With no faith in traditional politics or conventional media, the mostly young protestors have taken to the streets to make their points, using their well-honed "culture of the web" to organize, strategize, harmonize and mobilize.
Their Liberty Square encampment might look chaotic at first, but look again. It includes a medial clinic, media center, cafeteria and library. Food? Their widely viewed website lets anyone in the world go online and have pizzas delivered to them from a local shop. They even produce their own newspaper, appropriately named the Occupied Wall Street Journal.
Far from "dwindling" in numbers, the New York protest continues to grow. Moreover, the movement has now spread to more than 50 cities, from major hubs like Chicago to such smaller places as McAllen, Texas. All across the U.S.A., "something is happening here" — something that might be big. Link into it at www.OccupyTogether.com.
Jim Hightower is a National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.