I know where I was. I was working in a grocery store, nervously checking my twitter feed.
On September 17th, 2011, something amazing happened, and it changed the way I look at the world. I remember I had heard about it a few months before hand, people calling for a massive sit-in the likes of which had never been seen before. I didn't think anything would actually happen, you know how things like this usually work. Somebody says, "Hey, we should totally do this." and everybody agrees, and it never happens. But that day, 200 people showed up and started crowding around the Bull statue on Wall street, waving signs. The police quickly showed up, and herded them backwards towards Zuccotti Park. And there they stayed, staging protest after protest.
These were people who saw a problem in our government. They saw a system of reverse bribery, where the bribe is given after the favor is done, and it's called a gift, which is perfectly legal. They saw rich special interest groups making tv ads and pouring money over the airwaves in order to distort the truth, and sway people against voting for their own interests. They saw a system in which one candidate's brother could purge over 50,000 voters off the rolls, so that his brother could win a presidential election by only 587 votes. They saw corruption that left college students unemployed and saddled with debt, which forced families from their homes and killed people by telling them that they couldn't go to the doctor.
They saw all this shit, and they had no fucking idea what to do about it, so they decided to sit on the fucking front doorstep of the people who were making these decisions, and scream at the top of their lungs until something changed.
And something did change. Within 24 hours, there was an anonymous donation of somewhere between 15 thousand or 50 thousand dollars to the police (I don't remember the exact amount) and the police went full on soylent green on their asses. Beating them with clubs, shooting them with tear gas, pepper spraying them in the face AFTER they had been detained. I remember one video of a cop standing on one young man's back, his boot between the kid's shoulder blades, with onlookers pleading with the cop to please get off of him, that he couldn't breath. Within those first few weeks, not a single protester raised their hands in anything but righteous protest. Not a single fist was thrown, not a single defacement, nothing.
Following the protests was the biggest thrill of my life, the closest thing I've ever had to a religious experience. I was too big a pussy to go and join them. I wanted to, I wanted to so badly, but for some reason I didn't.
Then it started happening all over the fucking world. Even in CHINA!
I want to know what you were doing when normal people were standing in front of armed police, no weapons, and no way of defending themselves, but standing proud and shouting in their faces. What did you think? What would you have done?
For what it's worth, I'd vote for ya.
But bear in mind I also voted for Nelson Mandela for Iowa State Representative last year, because there weren't any good candidates in my district.
I nearly voted for Vermin Supreme, but I couldn't decide if he was being satirical or serious.
I want to know what you were doing when normal people were standing in front of armed police, no weapons, and no way of defending themselves, but standing proud and shouting in their faces.
Probably working. There was an occupy rally in Vancouver later in the year and the city was actually pretty accommodating all things considered.
What did you think?
I thought there were some interesting things to come from the development. At the heart of it, there seemed to be well-intentioned people who were trying to generate honest discussion on the issues at hand. In the end I think Occupy suffered defeat due to the overwhelming momentum of the system already in place.
It has always amazed me when people read Nineteen Eighty-Four that they come away from it thinking it's a book about governments preying on the people. It is in part, I suppose, but I think the more salient theme is the public's inability to wield its own mass as a viable means of defense. "If there is hope, it lies in the proles. Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they can never become conscious."
That was the obstacle for Occupy. I don't think they ever figured out a way to overcome it.
What would you have done?
I've never managed to figure it out.