n+1 Mag: Notes from an Occupation by Astra Taylor and Mark Greif (27 September 2011).
Friday, September 23rd:
Astra: It’s a very youthful event, and perhaps naive in a lot of ways, but I’m happy they’re doing it. That said, I’m always a bit irritated by the incessant emphasis on the youthfulness of the demonstrators, which is a way of infantilizing and dismissing them (silly kids, they’ll grow up and get over this dumb protesting stuff!) and also lets older people off the hook. Shouldn’t we all be out there, railing against the vampire squid? The fact is there are plenty of older people at “Liberty Plaza,” a good number of retirees mingling with the recent graduates. Our society, and the left especially, has this strange idea that young people are the revolutionary vanguard (In his famous “Letter to the New Left” C. Wright Mills made the case that youth had replaced the working class as the “historic agency”; Theodore Roszak calls this shift the “adolescentization of dissent”) but of course, being young, they don’t have all the answers (not that old people do either, obviously).
Sunday, September 25th:
Mark: Nine days is nothing to sneeze at. I know people keep complaining that the occupiers don’t have a platform, but any real deliberative convention takes time, and these folks were strangers nine days ago. The idea of the occupation, to me, is to remind everyone that Wall Street belongs to the City of New York, the banks’ money belongs to the American citizens and people worldwide who have temporarily parked some of it with them (hoping they’ll do some good with it), and the rules they play by ultimately come from us. I wish the NYPD didn’t feel obliged to pen the protesters in away from Wall Street, though, and I hope Burger King on the northwest corner continues to be generous with its bathroom.
I made it to the General Assembly tonight. Weird for me, after so much suspicion in universities and professional groups, all my life, of order and parliamentary procedure and quick-running meetings, laughed away by saying, “Oh, since the Sixties we’ve forgotten all that stuff!”—to see an efficient assembly managed by kids, democratically, inclusively, and good-humoredly. I wish n+1 meetings ran like this. The left knows more than we think it does, as always. Noam Chomsky had sent a personal message by email. It was predictably long-winded; I wished people would make the “get to your point” sign. I was sitting close to the aisle of waiting speakers and I was surprised to watch participants whom I assumed knew each other well—since they were working together smoothly—whisper to ask each other’s names. They’re the most easygoing bunch I’ve seen at a protest, and the most calmly confident. Very gentle and not rattled by disruptors. Presumably that’s the confidence of nine days. Also the multiple confrontations that they’ve won nonviolently.