This may be a day late and a (billion) dollar(s) short, but I was fortunate enough to be in New York on the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and I made special effort to check out Zuccotti Park, where they had staged their most notable protest in months. [I also went back yesterday just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but the crowd was noticeably a lot smaller.]
The big headlines coming out of Monday’s protest was that it was significantly smaller than a year ago, duh, with a lackluster energy that felt more dutiful than truly passionate. Again, duh, you can’t sustain a year long protest without the energy flagging, as some of the original people get burnt out, and a different, perhaps less organically-enthused element (the younger “posers,” if you will that show up after every band becomes popular) shows up that’s really just there to say they’re there, unsure of exactly what the Occupy Movement’s goals are at this specific point in time.
And that’s been the other big headline that’s plagued the movement for most of the past year, as people (first Republicans, then the mainstream media, then even some liberals) began to seriously scratch their heads about what this specific movement was really hoping to gain. They knew, or had a pretty good idea, what OWS was mad at (it’s in the title for those that need a cheat sheet) but they weren’t sure what would qualify as a victory for the movement or, more honestly, what “would get those punks the hell off our lawn.”
Whereas the Tea Party would have done cartwheels if only Barack Obama were impeached or magically disappeared from the face of the Earth, Occupy had a lot harder job. They weren’t just for a handful of uber-specific (and, I would argue, largely secondary) issues like deficit reduction and laying off government workers and giving out tax cuts.
Occupy wanted to stage a counter-act against a disintegrating way of life; a disappearing standard of living that includes unions, reasonable income equality, a system where you could rise, an affordable college education, healthcare, and a middle-class. OWS always seemed more broad because it was more broad, but the death of the middle class is no small thing.
So, yeah, the air is out of the balloon a little bit. The large coalition that used to reside in Zuccotti Park (not just unemployed college grads, but laid-off middle aged workers, and even grandmothers on occasion) has been largely taken over by people that were already living on the street. [Nothing against drifters, but they really aren’t the best leaders of a political movement.]
BUT, with a few simple tweaks (like finally, finally, finally figuring out that they will eventually have to run their own candidates for office, and more is done from the inside than outside), the movement really could live to see another year. Because the values they’re fighting for——a better, more equal America——will never die.