On Occupy Boston

People look at Occupy Boston and see what they want to see. One Fenway activist looks and calls it “a joke.” I look and see a bunch of white people, but at the same time being in Dewey Square can bring tears to my eyes. Others have some critical distance.

Harsha Walia on Racialicious:

The very idea of the multitude forces a contestation of any one lived experience binding the 99%. Embracing this plurality and having an open heart to potentially uncomfortable truths about systemic oppression beyond the “evil corporations and greedy banks” will strengthen this movement. Ignoring the hierarchies of power between us does not make them magically disappear. It actually does the opposite—it entrenches those inequalities. If we learn from social movements past, we observe that the struggle to genuinely address issues of race, class, gender, ability, sexuality, age, and nationality actually did more, rather than less, to facilitate broader participation.

Hendrik Hertzberg:

What OWES [his coy name for Occupy Wall Street] doesn’t have—and is under some pressure, internal and external, to formulate—is a traditional agenda: a list of “demands,” a set of legislative recommendations, a five-point program. For many of its participants, this lack is an essential part of the attraction. They’re making it up on the fly. They don’t really know where it will take them, and they like it that way. Occupy Wall Street is a political project, but it is equally a cri de coeur, an exercise in constructive group dynamics, a release from isolation, resignation, and futility. The process, not the platform, is the point. Anyway, OWES is not the Brookings Institution.

Maybe you can tell the value of a movement by the authoritarian instinct to shut it down. Mayor Menino recently announced to WBUR that “Civil disobedience doesn’t work for Boston; it doesn’t work for anyone.” What a bizarre, ahistorical thing to say! The Occupy movement is nonviolent and legal. If Menino really just wanted to clear the park, he could simply wait for winter. But the kneejerk impulse to suppress dissent rises immediately out of the need to protect privilege for a few.

This reminds me of gay marriage. I was completely uninterested in getting married until I saw the strength of the opposition. Then I thought: “Hey, this must be worth fighting for.”

Happy times with Harry and the Potters.