Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"The occupation is not meant to become a butterfly"

I like this:

Yesterday I went down to Zucotti park. It seemed like there were at least a thousand people and probably more surrounding the park, pressed up against barricades, wondering why they weren't allowed inside. In the park were maybe a hundred police officers, occupying the park. The park has lights on the ground, in the concrete. You could barely move on the sidewalk. Around six p.m. they began letting the occupiers back into the park through a small opening in the barricades, searching them for tents and sleeping bags. It was lightly raining.

There were numerous editorials about the end, and beginning, of Occupy Wall Street. They were often written in the tone of a proud father. They were encouraging: Now was the time to grow into something else, the next phase. The movement is leaderless, its demands unclear. You could hear the editorialists smirk. Why do we do that?

Yesterday a stockbroker stopped on the corner of Cedar and Broadway to argue with some of the protesters. At first it was tense, then it became friendly. What do you want? he asked.

We want the rich to stop taking our shit. Stop placing the tax burden on the poor and expecting us to be grateful. It is no longer OK to give away all our money to the richest 1%, to bend to the will of the financial institutions and the labyrinth of dividends, offshore tax havens, and money making schemes. Stop referring to fair taxation as socialism. Stop telling dishwashers and migrant farmers that you earned your money, that you work hard for what you have, because lots of people work hard and don't have. There are a lot of hard working people who are not rich. Don't look down from your fairy tale and tell us that people get what they deserve. Stop quoting Reagan. Stop telling us that riches beyond imagination breeds innovation. Stop pissing on our leg and calling it rain.

Occupy Wall Street is not a set of demands, it is a statement: We exist.

It began, though not noticeably, when Obama extended the tax cuts for the wealthy instituted by George W. Bush, referred to by Dick Cheney as "Our due." At the time it didn't seem like there was the political will on the left to do anything else. Occupy Wall Street is a manifestation of political will. It would be a awhile before the tents and libraries and occupations across the country, but that is where it began. It's hard to gauge which step is one step too far, but there it was.

The occupation is not meant to end, or become a butterfly, or sadly peter out. It's not indebted to paternalistic leaders giving a pat on the head and assuring the child: You will do better. The occupation doesn't need to negotiate or lay out a list of specific demands. Stop taking our shit. We notice when you steal from us. The occupiers sleep in the park and in the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The occupiers will invade the political rallies in 2012. Of course they will. The politicians will notice, they already do. The occupation is a seat at the table with no intention of going home.

-- Stephen Elliot, The Rumpus


  1. fabulous. well spoken. thank you

  2. I've been reading about the history of free speech at Cal Berkeley and Mario Savio. We exist. Never were a caterpillar. Never will be a butterfly. We are people with Voice.

  3. I especially like this line: "Occupy Wall Street is not a set of demands, it is a statement: We exist."

    In all the establishment complaints about the demonstrators' lack of focus, that fact got lost. If I were a politician I would take serious notice that so many people feel strongly enough about the state of our economy that they'll sleep in the cold in a park and march by the thousands all over the country! Not to be overly dramatic, but this is how revolutions get started!

  4. I think, for me watching it from up here in the Great White North, OWS is the most amazing thing ever. But it scares me too because, again, from my seat, if no one listens, the next step in the "revolution" will be rioting...and you can already see just how many people are now hooked in. An excellent piece, Elizabeth.

  5. xo Stephen Elliot.

    But the mother I am, wants them to go somewhere warm until spring.

  6. This is one of the most coherent responses to criticism of the Occupy movement that I've heard. Thank you so much, Elizabeth. I'll share it any chance I get.



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