In lower Manhattan on October 5th, I marched with 15,000-25,000 people of all ages, colors, and backgrounds, protesting the way things are on this planet as dictated by corporate greed. A computer icon died the same day, but something much more important, vital, and amazing happened and continues. People—many of whom know the government is a fair-weather fan of the people and who are again and again complicit in protecting corporations and the super-rich from any trouble—people are changing the world by speaking out.

This action is more than some people might think—it’s also a protest against how we live our lives. We can of course choose to keep cozy, taking home pay and benefits and buying our leisure while others suffer. We can watch 60 year-old women walk down 5th Avenue with huge placards advertising jewelry attached to them because they can’t afford to live, as I saw a few days ago. But we can also give things up to help, because the only way we are going to change things is if we leave behind some of our comforts and actively protest.

Pepper spray and batons might get publicized but know these headlines steal from and obscure the fact that so many people in New York and all over the world are protesting right now. Corporations that control the media want to play up the fact of the police brutalizing people or mainly showing more “hippy” looking people and transients, so the large middle class majority, who mainly digest the NY Times and the local paper, will get the idea that the protestors are barbarians and will dismiss them. The overwhelming majority of the protestors are not anarchists, they do not want to break windows (yet)—they want change. What everyone shares is a deep tunnel (not a well) of anger. It is a tunnel because it is an emotion that runs through the history of human consciousness from the first feudalism to the modern day genocides and everyday corporate fraud. These leaderless protests are not against the government (or the puppet-government) but against conglomerates and corporations which have many tools at their disposal to keep their wealth and oppress others.

A few weeks ago, a human rights lawyer joined the vociferous discussions at Zuccotti Park and told that people who defaulted on their mortgages are now being prosecuted by the Justice Department on behalf of the banks. People who have never committed a crime in their lives are being thrown into jail for 20, 40, and 60 month prison terms while in a court of law the banks are portrayed as “the victim.” How the world works is a rotten business and the squeeze keeps squeezing so that some of the only jobs left are those in sales where people prey on others (others who dream of being rich) and con them for their own survival, because if they are not selling they are in danger of losing their job. Why do people go crazy? Why are there random shooting sprees almost every week in America? Why are there civil wars and genocides in Africa over land and resources, including some minerals that will eventually go into the making of the innards of a cell phone? As the preacher in William H. Gass’s novel Omensetter’s Luck says to his congregation:

I ask you now to ask yourselves one simple foolish question—to say: was I born for this?—and I ask you please to face it honestly and answer yea if you can and nay if you must…

only to conclude:

Eat, sleep, love, dress—of course you were born for something better than this.

People need other people and people need other people to be compassionate. If you have to ask what the protesters want—let it simply be what all people deserve: love and compassion.

TAGS: , , ,

GREG GERKE lives in Brooklyn. His work has or will appear in Quarterly West, Mississippi Review, Gargoyle, Rosebud and Fourteen Hills. There's Something Wrong with Sven, a book of short fiction has been published by Blaze Vox Books. He edits fiction for ArtVoice, writes for Big Other and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. His website is

27 responses to “Welcome to This Occupation”

  1. J. Kelly says:

    Well said! Over the weekend, in Milwaukee, the banks downtown, had yellow crime scene tapes placed around them for “Occupy Milwaukee”. The movement is growing all over because it’s ‘common sense’! Something that’s gotten lost over the past years.

  2. […] “Welcome to This Occupation” – an essay I wrote is at The Nervous Breakdown, detailing why the Occupy Wall Street movement is vital, why it is happening, and what the protests and protestors are like. I also talk about how the anger over the oppression by the rich and powerful is an anger that has been with humanity since the beginning of time. Finally I give a few detailed examples about the discussion going on in the park (a human rights lawyer talking about defaulters being prosecuted by the Justice Department) and address the criticism about what the protestors want. LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_bg", "ffffff"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_text", "333333"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_link", "265e15"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_border", "ededed"); LD_AddCustomAttr("theme_url", "996633"); LD_AddCustomAttr("LangId", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Autotag", "money"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Autotag", "business"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "bank-of-america"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "bank-transfer-day"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "citibank-arrests"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "durbin-amendment"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "kristen-christian"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Tag", "occupy-wall-street"); LD_AddSlot("wpcom_below_post"); LD_GetBids(); Like this:LikeOne blogger likes this post. […]

  3. Me says:

    I respect your opinion and your words, but I do not feel the same as you or a lot of these people, as a matter of fact I know many people that do not agree with these protests.
    In my opinion –
    Without corporations there would be no jobs, period! Selling ideas, selling product, it’s all the same. You kill companies; you kill the jobs they offered, then what would happen are more unemployment checks given to a higher number of people sucking this country dry. And what would happen after that? America defaults on their loans and the dollar loses its value, and you can kiss this economy goodbye.

    I’m not saying every single person in America has the same story, I realize that people who worked hard their entire lives have been laid off and are finding it hard to get a job, i do sympathize because I know people now who are without a job and how hard its’ been for them.

    But there is a high number of unemployed that just sits on their butts and collect their checks and refuses to make a real effort to make a living, or continue their education or give back to the communities in any way shape or form.

    Also, you cannot blame corporations for “random shootings” in America, which is a ridiculous statement. Corporations are not at fault for putting that needle in their arm resulting in drug violence, corporations are not to blame for kids joining gangs and someone doesn’t like what they said and they go spray their house in bullets killing a family member only for them to retaliate. Must I go on with examples?

    To say that anyone who made their living working hard their entire lives and who lives comfortably as a result of those fruits, it’s unequivocally WRONG to say they shouldn’t have or keep their hard earned money. Why? Just because they were smart and knew how to make a successful business?

    This is not a commune, and if everyone wants to live off the land and get away from corporate America, fine, go, nobody minds, it’s a free country, go follow the Amish way of living. You don’t need corporations giving you electricity, you don’t need corporations giving you the computer you are writing on, you don’t need corporations to supply you the internet to submit your story, you don’t need corporations to supply the phones you use to call your friends and family, you don’t need corporations to supply food at the stores for your convenience, go live off the land like they did back before any modern invention to make lives easier was made, think of the corporations that invented and distributed life saving equipment, think of that any time you know of someone who needs it. Screw those corporations right?

    Go right ahead, you think the economy is bad now? If all big companies closed down and all those jobs are lost, think of the magnitude of desperation that would leave? You would see the economy collapse and we would be in the middle of another depression… standing in lines waiting for some other country to drop bags of rice and bottles of water to “survive” another hopeless day in the elements.

    Count your blessings, be thankful you still have a free America to live in, take a job, any job and contribute, and if you don’t like it, move, it’s as simple as that.

    But again, this is just my opinion.

    • Greg Gerke says:

      Dear Me (you),

      Thanks for the reply. I’m sure there are many people who don’t agree with the protests, it’s a very touchy subject. I did not call for the end of corporations, and these protests aren’t a call to end them. Why was the Glass-Steagal Act repealed by Congress and signed into law by Clinton? The repeal “effectively removed the separation that previously existed between investment banking which issued securities and commercial banks which accepted deposits. The deregulation also removed conflict of interest prohibitions between investment bankers serving as officers of commercial banks.” Leading to “The repeal enabled commercial lenders such as Citigroup, which was in 1999 the largest U.S. bank by assets, to underwrite and trade instruments such as mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations and establish so-called structured investment vehicles, or SIVs, that bought those securities.[15] Elizabeth Warren,[16] author and one of the five outside experts who constitute the Congressional Oversight Panel of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, has said the repeal of this act contributed to the Global financial crisis of 2008–2009.[17][18] Others have debated what role the repeal may have played in the financial crisis.[19][20][21][22][23]

      It seems the lazy unemployed bother you. No doubt, I’m sure there are a few people out there content to coast, but are you really blaming them for sucking the country dry? I find that pretty hard-line. Is it survival of the fittest and the rest suffer? Many of the unemployed suffer every day, every hour of the day, every minute of the day, as do those who were enticed into mortgages (I’ve spoken to these people directly), as do the poor and starving all over the world. No one in the financial sector has gone to jail for what has happened in the financial crisis. No penalties. Does that make sense? In a way, yes—they own Washington.

      I also never blamed corporations for random shootings. At that point in the article I am asking why the world is the way it is. Were we born to live in these conditions, worldwide? If you are successful, then forget everyone else, it’s their problem? When you’ve earned a right to be secure, the world is your oyster? I suggest you go down to the occupation nearest you (if you haven’t already), and speak to people, you will find that many people have jobs, that they are taking time because they believe this is important. The shootings (I’m not talking drug violence) are symptomatic of the time we are in. Hard times make people more violent (many had just lost their job).

      This: “To say that anyone who made their living working hard their entire lives and who lives comfortably as a result of those fruits, it’s unequivocally WRONG to say they shouldn’t have or keep their hard earned money. Why? Just because they were smart and knew how to make a successful business?” I’m highlighting because people often use this argument. I am not saying this. You are inferring it. It’s very knee-jerk. The movement is talking about regulating how investors can make loads of money virtually unchecked. The Bush tax cuts should be rolled back no doubt.

      And again, no one is advocating for the corporations to be dismantled, only to be regulated. According to many “experts,” the economy is already so beyond repair, we are on the brink of a depression, mostly caused by financiers and their greed.

      I agree that we should be thankful we live in America, no doubt. I try to remind myself of that every day. But then I see continual bombing of countries elsewhere, and I see veterans coming back – I saw one on Saturday, who in front of many people at Washington Square Park in NYC, said he never felt like he was defending his country till that day. The way we are living is not sustainable. Nobody likes change, but change has begun.



    • Me says:

      Greg –
      It’s easy to become sucked into the “mob mentality”, go out and protest because it’s exciting and spew other people’s quotes, try to reach a number by volume, something to “Tweet” about or post to YouTube images of “the movement”, but the fact of the matter is, there is no “movement”, there is no unified front for any of this. All I see is a bunch of whining people mucking up the streets (which tax payers will have to front the bill on cleaning, once this display is over) so all these people cans sit in their circles and say NOTHING?
      If those thousands of protesters would suck it up, and take a job (even if it’s lower pay than the one they got laid off from) it would help our economy, but no, the unemployment check is a better deal, best ride on that for a while right?

      I find it funny too, that you take it upon yourself to say “we” quite frequently, we the people in the streets are angry and deserve to be heard, we represent “the people”. Let me make something perfectly clear, I do not want you talking for me. You do not represent me and you do not represent the MAJORITY of people in America.

      I do feel bad for the people that got caught up paying for a mortgages they couldn’t afford. But let me get this straight, you want to punish companies for offering a service, and not put any blame on the unintelligent that didn’t do any reading or researching before sighing those documents? You’re telling me, punish the company because these people did not educate themselves? Honestly? The government doesn’t only bail out companies, it bails out people. Uneducated people that spend way beyond their means and want a bankruptcy. They get a “do over” also because they made bad decisions. Everyone in this “movement” wants to put the blame on someone other than THEMSELVES, plain and simple.

      OH! and I found it laughable that you talked of some Human Rights Lawyer and him saying that innocent people are getting put in jail because they couldn’t pay those mortgages, I found it funny that you actually believed him. That is a down right lie. People do not go to jail because they default on their payments. The ONLY way to be put in jail is if they “fraud” the company somehow, a felony type fraud. Geeze, the first rule of writing, check your facts Greg, I can’t believe you put that story out there as fact, just because your new found Human Rights Lawyer friend told you it happened (skipping the truth somewhere in there). You did it for shock value, and you’re no better than the mainstream media at this point!

      You can tell your “people” to continue to sit their circles and bang on their drums and speak vaguely of some kind of “change”. In the meantime the rest of us will support the economy by ourselves, by going to work and contributing. I’m also turned off as Caleb stated, I’m disgusted actually.

      • Greg Gerke says:

        It seems you see what you want to see. Have you been to the protests? The media only gives a narrow segment of what is going on.
        By the way it’s a private park, so the taxpayers have nothing to do with it.
        By “We,” I referred to myself and other protestors. And as much as I think polling is hogwash, the majority of Americans do support Occupy Wall Street, according to the latest polls.
        “Everyone in this “movement” wants to put the blame on someone other than THEMSELVES, plain and simple.” – this is quite a statement. And I partially agree with you. More people do need to take responsibility. And hundreds of thousands (dare I say millions) by protesting. Do you think “lazy” people go out and protest? It’s hard work. You have to give up part of your life. And again, I have talked with dozens and dozens of people at the protests and many of them have jobs or are in school, so the argue that people protesting have nothing else to do, doesn’t hold water.
        Here is an article about defaulters being jailed:
        Facts checked!
        You are welcome do to whatever you want to do.



        • Me says:

          Thanks for the link. And thanks for driving the FACT home that he committed mortgage fraud by lying on his forms. This isn’t someone who lost their job and defaulted and couldn’t pay, he committed a crime and I have no sympathy for this guy because he knowingly falsified his information. Blame the lender though right? Blame anyone but himself right? Laughable.

          Where are these “latest polls”? They do not represent ALL Americans, it is left to interpretation, considering not ALL Americans have found the 1 lone poll to vote on, not ALL Americans have computers to vote on. I do not believe in internet polls, for the simple fact that a single person can vote over and over and skew any kind of real results. But you go right ahead and believe the majority sides with this “movement of silence”.

          Listen, its a free country (for now) and everyone has their opinion. Lets just say we agree to disagree at this point because quite honestly, I’m exhausted with this. Take care.

    • Vincent Czyz says:

      “Me” … alas you don’t seem to understand the protests or much about economics. No one is calling for the end of corporations or–except for a few misguided communists (misguided because there hasn’t been a single successfully communist nation in the history of the world, all wind up totatlitarian governments–the opposite of what Marx called for)–is calling for the end of capitalism. Occupy Wall Street is asking for fairness. If you were not outraged when huge banks–who BANKRUPTED themselves with wild speculation–first got bailed out by taxpayer money and then gave out hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to the SAME EXECUTIVES WHO BANKRUPTED THE BANKS–you have an ability to be dispassionate than ranks with a bean pod. If you are a small business owner and you go belly-up, does the government rush to bail you out? No, the gov’t and everyone else says “Too fucking bad. Be a better businessman.” If you can’t see how unlevel the playing field is, you need to get our more and read more. Read Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, read NObel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.

  4. Caleb Powell says:

    I side more with “Me” on this. Microsoft employs 90,000 people, Lowe’s employs 160,000…and so on. Of course, corruption and inefficiency are problems, and so on, but just as with the Tea Party (taxes are evil, government is incapable), the Occupy Wall Street movement is simplifying complex problems. Though OWS & TP are taking opposite views, they are tiresome and fanatical and, worst of all, the refuge of absolutists.

    Business & unions, socialism & capitalism, all must be quantified existentially as to how they function, for there are benefits and problems with them all, but this escapes the rage of the Occupy Wall Street & Tea Party base, whose only benefit to this country is by fueling debate. Other than that they are clogging up and adding to, not solving, the problem.

    Tying in the movements to genocide, war, or “random shootings”, or even mentioning them, well…that’s a lot of passion, Greg, c’mon, but seriously? There’s a lot of moral placebo here but little substance.

    • Greg Gerke says:


      Please see my comments above. Also, how is OWS simplifying complex problems? You obviously agree there are problems, but you only criticize movements because they are “not solving” the problem? What are you doing to solve these problems?

      The fact that hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in this country in a month speaks volumes.

      Here is a BBC article on the coltan rush: “Tantalum is essential in the manufacture of electrical components known as pinhead capacitors.

      These regulate voltage and store energy in mobile phones, tens of millions of which have been sold in the past few years.

      The European lobby groups, like the regional analysts, say that coltan production is fuelling the war in Congo. ”



      • Caleb Powell says:

        Hi Greg,

        Of course, from the United Fruit Company in Guatemala, to Anaconda Copper Mining in Chile, to blood diamonds in Africa, there are many instances of predatory capitalists fucking up a country and its civilians. OWS simplifies these problems by not quantifying, by waving signs that read “End Capitalism” and other platitudes. OWS does not seem as unified by a common idea, so it’s difficult to make a general comment, as some protestors are in it for conformity, some for legitimate concerns, and so on.

        To cite “European lobby groups” and “coltan production is fueling the war in Congo” simplifies. Coltan production (and diamonds and other valuable minerals) are minor compared to historical underpinnings, the CIA backed assassination of Lumumba, the looting kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko (Naipaul’s “A New King for the Congo” an excellent starting point), to Laurent Kabila, to the spill over of rebels in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.

        Coltan production does add fuel to the proverbial fire, of course, but not quantifying makes it a general and incomplete accusation. When the OWP protests againt capitalism and not “those corporations who exploit and are corrupt”, a minority and we can argue as to whether they are a large or small minority of all corporations, their platform is difficult to digest.

        Thanks for the pushback.


        • Caleb Powell says:

          PS – As to the volume of the protestors speaking volumes…it’s makes it no more or less impressive than the Tea Party. As far as your “What are you doing?” I’m a functioning citizen who participates in my community, and not going to defend myself much further, but the implication that you or any OWS protestor/proselytizer is doing more than I is a mad turnoff.

          • Greg Gerke says:

            As to this, I never compared OWS to the Tea Party. If it doesn’t impress you, fine.

            I asked you what you were doing because you are criticizing others, while offering little. The implication is something you draw and create yourself. I am not the judge of you. I asked a very clear question which you have not answered.



        • Greg Gerke says:


          Yes, there are many concerns. Some seem to need to know the bottom line before there is one. The will be one, when the time comes. Right now, to be protesting is enough.

          Yes, the historical underpinnings, yes. Again, you are extracting one person, holding one sign–and to hold everyone in the movement to one idea is absurd. Does everyone in the Republican party support the death penalty? Does every Democrat support abortion? It’s these demands for black and white that are hard to swallow. You agree things are very complex, so why isn’t OWS complex, made of many voices? It’s not perfect, but it’s something. If you want to be something you don’t see, you have the opportunity to make it happen.



  5. Ryan Day says:

    Strikes me as silly that people would be called extremists for responding to policies that have directly hurt their own welfare by mounting peaceful protests. That goes for the Tea party as much as OWS, while my own views align with the OWS. This is healthy participation which has been missing for way too long. Also, I didn’t perceive you hating on corporations, just pointing out the patently obvious: that Corps. have been given too much power which they are more or less designed to abuse… and that it is noble that people are standing up to that corrupted system.

    Thanks, Greg, for sharing your experiences. I wrote a piece here a month or so ago on the movement in Spain, which as I understand it spawned the movement on Wall Street, called “Two Pilgrimages.”

    I’ve come to find that political content isn’t greeted with much warmth at TNB, which on the one hand I understand as this is a site dedicated to a broad community of writers largely talking about writing and the business of writing, but on the other I find baffling because what’s the point of writing if you’re not willing to talk about the world it inhabits in ways that are not just ironically distancing yourself from involvement in that world?

    Roberto Bolaño wrote a fantastic essay called “The Myths of Cthuluhu” which pretty much diagnoses contemporary lit as having been castrated (or spayed, I suppose, to remain inclusive) by writers fears of expressing meaningful sentiment because it may cause them to be viewed by some as disagreeable and ultimately cause them to suffer commercially. He shows how the most important writers constantly disappear behind the most successful (he’s focussed on Latin American and Spanish Lit), and how this serves to reinforce toothless writing, or ironic criticism of political writing that criticizes the critics but remains, itself, safely a-political. Basically, people get caught in the system of smiling, touring, pleasing and being agreeable, or funny and forget to have a point. Let’s say we’ve traded our Lenny Bruce’s and Bill Hicks’s for something a little less flavorful (I can’t think of any comics names, and I don’t feel like seeking out a really apt example just now, so go ahead and trust that there is one that suits this space just perfectly…). This whole criticize the criticizers cycle seems to me almost like a collective sickness aimed at keeping anyone from ever risking being seen as part of an individuality-killing movement. It’s totally disempowering, especially for a writer. I don’t know… I would like to think that holding beliefs is a virtue for a writer whose central goal is, after all, to comment on criticize, document, change.

    I remember a comment thread here, and this is back a couple years, which culminated in the agreement upon the notion that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Wow! What a dangerous idea for a writer to embrace…

    • D.R. Haney says:

      In addressing anything on this board, the only way to go about it that feels remotely honest is to do so per Tao Lin: I’m not “sure” what it “means” to be “political,” etc.

      I distrust almost all political writing because I feel like I’m dealing with a belief system that’s deeply, and entirely unconsciously, embedded in the author’s childhood-family dynamics, whether it’s in support or defiance of them: Daddy and/or Mommy believed this, so I believe the opposite/same. In order to agree or disagree, I would need — or at least I feel I would need — an advanced degree in economics, since I don’t think it’ s possible to discuss politics without a thorough understanding of economics; and most “creative” writers, in my experience of them, likewise lack comprehensive grounding in economics. What their political pieces provide instead is emotion that’s disguised — poorly, to my eyes — as reason. Meanwhile, it’s very rare for me to read such a piece and feel that I’ve been enlightened as to anything other than, as I somewhat said before, the author’s standing bias, which almost never comes as a surprise. We constantly give ourselves away, even when we think we’re being cagey.

      What I’ve observed over the last few years is that almost any indignity can be visited upon the American people and their response will be to go online, hurl a few doltish insults at those they perceive to be at the opposite end of the political spectrum, and feel better about themselves for having done so, at least for a moment or two. Yet the indignities remain.

      Does OWS know what the fuck it’s doing? Frankly, I don’t give a shit. That anyone on the so-called left is taking any sort of action outside of a message board is, to me, a small sign of hope. But, then, I align myself with the so-called left, as dumb as it may be, as dumb as I know myself to be. I’m not “sure” what is “happening.” Seems like a lot of people are “screwed.” Seems like a lot of people who don’t know what they’re “talking” about are mouthing off, and those on the right — those in the Tea Party, the brainchild of the Kochs — have been “raising hell” for a while now, so why can’t “the left” have a corresponding movement? Does it have to have all the answers? Can’t it register complaint about the worst economy since the Great Depression, alongside its suspicions — or certainties, as it were — that the ruling class cares only for itself? Seems to me it can. Seems to me it can’t hurt. But that’s a bias, which I freely acknowledge as such.

      Oh, and if political writing at TNB hasn’t been received with much warmth, that’s because it has generally sucked. That, too, is a bias, of course, and I have no particular piece or person in mind in stating it.

      • Caleb Powell says:

        “…if political writing at TNB hasn’t been received with much warmth, that’s because it has generally sucked.”

        Well said, D.R. – As I was reading Ryan’s comment I thought just that. I’m no expert, and like you my views on most issues align with the left, against Iraq war, capital punishment, for nationalized health care, pro choice, etc. I’m interested in politics, social issues et al (Samantha Power, Jared Diamond, Nassim Taleb, currently reading the Pakistani gang-rape victim Mukhtar Mai’s bio at the moment, fascinating). TNB is a literary site, for writers, about writing…and the political comments are usually misplaced feel-good self-reflexive narcissist blather.

        PS – Within the OWS protests there are salient points, some necessary and that I agree with, but they are being drowned…here is what one journalist wrote about the OWS protestors. I second the sentiment:

        They don’t have an agenda. – And they can’t have one. Talk about a herd of cats. Occupy Boston is a camp of about 100 tents, and on a brief walk through I noticed posters, placards and stickers for 9/11 “truthers,” anarcho-communists, “Jewish Labor,” “stop the marijuana laws,” “stop the U.S. war against Islam” and so on. Some quasi-Buddhists had set up a “sacred space,” and were burning incense. Elsewhere, a sign denounced a new school project out in the suburbs. Tough to rope all this into a 10-point plan. Or a 100-point plan. Sorry, but it’s reminding me of the days watching the old University Left crowd — right down to the weird sweaters and vegan cooking.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Seems like (I’m still doing my Tao Lin impression) a link is missing, Caleb, after you say: “…here is what one journalist wrote…”

          I assumed that OWS protests would come to be an umbrella for every sort of liberal/leftist concern. I recently asked a friend nearing his sixties if that was the case with protests against the Vietnam War, and he said it was. Yet those protests ultimately had — obviously, I would think — an effect. Photojournalism may have played a larger role, but I’ll leave that aside for now.

          I also asked my friend if those protests were mocked (as are the OWS rallies) as gatherings of dirty, ditzy, know-nothing malcontents by mainstream journalists in the sixties. “Absolutely,” he said.

          So, finally, even if I don’t agree with OWS in some, or even most, ways, I have to feel glad that it’s happening, which is what I was trying to say. The difference between the radical intelligentsia of the sixties and the radical intelligentsia of today is that the former was much better educated, and so worthy of being called an intelligentsia. As an erstwhile punk rocker — but is that possible? Once a Catholic, etc. — with a natural antipathy toward hippies, this is something I’m loathe to admit. At the same time, it’s my prejudice that every current American grievance can finally be traced to the deterioration of our educational system: we don’t, out of habit, question what demands to be questioned, and when we finally do, our theories are the theories of (very nearly) aboriginal children.

          • Caleb Powell says:


            I should have put quotes around the whole paragraph, “They don’t have an agenda…” comes from:


            Politics and social issues are complex, and discussion about them demands a certain authority, even the highest channels in journalism may not satisfy, but The Nation, NPR, The Economist, Granta, Foreign Affairs to more mainstream media are the place for political discussion. As for TNB…not so much. It’s great to express, and I’ve strayed into self-indulgence myself here at TNB, but personal blogs are better and even appropriate venues for self-indulgence, perhaps. Though if Greg hadn’t posted then this back & forth probably wouldn’t have happened, for whatever that’s worth.

            Education is huge, I’ll agree on that, and I’ll also agree that protests need to have a certain amount of knowledge behind them to go forward. Many of the OWS issues are worthy, but, at present, the OWS cries are so mixed up that they seem self-indulgent, clumsy, and easy to spoof.

      • Ryan Day says:

        I think I agree with most of what you said. I would just ask, what’s wrong with bias? I love my biases. They make people uneven and interesting. That’s good territory for a writer.

        As to needing econ to talk politics: You may be right, but if you are, isn’t that part of the problem? One group, namely economists and finance types more generally, have let their bias overrun everyone else’s and shut down the conversation with this sort of priestly we’re-the-only-ones-who-can-read-the-holy-text attitude. So, when I argue, it’s not because I understand economics, but because I don’t think they should be the only consideration of what is valuable. Your right that it’s overkill, and that everyone throws there two cents in, and who cares what some blogger thinks, but, well, I still think it’s better than the alternative of putting heads back in the dirt.

        Maybe my view of things is skewed by being in Spain, where the protests have been incredibly effective, and have continued, and helped educate, and resulted in the first bits of several new political parties, and gone around to neighborhoods playing movies in plazas to provide Friday night entertainment for the unemployed. I don’t know. I just feel like people are dumping on something they haven’t taken the time to get to know. There’s some innate knee-jerk reaction against these groups that I just don’t fully understand.

        As to the warmth of reception here at TNB: I love this site, so I meant no disrespect. It was just an observation. To tell you the truth the comment board at TNB is the only one I have ever been anywhere near. I guess I just feel like their is a strange allergic reaction to earnestness in young creative people, that politically charged issues can only be approached sideways, with a smirk, and I wonder if that’s a good thing.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Caleb: Initially, I thought you were saying that personal writing, such as we tend to get here at TNB, is self-indulgent, but now that I look again, I see that you’re saying something very different. I agree that “[p]olitics and social issues are complex, and discussion about them demands a certain authority,” although I think it’s possible to effectively combine the personal and the political. It all comes down to the quality of the writing, or even simply to how much time a person is willing to devote to a given piece. It’s glaringly obvious that too much of the writing at TNB, on whatever topic, has been dashed off — maybe this is what you mean by “self-indulgence” — but even hasty writing can be good — even excellent — if the writer knows how to pull it off. But I’m much more willing to listen to what a person has to say about his or her life than I am to uninformed opinion about difficult-to-solve matters. And yet, having said that, even the Yahoo! message boards, which are overflowing with uninformed opinion and which I occasionally scan, have been instructive as to how the uninformed think — and it ain’t pretty.

          Ryan: I think I may already have addressed some of what you say in my comment to Caleb. Sure, we’re all biased, and that’s part of what makes us human, etc., but I take some arguments more seriously than I take others because they’re weightier and less reflexive. There have been a few contributors to TNB during my time here who would weigh in on political and cultural matters, and after, say, the second piece, I knew I could never expect anything other than yet another recitation of a belief system — a kind of religious faith, really — that had never been been carefully examined and never would be. But I never commented because nothing in the pieces led me to expect a worthwhile response. Then, too, it probably would have required as much, if not more, time for me to write my comment than went into the piece that prompted it.

          It’s true, of course, that advanced degrees allow for doubletalk on the part of those who hold them, and certainly America has been victimized by such doubletalk. On the other hand, I’m not very interested, or encouraged, by the proposed solutions of most amateurs, and there are many of them out there. Reading message boards, such as the ones at Yahoo! I mentioned earlier, I’ve been consistently struck by the number of wannabe economists.

          About reactions to the young: I recently watched an interview with Grace Slick in which she said, “The young should be seen and not heard; the old should be heard and not seen.” Grace has not aged well; the deterioration is quite shocking. Yet if the young of her own time could have followed her advice, we wouldn’t have those incredible recordings of Grace singing “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love.” Never trust anyone over thirty, indeed! At the same time, I would assume that the young in Spain can locate the U.S. on a map, as I wouldn’t assume that most of the young in the U.S. could locate Spain. But I still think the American young should be seen and heard, even if the result is noise.

          • Mr. Oh says:

            DR Haney’s comments much more insightful than original article!

            ****We constantly give ourselves away, even when we think we’re being cagey.****


    • Greg Gerke says:

      Thanks for checking in Ryan. This seems right on –

      “This whole criticize the criticizers cycle seems to me almost like a collective sickness aimed at keeping anyone from ever risking being seen as part of an individuality-killing movement.”

      I think there is a lot to be said about this and what brand of individuality is going around. Is it the individuality of Rilke? Kerouac? A new self-occupation?

  6. Fed Up says:

    It must be nice to take a leave from your job for weeks at a crack. I hope that their job isn’t waiting for them when they decide to return to it since we have so many people out of work that would love to have a job. Isn’t there a better way to voice your concerns than by showing violence and acting like idiots?????????????????????

    • Vincent Czyz says:

      Greg Gerke was at Occupy Wall Street almost every day–at times–without ever leaving his job. I was at Occupy Wall Street four or five times without leaving school (I’m a full-time student). Many of the people who camped out were unemployed. As one sign-bearer put it: “I lost my job, but I found an Occupation.” It’s a shame you didn’t drop by to check out what was actually going on. Wherease the demonstrators were always peaceful and showed inordinate amounts of good will toward their fellow humans, the State, as represented by the police showed a good deal of unfounded hostility. And the horror? The cops are part of the 99%–as demonstrators frequently reminded them.

  7. Vincent Czyz says:

    Gerke makes an exceptionally keen observation: “What everyone shares is a deep tunnel (not a well) of anger. It is a tunnel because it is an emotion that runs through the history of human consciousness from the first feudalism to the modern day genocides and everyday corporate fraud.” Thousands of people have had enough. The rest of you need to pay more attention to what is actually going on … I suggest reading Reader Supported News (just to their website; it’s free) or some other news outfit without a corporate sponsor.

    Do we want corporations to go away? Not exactly. We want them OUT OF POLITICS. Notice the “public option” plan for healthcare–in which everyone who WANTS it (NOT everyone, just those who opt for it) has to pay for it but at a reasonable rate–was defeated by Big Health Insurance & their Republican ass-kissers. (Here corporations directly contradicted the public weal.) The same Republicans insisted that Medicare, which buys in VAST bulk, not be allowed to negotiate bargains for the drugs it buys (what kind of business sense does that make??) except that BIG American Pharmaceuticals make more money, and they got Obama to buckle on that one. The Banks who got bailed out went they went bankrupt but prosecuted homeowners who couldn’t afford their mortgages anymore–smell the hypocrisy? Big Business wants less government regulation–until they’re bankrupt; THEN they want a government handout.

    This is the unven playing field Occupy Wall Street is talking about.

    Greg does a fine job of capturing the mood of the demonstrations and the collective spirit of the demonstrators–not an easy task.

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