Occupy Worcester is now officially homeless, having left the lakeside park in which they were encamped. So far, they haven’t found anyplace else to go: the city won’t give them a permit.

I am broadly in favor of the Occupy Movement. It’s good to see the left in general and youth in particular stir from their multi-decade political hibernation. But this strikes me more as Civil Obedience than Civil Disobedience.

It’s an odd protest that stalls for want of permission.

My reflex is usually to say that the left suffers in comparison to the right in regard to focus and organization: while my progressive sisters and brothers are debating whether or not the food services tent should be vegetarian or vegan, the army of the right puts on its boots, gets into formation, and marches crisply into battle.

Things do seem a little different this time. If it’s a gaggle of geese and a murder of crows, we might refer to the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls as a “hobble.”

This time around, it’s more like Rick Perry puts on his boots, then remembers that he didn’t put socks on first. Once he’s taken care of that, he can’t find his hat, which Herman Cain has been using to play crotch peek-a-boo with his secretary. Rick Santorum’s pants fall down when he rises to make a key moral point, because Newt Gingrich has stolen his belt.

Who’s the smarty pants now?

Can you picture any of these Bozos in the White House?

It bears keeping in mind that Jimmy Carter was relieved when Ronald Reagan won the Republican presidential nomination: who could possibly lose to an aging actor? Well, as it happens. . . Jimmy Carter. And, of course Bush II was also prima facie unelectable. . . once or twice (depending on your view of Supreme Intervention).

Meanwhile, back at the occupation. . . people still seem a bit Preoccupied. They don’t want to shatter the unity by standing for much of anything. And they’re being really really careful not to be rude, lest someone yell at them.

I sympathize with that last bit, and it’s a legitimate strategic conundrum. For decades now, whenever there have been anti-Globalization protests, for example, news coverage has focused on two aspects: “The protests are extreme!” and “The protesters are funny looking!” 

Trenchant political analysis.

Never mind that whole child-slave-labor-in-foreign-factories. Look at that guy with the nose-ring throwing a trashcan at the cops!

So the Occupy Movement is in a bind: do too little, be too meek, and dissipate their impact; or do too much, be too loud, and get labeled hooligans.

And comes now winter to the Northeast: gone the days for the summer soldiers and the sunshine patriots; here again, the months that will try the Occupier’s souls.

I wish them warm blankets.

And I wish them some more hotly expressed convictions.

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DONALD N. S. UNGER teaches in the Program in Writing & Humanistic Studies at MIT. His book, Men Can: The Changing Image & Reality of Fatherhood in America, was published by Temple University Press in 2010. www.men-can.com

3 responses to “The Problem of Uncivil Disobedience”

  1. Jeffro says:

    The protesters should get out of the parks and into the business districts of their cities. Do a modern day sit-on on the front steps of a business that serves as the example of what the protest is about at its core. Buy one big ass chain and link one another together so that if the police come to arrest one of you, they’ll have to figure out how to get 200 people inside a cop van when no one has the key to that big ass lock on that big ass chain. I’m not feeling the park idea. Never have. It’s a great way to be out of sight. Protests are about being in sight, in view.

    • Don Unger says:

      Agreed. There is a Bank of America branch in downtown Worcester. Chain or no chain, you could get fifty people in there and go limp: put the focus on one of the institutions that caused the mess.

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