Who Are the Occupiers?

It’s too much to say that they’re socialists, or have a socialist agenda.  Some of them are; a lot of them are anarchists, who seem to get along with the socialists just fine… to a weird extent, actually.  The Ron Paul people are a small but unusually cohesive minority, clotting together and happily planning to occupy the Federal Reserve next door.

The first time a libertarian spoke up– a guy in a Ron Paul t-shirt, seventy-ish, the head of the Libertarian Party of Queens County– the People’s Mic faltered, but only for a moment.  Now, the socialists are used to the libertarians.  There were a couple of Misesian hipsters from Brooklyn who I saw early on: they had, as I recall, cool hats. Those little straw fedoras everyone was wearing last summer.  They think Thomas Woods is nifty.

And then there’s me.  I’m something of a lunchtime occupier.  I make signs quoting Russell Kirk and protesting the Enclosure Movement.

The occupiers know what they are not, which is in favor of things staying pretty much as they are, with very wealthy companies and very big and distant government influencing each other in ways that seem to smoosh the rest of us.  Aside from that common ground, you can walk across a dozen ideologies in a half-dozen steps, in the area where people lay down their cardboard signs.

What’s going on down there in Zuccotti Park is a big bouillabaisse of conversation.  That’s why I love it– that’s why I keep going over there at lunch time, and after work, and when I get the chance.  Not because I agree with the anarchists or the Marxists or the libertarians– I certainly do not– but because there are people actually having conversations about politics and economics– real conversations, a lot of them, in public, that go on for a long time, while they are eating pizza and getting their hair cut and eating more pizza and also some vegan desserts.  That’s real conversations, where you are in the same physical space as your interlocutor.

And what you’re guaranteed down there is that you’ll run into people you disagree with: you may, for example, be a libertarian; you may run into a distributist.  Far more than half of the hippies there would never, except for this, have allowed themselves to come within a quarter-mile of a Ron Paul supporter, let alone share a vegan blondie with one.

There are a whole lot of things about the movement that are venal, or silly, or pernicious.  There’s an overriding hatred of authority and the concept of leadership– shared by libertarians and hippies alike– that sits very badly with my Burkean soul.  There’s a self-dramatization appropriate to the second act of Les Miserables: I’m drawn to that too, but it’s certainly somewhat overblown.  And, yeah, when the movement crystalizes it will certainly, barring a literal miracle, embrace bits of the left’s agenda with which I’m going to profoundly disagree.  The Belloc and Chesterton quote signs lasted in the park for a couple of days.  The sign that tried to make a parallel between the institution of corporate personhood in Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific, and the denial of human personhood in Roe vs. Wade, did not last.

But… but what they’re calling out is genuinely wrong.  What they are rejecting is a culture of hedonistic consumerism and social passivity which no serious Christian can seriously argue is good.  If you disagree on what you assume to be their solutions to the problem, at least see that you agree on the problem.  And then go down there, bring your pamphlets, and join the conversation!

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3 responses to “Who Are the Occupiers?

  1. Dear Susannah! It seems you’ve taken a much different approach to the Occupy Wall Street bazaar than have I. Recently I wrote an anti-OWS (or, more correctly, Occupy Northampton, the local franchise) letter to the editor that caused a hubbub on MassLive.com. I cannot entertain or humor their crude class warfare. While you are right, in that Chesterton would surely join in mocking the rich, do you really think he would join in this 99% divisiveness? When one begins a conversation by defining the foes not in terms of a degenerate culture, not in terms of a modern ideology or it’s followers, not in terms of certain anti-Christ, globalist statesmen and businessmen, but according to how much they have, the conversation is going nowhere, and ought not go uncriticized. I mean, given their language, their grievances seem as much motivated by democratic envy as actual concern with corporate injustice. These protesters, and lots of the people they represent, are hardly guiltless, gold-hearted proletarians who play no part in the evils they despise.

    I suppose that, while I enjoyed Orthodoxy, the feeling behind Chesterton’s distributes is too anti-aristocratic and democratic for me, even if the vision itself hits home. Nonetheless, I do know that the Distributist Review is doing outreach to the OWS crowd. As with them, I pray that your outreach bears fruit.+

    • Leslie! My young Falangist! I love it that you read my blog.

      Man, Occupy Northampton… how can you tell the difference? Northampton’s been Occupied for years! One of the appealing things about Zuccotti Park to me was that it started to remind me of the sidewalk outside Haymarket. It’s so funny, the hippies drove me batty when I was actually living in Noho and it seemed like hippies ran the world– I know they ran your high school– but working on Wall Street at a temp job where everyone was the absolute opposite of a hippy made me appreciate them more.

  2. “…what they’re calling out is genuinely wrong.” You know, most intelligent liberals are like that. Many times in my life, I’ve agreed with a liberal that a problem exists. The trouble is that liberal solutions make the problem worse, not better. I’m very skeptical of any momement that takes to the streets to protest and has no clear idea of what they want done to fix the problem. Just punishing bankers isn’t an answer. That was Hitler’s answer, you may recall, and it’s not surprising that similar anti-jewish retoric has been around the OWS movement. Giving more taxes and power to the Government is clearly not the answer here. It was Goverment regulations and interferiance with the market that CAUSED this problem.

    What I think is the clear distinction between the OWS movement and the Tea Party is the Tea Party has a clear message that is focused on fixing the economy, not punishing anyone. That’s a solution I much prefer.

    -Rick

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