Posted by: Doug Henwood | October 15, 2011

OWS takes a walk uptown

No doubt you’ve all heard and read about the huge and wonderful Occupy Wall Street satellite rally in Times Square this afternoon.

This crowd was anything but the shiftless hippies of Ann Coulter’s imagining. I bet a lot of them were Democrats, which means that the process of productive disillusionment I’d hoped for in the summer of 2008 is finally kicking into gear, after a long delay:

Enough critique; the dialectic demands something constructive to induce some forward motion. There’s no doubt that Obamalust does embody some phantasmic longing for a better world—more peaceful, egalitarian, and humane. He’ll deliver little of that—but there’s evidence of some admirable popular desires behind the crush. And they will inevitably be disappointed.

As this newsletter has argued for years, there’s great political potential in popular disillusionment with Democrats. The phenomenon was first diagnosed by Garry Wills in Nixon Agonistes. As Wills explained it, throughout the 1950s, left-liberals intellectuals thought that the national malaise was the fault of Eisenhower, and a Democrat would cure it. Well, they got JFK and everything still pretty much sucked, which is what gave rise to the rebellions of the 1960s (and all that excess that Obama wants to junk any remnant of). You could argue that the movements of the 1990s that culminated in Seattle were a minor rerun of this. The sense of malaise and alienation is probably stronger now than it was 50 years ago, and includes a lot more of the working class, whom Stanley Greenberg’s focus groups find to be really pissed off about the cost of living and the way the rich are lording it over the rest of us.

Never did the possibility of disappointment offer so much hope. That’s not what the candidate means by that word, but history can be a great ironist.

Here are some pix. It was hard to get a good perspective on the crowd from ground level, but it seemed to stretch for blocks, with people lining both sides of the Crossroads of the World.

A guy in a Teamster jacket attracted some press attention (“so you’re not all hippies,” asked the reporter). Beyond, the news zipper reports that “Occupy Wall Street Movement Goes Worldwide.”

The proceedings enjoyed a visit not only from the Comics Convention folks, but also the Z O M B I E C O N n y c crew:

Meanwhile, Beavis & Butt-head look on:

And over on 8th Ave., a delegation of 99%-ers visit Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack—where we repaired soon after young Ivan began chanting: “The people, united, will now have dinner.’

We had to get home to put our 5-year-old to bed, so we missed the part where the NYPD reportedly started arresting people. There sure were a lot of cops on the scene. Next up: Washington Square Park? That’s a city park that closes at 1 AM, so the police will have a challenge on their hands.

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Responses

  1. [...] Doug Henwood was there in NY No doubt you’ve all heard and read about the huge and wonderful Occupy Wall Street satellite rally in Times Square this afternoon. [...]

  2. Have you seen this yet?:

    http://wrongkindofgreen.org/2011/10/13/pertinent-questions-regarding-the-websitecampaign-www-15october-net/#OccupyWallStreet

  3. not speaking of the ows people, about whom i’m listening to others, but :
    society is not the same as the 60′s (or 70′s, or 80′s). Since Carter stated the neoliberal project, ‘democratic’ rights have both eroded and been hacked with saws, and the media by which we are socialized has reinforced the inevitability of neoliberal ‘truths’ . All this with the result that people are severely beaten down and do not have the personal or social resources to fight back. in the 60′s and 70′s, people thought they had power.

    i like the analogy of left people as battered spouses, and i think the vast majority of those disillusioned with the dems will do what battered spouses do – stay with their abuser. you’ll find them voting for o next election.

    to leave the d’s would be the equivalent of going to a shelter, which by analogy would mean finding a non-two party organization (election-oriented or not) to find strength and resources to retake control of one’s life. But the battering by the neoliberal project and mind-numbing media has taken its toll, and people will settle.

    not saying the break will never happen, but those who insisted on a (not even) lesser evil also have their ridiculous arguments to defend, to explain why they voted for someone who drops bombs on other people’s families. it will be hard to admit bloody error. so the break may have to wait at least a generation or so, to allow time to wipe the shame out of memory.

    none of this precludes trying – trying is all we’ve got. hasten and wait, as old mao said.


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