Watched about 20 minutes of a live video stream from Occupy Oakland tonight. Nothing much to be seen except people standing around on streetcorners, a bunch of cop cars lined up along a curb, assorted signs, whatever. What was interesting was not the video, which was frankly dull, but the meta-messages in the video:
(1) The whole world is watching, or at least can watch. This is one of the things that makes the police crazy, I’m sure — they don’t get to beat on people’s heads and then claim they didn’t.
(2) The invisible people who rule the world are runnin’ scared. Why else would they send out bunches of police in the middle of the night to bust the heads of folks who are doing nothing but stand on the street carrying signs?
(3) It isn’t local. Thanks to Twitter and other social media, people who are doing things in widely scattered places can stay in touch, pass ideas around, and support one another (emotionally or even financially).
(4) Ordinary people can make a difference.
I found myself singing, “Something’s happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?” A very early Bob Dylan song, from back when Bob Dylan was still cool — a period that ended in 1969, about the time “Lay, Lady, Lay” was a hit. The social protests of the ’60s pretty much coincided with the Vietnam War; when the war ended, the movement dissolved. What we have now may prove to have more legs. For one thing, the economic injustices are more broad-based. More diffuse than young men getting killed in a jungle somewhere, but also a lot more broad-based.
Also, the religious right has become a potent negative force. I haven’t noticed anybody in the Occupy movement pointing a finger at the religious right, but I think it’s implicit. There are no Jesus freaks in Occupy; the two movements are diametrically opposed.
If you look at the Republican candidates for President (I’m writing this the week of the New Hampshire primary), what you see is a bunch of plastic men who are loudly and proudly championing vicious regressive social policies of the Christian persuasion, and they’re doing it as a smokescreen. It’s a conscious attempt to whip up fervor over things that don’t matter, in order to minimize the discussion of things that do matter.
In calling attention to the things that matter, Occupy is engaged in demonstrating that the concerns of the religious right are irrelevant. Something’s happening here.