« Temptation Sale, buy one get one | Main | I blame Murdoch »

Dear Occupant

Your Humble Blogger hasn’t written much about Occupy Wall Street and the surrounding events. I don’t really have much to say about the rallies—my initial reaction, like a lot of Left Blogovia was that it was silly to Occupy Wall Street, that whatever the intentions of the ralliers, the effect would be that of trustafarians, riffraff and DFHs trying to resurrect the sixties. Which, of course, is how it was portrayed by a lot of people, particularly at the beginning. On the other hand, I am fond of trustafarians, riffraff and DFHs; I am not myself inclined to camp out at rallies, but I am glad that other people do. I am an old lefty by policy preference, as y’all know, and an old Tory by my inclination to complacency and comfort. I want firebrands out there, enduring mild discomfort in the name of the Left.

As it happened, many of the ralliers endured more than mild discomfort, and endured, and then people started joining that were not trustafarians, riffraff and DFHs but political activists and even the newly politically active. It’s awesome! Plus, I can still enjoy it from the comfort of my broadband. So that’s all right. Also: never underestimate the effect of long-term unemployment on a person’s willingness to spend a long time protesting. I don’t know how many of the folk at the various rallies are long-term unemployed, but I’ll say that with thirty millions looking for work, some will be willing to spend those incomeless hours at a park downtown holding a sign and griping. Remember the bit about enlightened self-interest holding the line on surplus labor? No? Nor anybody else, I suppose, but those who forget history are condemned to read quotes from Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, and let that be a lesson to them.

So anyway, with all the wry self-mockery and so on, I really am impressed with the OWS movement, but there are a couple of cranky points that I have to make about the rhetoric. Because I am cranky that way.

First and most important is my sense that Occupy Wall Street was a goofy title when it wasn’t clear that the rally would last more than an afternoon. As a week-long event, it is an extremely clever name, and is they manage to keep a presence in the neighborhood for months, it will be a powerful name indeed. Part of that power, though, comes from the sense that one group occupies another, alien group with hostile intent. The implication is that Wall Street is foreign territory (which, you know, it is, at least in a rhetorical sense, as in the Wall/Main rhetoric that has been going around for decades) and while there is the hope of someday integrating it into the rest of the country, for now, at any rate, it is not to be trusted, not even to be treated with, only to be occupied.

So that’s all right, that’s not making me cranky. What is making me cranky is that the Hartford sympathy-rally is being called Occupy Hartford; that there is an Occupy Boston and an Occupy Atlanta and an Occupy San Diego, and none of those places should rhetorically be occupied. It would be one thing if we could easily identify the financial districts of all those places and use those references, but of course they would mean nothing to anyone outside the city—I vaguely remember the Montgomery Street addresses of some bank headquarters in San Francisco, and I would probably recognize the Chicago district from the V.I. Warshawsky novels, but that’s about it. I don’t even know what people in Boston call the financial district: State Street? Anyway, that’s clearly a non-starter for a national movement. But why not just call it Occupy Wall Street Hartford? Or even Hartford Occupies Wall Street? Because the idea is not that the occupiers are coming to destroy American cities and the American way of life. And even if the 1% live in other places across the land (and of course many of them have houses and apartments in lots of places), the rhetorical place of residence is the Wall Street, allowing the rest of us to include ourselves in that unoccupied 99%.

Speaking of which, My eyesight isn’t very good and I surf the internet on a crappy netbook with a bad screen, but frankly I could make out the hand-lettered signs if I could be bothered to wait for them to load and then squint. And I’m in the whatever-percentage who don’t have to use an automatic reader or translator; the rest of us can’t read your text at all.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


And get off my lawn, you whipper-snappers.

(Laughing, laughing, laughing.)

In all sympathy on the illegibility front, part of the problem is that Tumblr has basically said, "fuck off" to anyone who's asked for the ability to use alt tags on their pictures.

That said, perhaps they should have gone somewhere else that did allow for alt tags, yes?

Comments are closed for this entry. Usually if I close comments for an entry it's because that entry gets a disproportionate amount of spam. If you want to contact me about this entry, feel free to send me email.