Unhappy Campers: The Occupy Movement & the Election

By Pasquale, Frank | Commonweal, September 28, 2012 | Go to article overview

Unhappy Campers: The Occupy Movement & the Election


Pasquale, Frank, Commonweal


Nearly a year after it began, Occupy Wall Street (OWS), which quickly turned into the larger Occupy movement, continues to confound the media in ways small and large. In some early reports it came off as little more than a festival for the counterculture. Soon some observers feared--while others hoped--it was a rehearsal for some kind of revolution.

The revolutionary impulse was fueled by a few outrageous numbers. Twenty-five hedge-fund managers had been paid, in one year, as much as 650,000 entry-level teachers--and the teachers had to pay higher taxes. In 2010, 93 percent of the economy's gains went to the top 1 percent, which owns more than 60 percent of the nation's financial securities and business equity. Meanwhile, the bottom 90 percent is saddled with more than 70 percent of personal debt, and the bottom 40 percent own less than half a percent of the nation's wealth.

Impressive as they were, the raw numbers weren't enough. They had to be translated into a language that was morally resonant and intelligible to non-economists. Not surprisingly, references to the Bible were not uncommon among the protesters. The anthropologist David Graeber proposed a debt jubilee to redress decades of rising inequality. Chaplains and rabbis carried a golden calf around Zuccotti Park. Late last year Catholics United brought the calf to Washington, where they petitioned House Speaker John Boehner to support a tax on financial transactions. At the center of New York's financial district, Christian occupiers reminded the masters of the universe bustling past them in Brooks Brothers suits that it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter heaven.

I visited the Occupy Wall Street encampment about six times before it was expelled in late fall. The Occupiers I met brought news I wasn't reading in the New York Times. I talked with an Army reservist who had traveled from Indiana to take part in the protest. He said that where he lived frustration with politicians from both parties had never been higher. He had slept in the plaza for a couple of nights but had to get back for reserve duty by the weekend. He told me that unemployment for troops returning from Iraq was almost 35 percent. I thought that must be a problem particular to the rural Midwest--until I looked at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics website and found that for veterans aged twenty to twenty-four the national jobless rate is around 30 percent. Another protester had recently lost her position as a receptionist in New Jersey. She told me she came to Zuccotti Park whenever it didn't interfere with her job search.

By the end of Occupy Wall Street's first month, the reaction against it was already taking a predictable form: The occupiers were not to be taken seriously because they failed to make specific demands. The media had at first been mesmerized by police violence and the spectacle of disorder so near the site of the 9/11 attacks. But as days turned into weeks and then months, journalists began to focus less on the novelty of the encampment and more on the refusal of OWS's General Assembly to lay out a detailed policy agenda. In late September members began to propose demands at the website OccupyWallSt.org, but these were never formalized into an official list.

There were to be no litmus tests for membership in the movement, no platform on which to run a primary campaign against squishy Democratic politicians. OWS did not try to chase out libertarians or socialists. It welcomed nearly everyone, unconcerned with "message discipline: which is widely supposed to be the sine qua non of effective political movements in an age of fragmented media.

At the height of OWS's fall activities, there were encampments in more than a thousand cities. But after the crackdowns and the arrival of winter, the movement seemed to go into partial hibernation, and people began to speculate it would never fully reawaken. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Unhappy Campers: The Occupy Movement & the Election
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.