Saturday, December 3, 2011

From Seattle To Zucotti Park: Portrait Of An Occupier

I recommend “All The Angry People” by George Packer in the current New Yorker. This poignant article focuses on Ray Kachel, an unemployed computer tech contractor who took a bus from Seattle to join the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. According to his Twitter feed, he’s currently homeless in the city. The article also speaks to the economic dislocation and outrage that gave rise to the movement–and the way it has changed the national dialogue:

Before Occupy Wall Street, the economic upheavals of the past few years produced no organized movement of the have-nots. For some Americans, Obama’s legislative initiatives—the stimulus, health-care reform, financial regulation, credit-card reform—offered the best hope for easing the country’s hardship. The Tea Party, a populist movement of the right with heavy support from wealthy individuals and corporations, captured the media’s interest, dominated the political discourse, and explained the country’s woes in terms that ignored the role of the one per cent. But the Obama Administration failed to harness public anger or turn the economy around, and the Tea Party wore out its welcome after the 2010 elections. When Occupy Wall Street lit a match, the wood was bone-dry. Suddenly, there was a dramatic, public way to talk about problems—money in politics, income inequality, corporate greed—that frustrated Americans but seemed intractable.

...As long as Occupy Wall Street speaks the language of inequality and will resonate with millions of Americans. The most important facts about our society, widely known but seldom mentioned, are now the first order of conversation. Dylan Byers, of Politico, recently reported that the use of the phrase “income inequality” in the media has more than quintupled since the beginning of the occupation. In this sense, Occupy Wall Street has already done its work. The point is what was happening on the Broadway sidewalk. No one should expect this protean flame to transform itself into a formal political organization with a savvy strategy for enacting reforms and winning elections. That’s someone else’s job.

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