Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Democracy Is Dull

Photo by Flickr user richdrogpa
Pretty Highline
Ok, went to the March today.  Occupy Wall St. and all that.  Was with Practivist Mark Walton - visiting NYC and Keith, and Carlos. 

After a trip to the Highline, and my failed few attempts to begin operation "Occupy the Highline!" - we set off.  (Okay, just what is so wrong with occupying the Highline?  It's light and airy, has awesome seating, green space, great views.  Wall St. - dingy, sleazy, dirty, icky.)

We were fashionably late, but popped into the march right off the City Hall subway stop.

Confessions of a Bad Blogger/Liberal #1 - Forgot the camera.  For real.  So used to using my iPod, which was dead, and which I left behind, I didn't even bother to grab the camera.  (Uh-oh, dead iPod - sad symbol of today.)  Right - so no first-hand pictures.

Confessions of a Bad Blogger/Liberal #2 - I hate protests.  Rallies.  Marches.  I hate them.  Every time I'm persuaded to go, or that I should go, and then I go, I spend most of the time wondering what I am doing there.  I believe in activism, engagement, and the importance of participation in your own governance, but I've never understood the use of walking down the street, holding a sign, chanting something silly, and generally being in a bundle of people. 

I was reminded of francEyE several times today.  She demonstrated as long as she was still in LA.  She went downtown for an immigration protest one time.  We were in the car together sometime later and she was telling me about it.  She was most upset.  Most upset that she had NOT been arrested.  She felt quite strongly that she hadn't done her job at the protest if she hadn't been arrested.  She even worried that maybe the police were being nice to her because she was old, and might have arrested her were she younger.  I thought of that today, because, truth be told, I didn't want to be arrested, and truth be told, I'm not sure a protest is effective if it doesn't include that type of risk.  I loved francEyE for a lot of things - including beliefs she had that were very different from mine.  I loved her for showing up decade after decade for something I thought of as most likely futile.
Occupy Wall Street demonstrators march to Foyle Square
Best sign of the day=amazing metal work- can't make that at home!

Confessions of a Bad Blogger/Liberal #3 - I still don't know what the Occupation is about.  I get the idea of creating a movement and the 99%.  I understand amped up frustration levels; I totally get that as a people we feel our leadership has left us adrift in a very leaky boat with no life jackets.  I see people of all ages and genres here, and it's a bit surprising.

The march ended abruptly and without fanfare - dumped us into the square that has been occupied since September 17th by activists.  We started talking to a girl there.  She's been there 5 nights - came up from Florida in order to be part of this.  She talked of food given out - mostly cold food - and work details - she didn't have one, but she helped.  We saw generators powering bloggers and tarps covering mini-campsites.  A couple of guys played and sang a little ditty about the 99% and I thought for sure I'd stumbled into the middle of an episode of Flight of the Conchords where they decide they can get chicks if they go to the protest march.  I feel like a tourist and in a way I am.  I'm looking for some answers and some energy flow that I'm just not feeling.  Overall, the energy is low, diffuse, comes in waves and is not common to the crowd as a whole, but lives in small pockets or groups of marchers.  This is good in some ways.  It makes us safer - too much energy scares cops and might make people do stupid things.  It is also sad - this should be all about energy.  Where is the tide?

Confessions of a Bad Blogger/Liberal #4 - I was bored.  Bored bored bored.  Walking in little shuffling steps - the 7 or 8 blocks took an hour.  In the same batch of people with the same signs and chants.  On the dull downtown streets.  I goaded Keith with Century 21 and almost succeeded in getting him to shop!  We made fun of ourselves for that while Mark took crowd video.   I pretend-interviewed Mark and Keith with a pretend-microphone asking them what their sign woudl read if they had one.  Mark's was "About f**king time."  My sign:  "Dear Police Officer:  Please don't beat me up.  I have no health insurance."

Here's the truth:  participation in your own representation can be incredibly slow-paced and tedious.  Vigilance is like a soccer match - you sit there for 3 hours watching carefully and closely and hope that someone does something interesting before time is called.  It's no wonder we hire other people (like Congressman and Senators) to represent us in this process --- and perhaps no wonder that  they try to make it more interesting for themselves at our expense.

Yes - democracy and its siblings are filled with long, boring patches.  Spurts of time we are used to being entertained out of.  Watching The Daily Show is not actually activism.  It's awesome, fun, life-affirming, but not activism.  Marching might not be either, per se, but it is putting your time, energy, effort, and safety on the line for the sake of being counted.  Voting is another one of these acts - perhaps time-consuming, perhaps futile - but another place we can show up to our own representation.  There are plenty more ways to do this - that's why I promote practivism and practivists here as much as possible. 

I don't have a stake in how the occupiers spend their time.  A leaderless movement can be a beautiful thing, but it can also go around in slow circles and burn everyone out.  Leaders emerge - sometimes they are proactive and sincere, sometimes they are nascent fascists, sometimes they are a combination.  Charismatic and fervent leaders can be dangerous.  So can aimlessness.  I don't have an answer.  I didn't get any today.  Only more questions.

I came back to find out that Steve Jobs had died.  The truth is life is short.  The truth is finding your passion is the only thing that makes life longer, nurutring it is what makes life liveable and following it purposefully is the only thing that makes life remarkable. 

The truth is that anesthetizing comes in many forms and disguises and is insidious.   Holding up signs threatening billionaires might be your passion - follow it.  Or, it might also be your anesthesia.  Beware. 

P.S.  We didn't see any violence.  We got the sense it might occur just as darkness was falling.  Police seemed to triple in number; police vehicles were in evidence, as were plastic cuffs.  We took the change in tone as our .cue to move on, and find Carlos, who'd been waiting for us and watching it all go by with a much more interesting view.  Judging from my googling, there were some incidents of violent interaction between the police and the crowd shortly after we decided to leave.

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