It was a long weekend in Portland. Our local "Occupy" movement got evicted from the three city parks they'd taken over. Downtown was filled with protesters, gawkers, media and riot police. My head and my heart were filled with frustration.
Yes, the richest 1% have more wealth than the remaining 99% combined. And, yes, the gap between the richest 1% and the remaining 99% has never been wider. But camping in public parks isn't the answer. It isn't even part of the answer because it simply does not make sense. The lives of squirrels were impacted more by the Occupy Portland protests thus far than the lives of the 1%. If that isn't ineptness, I don't know what is.
I agree with the message, but the method is a mess.
As I walked through the Occupy Portland campsites this weekend, a song started playing in my head: Against The 70s, by Mike Watt.
"The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70’s. It’s not reality. It’s just someone else’s sentimentality."
A camp site that began as a protest rooted in an anti-greed message morphed into an attempt at a free-love utopian society (free hugs, really) and ended when the camp was overrun with the homeless, anarchists, drug addicts and street kids. In the process, the message of the protest itself was lost because the protesters became their own government, and though they probably haven't realized it yet, they also became so much of what they detest. They became ineffective, inept and political without a purpose.
Though the members of Occupy have fiercely held beliefs, they've created a structure that prevents them from turning their beliefs into actions. Because they opened their camp to the homeless, they had to feed them. Because they opened their camp to the street kids, they had to police them. Because they opened their camp to the drug addicts, they had to protect them - and everyone else. One could say that these are noble pursuits, and this is true, but there are only 24 hours in a day. Where do the protesters find the time to actually protest the gap between the richest 1% and the remaining 99%? For the most part, the answer is: they don't. If they do find time to protest, they're mostly protesting the loss of what they see as "their" parks - the three city parks in downtown Portland they illegally claimed, squatted in and lost when they were evicted by the city after a series of drug overdoses, stolen property recovered at the site and worse. Last Wednesday night, someone was seen returning to the Occupy camp after attempting to set a downtown building on fire with a molotov cocktail. Though members of Occupy Portland denied this person was in their camp, he was arrested there later in the afternoon. For the city, that appeared to be the last straw.
The camp site is gone, but the movement continues. Where it's headed is anyone's guess.
Everyone knows that the United States Congress is an ineffective mess. Well, at this very minute, in the heart of downtown Portland, there is a meeting in progress for the local Occupy movement. The meetings last for hours and they accomplish very little. At tonight's meeting, for example, they wasted twenty minutes debating (and discussing and discussing whether or not they needed to continue debating) where to hold tomorrow night's meeting. The choices were a church in SW or Pioneer Courthouse Square. It's supposed to rain tomorrow night, so the choice would seem obvious. But, no. The structure of the group itself only complicates their meetings. They want so badly to include everyone that they create sub-committee after sub-committe, each of which must be represented with speaking time at the general assembly meetings. It's madness.
This playlist is really just a collection of numbers. Nothing more. It was inspired by the fact that the Occupy movement constantly talks about the 99% and the 1%, but they rarely define what those numbers mean. While walking past the Occupy camp last month, I often heard protesters yelling at the media and the police, shouting things like "I AM the 99%, not you!" It's madness. The numbers themselves have lost all meaning. To many living in the camp, it seemed that anyone with a job was part of the 1%. It's madness.
Perhaps, now that their camps are gone, they will find a way to return the focus back on the original message. Perhaps... but if tonight's General Assembly meeting is any evidence of what is to come, I doubt it. Instead of being a movement based on protesting against the inequality of the wealthiest 1% and the rest, Occupy Portland has become a movement based on giving street kids tent space. It's tragic, really, since the original message is an important one.
Good one. Always love the Hip. :)::::: | November 17, 2011 2:01 PM
Trouble At The Henhouse is my favorite Tragically Hip CD. Sadly, my copy is broken. It must have happened during a move...? I can't imagine how else a CD could have been broken (damn cardboard case! I hate plastic, but jewel boxes are sturdier)::::: | November 17, 2011 2:52 PM