Somethin’s Happenin’ Here by Manny Frishberg

November 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

You can almost hear the ringing tone of Stephen Still’s guitar out at Seattle’s Westlake Plaza, the original site for this city’s venture into Massively Multiplayer On-street Rebellion Games known as the Occupy movement. I feel the buzzing undertow of excitement at creating something entirely new and unexpected – the blindingly mad hope that we can actually leverage some changes this time, that we won’t get fooled again.

This is not my first rodeo, you see. I’ve been up and down on this merry-go-round horse before. More than once. It always starts like this, fresh with the flush of exhilaration at discovering that each of us is not alone after all. We are united, proud, big.

We are the 99 percent – that means there’s a lot of us. And we’re getting a lot of attention. So far, so good.

Okay, so sometimes it’s hard to pin down exactly what’s the point, well, that’s one of the strengths of the movement, if no one’s in charge than all the concerns of all 99 percent of us is what we’re for (or at least, some of us are – we can’t talk for everyone).

Still, even with the intended power vacuum in place, a certain consensus view of what we are protesting and what we are for has been coalescing. We are upset by the sense that the social deck is stacked in favor of the small sliver of the populace who take in the overwhelming bulk of the nation’s (and the world’s) riches. We are the 99 percent! That means we see millionaires becoming billionaires while middle class neighborhoods turn into ghost towns.

Back in the day, the revolution was not being televised. This time around it’s being tweeted, face-to-facebooked, live-streamed over the internationally ubiquitous Internet. We speak through a “human microphone”, the very antithesis of the brave, new techno world we want to embrace. All politics are local; the best are face-to-face.

The question, from the beginning, has been, “What do you do for an encore?” Deciding that the occupation is the purpose is one potential pitfall – already cities from Oakland to Atlanta are focusing attention on the campsites. But a naïve attachment to a place, making a stand on the (not really very) defensible position that since we are the people, we have a right to pitch our tents wherever will get us the most attention – it says so in the Constitution. (Except it doesn’t.)

A remarkable feature of the Occupy movement is its sponge-like quality – and I mean that in a good way. Sea sponges are made up of free-swimming cells that form into a loosely patterned organism, internal parts forming as needed. The Occupy movements have spontaneously generated interest and action-oriented groups, from medical and supply to media, tactics and arts and entertainment. Occupiers in other cities write out their position papers and they circulate freely through the cloud.

Another striking thing, for an old grizzled activist inclined toward telling war stories, is how widespread the support appears to be. Men and women in business suits drop off supplies and donations on their way to work in the office towers that are the ostensible targets of the demonstrations. Commuters honk as they drive past. In just a month, pluralities in every part of the country are inclined to look at the Occupiers favorably. The unions were among the earliest supporters of the Occupy movement. Even the cops themselves are not unsympathetic, not all of them. Not all the time.

So I claim the right to experience a shiver of excitement, a thrill of wonder to go along with the familiar déjà vu. The been-there, done-that, made-bail, got-the-t-shirt. Time to get my hopes up, one more time. (Then we’ll get on our knees and pray: We won’t get fooled again!)

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