Oakland is not "occupied territory." Not even close. Not even symbolically. Have banks or engines of any financial muscle been picketed or boycotted? Government offices? No. Oakland’s business as usual, dysfunctional and pathetically self-defeating as always, goes on despite this latest street theater farce in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Ogawa Plaza, what passes for Oakland’s city center, is apparently the only site the usual suspects can think of to don their hoodies and make jokes of themselves. What is most troubling is that tired and silly pseudo-60's pantomimes like these are what now purports to be "the Left," ensuring that real themes financial disparity and social justice remain undefined clichés is particular and written off in general. While the Tea Partiers gain more and more political clout and power, clowns like the "occupy Oakland" crowd make sure that alternative voices are not taken seriously. And for good reason.
Consider this from Oakland Local poster Richard Wright:
"Although the movement has been open, inviting and encouraging of People Of Color (POC) involvement, it still requires POC organizers to enter a space that can be culturally alienating, and the power dynamic of POCs bringing POC issues to a predominantly white forum, even with the best intentions of progressive and radical white folks.... can be problematic."
Where to start with so dopey an observation? First of all, there is no "movement," and Mr. Wright’s delusions of grandeur aside, there are no leaders to "invite or encourage" people of color. If it were a movement, invitations would not be necessary and people from across the social and cultural spectrum would be involving themselves as they did during previous social upheavals. That's what happens in real social movements.
But second, and more tellingly, is the galling sense of patronizing self-importance of Mr. Wright and his cohorts who time and again involve themselves in flash in the pan demonstrations that serve only to underscore their impotence and cement their status as poseurs of the first order (or sadly to debase the memory of Oscar Grant by smashing windows and grabbing free sports shoes). Does Mr. Wright really think that "people of color" are so dim-witted and unaware that they need invitations? Or would he argue that such is the weight of social oppression upon them that they require aid to enlighten them? Even the briefest of History lessons would clue Wright in that people of color have not in the past found protest to be "a space that can be culturally alienating." Perhaps instead most people, regardless of background, simply find these comic events to be self-defeating and stupid and would never consider being associated with them?
It's certainly understandable that we all- even the top 1%- are extremely nervous and uncertain about our collective future. There is a palpable sense that everything around is going off the rails and few among us think the next few years will be good for us personally, nationally, or globally. Our financial institutions, unbridled by the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, have created a snarled, worldwide mess that will almost certainly wreak havoc upon all of our lives in the near future. Our political system is totally paralyzed as it was largely intended to be, and can and will do nothing. The lackluster, if well intentioned, Barack Obama has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that "change" ain't coming from the government and the thanks he'll get for trying is a one-way ticket back to Chicago next year to make way for Mitt Romney, the poster boy for the 1%.
Of one thing Mr. Wright is undoubtedly correct- that the only positive change for the rest of us that will happen in this country will indeed be by dint of a social movement, but it will be a financial one. Instead of trying to replicate the 60's and 70's with meaningless crowd gatherings and hackneyed chants and signs that most people tune out, it will happen by collective financial action. If we all stopped dividing ourselves by perceived color and/or social lines and realized that WE- all of us- loan banks money to operate and not the other way around, we could wrest control of finance in ways Marx could only dream about. If the big five banks faced the real prospect of even 1% of their customers lining up in the same week to withdraw their money, they would lie prostrate before us all. Five bucks to use my ATM card? I don't fucking think so!
But as long as the best we can muster for social action is to have a bunch of bored youth who play dress-up like zombies, actively seek the most unattractive hairstyle imaginable and tattoo and face staple their way out of being taken remotely seriously, camping out uselessly on streets and in city centers, nothing at all is going to change. At least nothing good for the 99%.