Tuesday, October 04, 2011
I dropped in on the protest at 101 Market Street in San Francisco's Financial District today.
Signs facing the street leaned against several tents at the encampment of about 50 people. I was glad to see tents as it was beginning to rain for the first time this fall. A surprising number of drivers passing by honked their approval.
There were the trappings of life ...
animated conversations ...
and people creating art.
Some ask, what do these "occupy" people want? That's not so hard; they want to be treated as inherently deserving human beings. And they feel contemporary U.S. society isn't giving them that.
The lack of an articulated list of demands reflects that people are not acting from a shared agreement on what is keeping them -- what is keeping most all of us -- from our due. There's a kind of consensus to blame the banks and "corporations" but not a program. Rather, this is an effort to create a culture of resistance to dehumanization.
I'm surprised by the prominent place that U.S. flags hold in this emerging culture. In my generation, the generation of the Vietnam war, we burned those things. But after 9/11, I guess we can try to reclaim them.
OccupySF reminded me of other hopeful encampments I've known. In 1969, there were the early days of People's Park in Berkeley when activists expropriated university land to build community. In 1985, people with AIDS chained themselves to a San Francisco federal building seeking government attention to the plague and long running tent vigil formed around them.
Both these cheerful gatherings eventually attracted more than their share of society's damaged sufferers, rendering them problematic spaces for others. Neither of them led to utopias, but they left their mark -- there's more government preservation of community spaces these days and eventually the health establishment turned its sights on AIDS.
The current "occupiers" are clearly an experiment that has struck a chord; something will come of this energy though we won't know for awhile just what. Go visit for yourself. You might be able to find local emanations here.