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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Katzwer’s Out of the Bag: Please ‘Occupy’ a rational mind-set

Published: October 7, 2011
Section: Opinions, Top Stories

If you have not been living under a rock, you have heard of Occupy Wall Street. If you have been living under a rock, I hope you have a good ventilation system.

But seriously, Occupy Wall Street, at first glance, seems noble, idealistic—which is not always a bad thing—and inspired. Upon closer inspection, however, the movement is actually just a group of pissed off youth with nothing better to do with their time than hang around in Zuccotti Park, N.Y.

While not all of the protesters are young, the majority are in their 20s. These kids have little understanding of how the world works. This is obvious because, if they were intelligent enough to understand how the world works, they would know that their “protest” is not going to do a damned thing.

One thing has been made abundantly clear in the approximately three weeks since Occupy Wall Street began on Sept. 17: These children have no clue how to lead a revolution.

They naively believe that just by being steadfast in their beliefs, they will color the way the world works. Beliefs are nice but they are not enough. I can sympathize with what they are trying to do; the economy is tanking and many U.S. citizens are underserved. But something real needs to be done about this.

The loose group of Occupy Wall Street’s leaders, the General Assembly, hates the way the United States is organized and, it seems, is responding by not being organized themselves. These youths boast a “leaderless movement” and refuse to identify themselves with any movement, claiming, “We are not limiting ourselves by affiliating with a specific movement. We comprise elements of many ‘progressive’ social movements: the environmental movement, education reform, the food movement, the campaign finance reform movement, the fair-labor movement, and the anti-globalization movement.”

Those are a lot of movements. Perhaps that is why there are so many people there who have no idea what they are doing. Everyone is protesting their own cause, shouting their own message.

Dan Morelly, a 25-year-old research assistant, told independent reporter Ariel Wittenberg ’11, “Putting labels on what we are doing is just a wedge tactic to separate us from people who agree with us. If you talk about politics, you are just going to focus on what you disagree with, when if you focused on what you did agree on you could actually get things done.”

How idealistic—used as a bad thing here! While this is principled, it is also naive. If you want people to take you seriously, you need to stand up together and shout one message. Instead, people are protesting everything from Wall Street’s tactics to the environment. Some are even just asking for love, attempting to be placed on some ephemeral pedestal next to 1960s and ’70s anti-war protesters.

Leadership is also important because, when there is no leading body, people will not know what to do and that will get them into trouble. On Oct. 1, at approximately 4 p.m., 700 protesters were arrested as they stormed the Brooklyn Bridge.

The protesters claim they believed the police had allowed them to conquer the roadway, blocking traffic, to march across the bridge.

They argue that the police did not try to stop them until they were all on the bridge and that no one told them they couldn’t do this. This would have been a good time to have a leader to say: “Gee guys, maybe this isn’t the best idea. It’s illegal.”

Of course, although they didn’t have a leader, they did have the NYPD telling them to stop. As the protesters seized the bridge, chanting “take the bridge,” they were met by several high-level police officers, who blocked their way and announced repeatedly through bullhorns that what they were attempting to do was illegal and would result in arrests.

“This was not a trap,” Paul Browne, the chief spokesman for the NYPD, told The New York Times. “They were warned not to proceed.”

And if the protesters’ best excuse is “we didn’t know,” then they are even less-informed than I originally thought. Who would ever think that swarming across the Brooklyn Bridge’s roadway, blocking traffic and pointedly ignoring the police was a good idea? Common sense tells you that this is not the appropriate thing to do. Permits are required for this type of thing. Woodstock may have been an all-out love-fest but they still got their permits.

What they were doing was dangerous. In mob situations like this people can be trampled and killed. By storming a roadway, both they and the innocent drivers were at risk. It is the NYPD’s job to take care of the people of New York. They take this job very seriously. These are men who have faced bloody riots, violent crimes and the barbarism of 9/11. These men do what they need to do to protect their city—although pepper-spraying protesters and striking them with batons is overzealous—and arresting these rabble-rousers was the right thing to do at the time.

I would even have more respect for these people if they had stormed the Brooklyn Bridge in order to be arrested. This is a longstanding technique to gain attention for a cause. John Scopes famously got arrested on May 5, 1925, for teaching evolution in a Tennessee schoolroom. A lot of people are unaware that his intention was to be arrested; he did not want to get away with it. And it worked. He even got more attention than he had originally planned.

Occupy Wall Street’s most recent inanity was dressing as zombies on Oct. 3. Protesters were urged to “come dressed as a corporate zombie! This means jacket and tie if possible, white face, fake blood, eating monopoly money, and doing a slow march, so when people come to work on Monday in this neighborhood they see us reflecting the metaphor of their actions.”

Columnist Lauri Apple put it best when she wrote on about Zombie Day: “But seriously guys: not only are Wall Street workers unlikely to see themselves ‘reflected’ by your bloodied-up stockbroker outfits, but zombies are as played out as America’s income gap. You guys should all put on spotless tailored suits, slick back your hair, and march around Zuccotti Park in neat rows, shouting into cell phones about your investments. That would make a statement, and also shut up all the “dirty stinky hippie”-haters, at least for a day or so. (It would also look cool.)” I couldn’t have said it better, which is why I didn’t.

While Occupy Wall Street had some good ideas and is trying to address some real issues that face our country, these protesters are going about it in the entirely wrong way. Their attempts at protest are juvenile, unorganized and ill-informed. Perhaps they should grow up a little more—for, let’s say, 10 or so years—and then try again. Of course, by then they may be a part of the corporate culture they so despise at this point in their lives and will instead be rolling their eyes at the antics of the new generation of 20 years olds who are behaving like buffoons in the park.