« | Home | »

In Zuccotti Park

Tags: |

On my first visit to Occupy Wall Street, two weeks ago (but it might as well be years, given how rapidly the movement is growing and changing), I sat in on a meeting of the Media Committee. A paper was being passed around, and we were asked to provide email addresses, a list of our skills and the equipment we owned that could be put into service. Of the 35 or so people at the meeting, I informally counted 12 filmmakers, six or seven editors, three video artists, a couple of sound engineers and a director of commercials. The average age was around thirty, and the debate about software, platforms and compatibility was fierce. I dutifully wrote down ‘theatre director’ and listed as skills… um… good communicator? knowledgable about space? strong familiarity with the plays and essays of Brecht?

I got the message: these people weren’t fooling around. Unless I had some real skills to offer or a laptop fitted with Finalcut Pro, an animation program and a good sound card – well, maybe I’d better slink away and try the Library Committee, or the Arts and Culture Committee. Elsewhere, a participant in the Madrid indignados protest was explaining, with the help of a translator, the group’s organisational structure and history. Ten or so members of the Information Committee thought of drawing up a daily schedule, and maybe a map of Zuccotti Park. The lone member of the Finance Committee was wandering around trying to collect receipts.
Now that each day’s events make headlines, and Naomi Klein and Slavoj Žižek come to speak (not to mention the visit from Penn Badgley of TV’s Gossip Girl), it’s hard to convey how thrillingly tenuous it seemed. There was only one stressed out member of the Comfort Committee, in charge of making sure that everyone had a sleeping bag and a corner of the park to call home, and she pleaded for both help and patience at that evening’s General Assembly. The library had a few dozen books; now it has thousands, and its own barcoded lending system, and a blog, and reading groups, and a children’s section. The first big announcement that evening was that a local resident had offered use of her shower (women only, sorry) for two hours a day. Sign-up sheets would be distributed in the morning. The second big announcement was that SEIU 1199, a union with more than 300,000 members, was joining the movement.

A lot has been written about the protesters’ decision not to confine themselves to a single, sound-bite friendly political goal. But this is a strength, not a failing. What’s happening in Zuccotti Park is the opening of a great sphere of political possibility. The festival mood won’t last forever, maybe only until the second or third seriously cold night. But the festival mood is beside the point. As Žižek said on Sunday to a crowd of 400: ‘Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire.’ The left in the US has been suspended in a state of repressed political desire, full of imagination, ideas and longings, but crushed by an overwhelming sense of futility. We’ve been resentfully ‘realistic’, following the measured and maddeningly ineffective president we worked hard to elect. The electrifying momentum of OWS reminds us that a lot more is possible than we’ve been led to believe.

Comments on “In Zuccotti Park”

  1. Avangion says:

    I work at the Occupied Wall Street library. Please (anyone) feel free to get in touch if you’re interested in learning more. Just a clarification about our barcode lending system: it’s not quite as sophisticated as it sounds here (we don’t paste barcodes into the book). Essentially, we catalog our entire collection on LibraryThing (http://www.librarything.com/home/OWSLibrary) before putting books out in the stacks. People are then free to take what they want. We don’t require and can hardly enforce anyone to return the books, and we don’t track anything other than donations. If you think about all the surplus books floating around in the world, it’s pretty easy for us to serve as a clearing house of sorts. And please don’t forget the libraries springing up at all the other Occupations around the country and indeed the world. Thanks so much for the mention here and for your visit to Liberty Plaza (we try not to call it Zuccotti Park, but it’s a small point). Everyone should visit us!

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.

  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • name on Who is the enemy?: Simply stating it is correct doesn't make it so, I just wish you would apply the same epistemic vigilance to "Muslim crimes" as you do to their Hebrew...
    • Glen Newey on Unwinnable War: The legal issue admits of far less clarity than the simple terms in which you – I imagine quite sincerely – frame them. For the benefit of readers...
    • Geoff Roberts on The New Normal: The causes go back a long way into the colonial past, but the more immediate causes stem from the activities of the US forces in the name of freedom a...
    • sol_adelman on The New Normal: There's also the fact that the French state denied the mass drownings of '61 even happened for forty-odd years. No episode in post-war W European hist...
    • funky gibbon on At Wembley: If England get France in the quarter finals of Euro 16 I expect that a good deal of the fraternity will go out the window

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Edward Said: The Iraq War
    17 April 2003

    ‘This is the most reckless war in modern times. It is all about imperial arrogance unschooled in worldliness, unfettered either by competence or experience, undeterred by history or human complexity, unrepentant in its violence and the cruelty of its technology.’

    David Runciman:
    The Politics of Good Intentions
    8 May 2003

    ‘One of the things that unites all critics of Blair’s war in Iraq, whether from the Left or the Right, is that they are sick of the sound of Blair trumpeting the purity of his purpose, when what matters is the consequences of his actions.’

    Simon Wren-Lewis: The Austerity Con
    19 February 2015

    ‘How did a policy that makes so little sense to economists come to be seen by so many people as inevitable?’

    Hugh Roberts: The Hijackers
    16 July 2015

    ‘American intelligence saw Islamic State coming and was not only relaxed about the prospect but, it appears, positively interested in it.’

Advertisement Advertisement