Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy What Next? A Geezer Take

As powers-that-be sweep away the Occupy movement, where does the animating spirit go now?

With apologies to generations who have lodged “99 percent” into the American vocabulary, this will come as unwanted advice for those whose have made visible hidden rage against a financial system that brought the economy to its knees and still keeps profiting while the rest of us suffer.

Even so, as a retiree, I can add my own victimhood credentials—-a return of near-zero on savings that used to supplement Social Security while banks fatten by holding the money without risk. (Ron Paul cited this injustice in the last GOP debate.)

Yet, if they are to effect change rather than just demonstrate for it, the Occupy generations would do well to study the protests of the 1960s.

Then as now, street theater provided great images for TV news but was soon coopted into a sideshow in which the larger population lost interest, while the real financial power and politics ground on unchanged.

Loathsome though it may sound, the Tea Party could provide a model for finding focus, converting free-floating anger into political muscle. As satisfying as denouncing those in power may be, without traction in the real world, it changes nothing.

At this transitional point, the alternative is the kind of increasingly radical rhetoric and disruptive behavior that is surfacing now and, ultimately, irrelevance.

Anarchy has fortunately never taken hold in American life, and there are issues to which the Occupy energy could usefully attach itself. Putting pressure on Congress not to gut new Dodd-Frank regulation of financial institutions and even expand them is clearly one. Helping a consumer champion like Elizabeth Warren get elected to the Senate is another.

None of this will be as exciting as camping out with signs and slogans, but that’s the way real world works. If Occupy enthusiasts want to change it, they can start by pushing back politically against the damage the Tea Party has done.

The geezer will now fold his tent and retreat into silence on the subject.

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