Demonstrations come and go, filling airtime and the columns between newspaper ads with the “news” they produce. Usually, they’re just grist for the media mill, “all sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
But I think “Occupy Wall Street” could be different.
To me, it marks a breakthrough in the common consciousness of America. It shows that the insensate mass that is the real “American public” is finally awakening to the reality of a vast injustice. It’s the kind of thing that happened in the recent “Arab Spring,” which is still creating turmoil in places like Syria.
I heard in passing while watching TV last night that 49 percent of the American public do not know who Eric Cantor is. It was an offhand remark by some talking head who was commenting on President Obama’s invitation to the House Majority Leader to personally debate provisions in the proposed Jobs Bill.
If half of the voters don’t even know who the House majority leader is, you can imagine how poorly informed they are on the intricacies of politics and the complexities of financial and commercial policies currently under hot discussion.
So it’s significant to me that the people demonstrating in New York’s financial district are not just political junkies but also low-information citizens with no clear idea of what’s wrong with America or what needs to be done to fix it.
All they know is that they’ve had enough of this crap – whatever it is – and they want it to change.
And the movement is spreading. The streets of New York are growing more and more crowded with placard bearing demonstrators. Trade unions are joining in. Sympathetic demonstrations are erupting across the country and across the industrialized world. They have no clearly enunciated demands that I can discern. They’re mad at this and that – and everything in between.
And I am not surprised. There’s so much to protest against.
As you might expect, the radical right is rising to counter this “liberal” movement, ready to do battle for their agenda.
The result could be violent confrontations, leading to widespread unrest and even the collapse of the institutions that now serve to keep the nation functioning.
Or the protest movements could – incredibly – come together in mutual rage, forgetting their differences in their shared determination to change a failed system. It is impossible to guess what will happen. It could be nothing. It could be everything.