There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse, and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful. The boy got a horse." And the Zen Master says, "We'll see." Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, "How terrible." And the Zen Master says, "We'll see." Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight, except the boy can't because his leg's all messed up. And everybody in the village says, "How wonderful." And the Zen Master says, "We'll see."
- Gust Avrakotos, Charlie Wilson's War
“I lift Detroit in prayer”. This is a bumper sticker I saw recently. My first thought upon seeing it was, how about you lift a hand or two and actually help the city instead of just saying you do? It’s easy to say we support something. We all support various ideas and organizations; Planned Parenthood, tax reform, gay marriage, campaign finance reform, deficit reduction, legalizing the 12-to-6 elbow strike… and the list goes on. But how many of us actually do something about it? I sure don’t. This is a problem, a stage four pancreatic cancer of a problem. Call it diffusion of responsibility, call it apathy, call it whatever you want. A turd by any other name still smells like shit.
Love or hate the Tea Party, but you have to admit those bastards do more than talk. If you believe the rhetoric, their ultimate goal is to take over the GOP, and it appears as though they are on their way. The Occupy movement, on the other hand, has no such stated goal. Why not? Why isn’t the Occupy movement trying to take over the Democratic Party? Why isn’t the DNC actively courting the Occupy vote as feverishly as the GOP is courting the Tea Party? One possibility is that the DNC is just as cynical as the rest of us. They look at the Occupy movement through the same lens as the Conservatives, seeing nothing more than high-minded rhetoric and empty gestures.
Only the gestures aren’t all empty. Bank of America tried to introduce $5 monthly fees for customers who made a purchase using their debit cards. They have since abandoned that idea. Did the protests finally get to them? Did the Ghost of Christmas Past show them the error of their ways? No. The market scared them straight. Bank of America’s stock has been on life support for some time, and the proposed fee caused a run on the bank; a bank sitting on a pile of shit mortgages and in hot water over a robo-signing fiasco. Customers finally got mad and pulled their money out, choosing neighborhood credit unions instead to hold their cash. Now I’m not saying that Occupy is to be given full credit for this, but they were certainly a big factor given that “Bank Transfer Day” was scheduled for November 5, and so many Occupiers have a hard-on for Guy Fawkes. The market had spoken, and then to make the message clearer it slapped Bank of America until the proposed fee was dropped. The market’s invisible pimp hand is strong.
It all comes down to responsibility and the fact that we don’t like it. One of the big reasons why we have so many problems and don’t feel compelled to do anything about them is that we don’t feel responsible for our communities. In the age of globalization we stopped caring about our immediate tribes. Only by profoundly shrinking the Federal government and accepting that we have to run our own lives will we ever get that feeling back. This raises a paradox. Collectively, we will never make the decision to accept responsibility; it must be forced upon us. Moreover, no current politician in a position to do anything about it is going to make the necessary changes because 1) there’s too much money to be made in maintaining the status quo, and 2) we aren’t demanding that responsibility be given back to us. It will take someone like a Ron Paul or Gary Johnson or Jon Huntsman to make the necessary decisions, but they are unelectable precisely because they want to force responsibility back onto the populace. So the only way to compel ourselves to feel responsible for our communities again is to accept that we need individual responsibility, the very thing we’ve been avoiding for the last decade.
Many of the Occupiers have adopted an eloquent description of our societal and economic state, “shit is fucked up and is bullshit.” Words alone will never change that.
We know what the problems are, but we refuse to agree on the solutions. Tax cuts won’t solve our problems, and neither will Jesus, hugs, or ankle-monitors for bankers. We have to come to the conclusion that we have to solve our own problems, not outsource them to a Government we haven’t trusted since 1973. Will we? We’ll see. At the time of this writing, New York Occupiers have been banned from setting up permanent residence in Zuccotti Park by a New York Supreme Court ruling. Will this verdict mellow the protests, or will it embolden them? We’ll see. Will the rest of the country go about their days as usual, or will we finally wake out of our apathy induced comas and demand that we and only we should determine the course of our lives? We’ll see.
Personally, I’m not hopeful. It will take a strong, charismatic leader to unite the roving band of yes-men known as middle-America and convince us to accept responsibility for our country. Our own Philadelphia Lawyer wrote that he was shorting the revolution, and history leads me to think he’ll make a killing. Will Occupy have a lasting effect on this nation, or will they pack it in once the first snow falls? We’ll see.