Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Walk in the Park by Hendrik Hertzberg

 October 17, 2011 - The New Yorker

Hendrik Hertzberg (left - Photograph- Dmitry Kiper) was one of the stars of the 2010 Auckland Writers & Readers Festival when he visited with three of his colleagues from The New Yorker. 
I was very taken by his thoughtful article that follows on the subject of the Occupy Wall Street event which appeared in The New Yorker of October 17 ..................

Everything else is made in China, so why not pithy aperçus about Occupy Wall Street? “A revolution is not a dinner party.” Or was it a Tea Party that the murderous Communist Mao Zedong (still officially revered in the most populous, most fearsomely capitalist nation on earth) declared that a revolution isn’t? Either way, Occupy Wall Street—O.W.S.? No, let’s just call it OWES, in honor of its sympathy for tapped-out debtors over bailed-out creditors—is hardly a revolution. It is a dinner party of sorts, albeit one with donated, often organic food served on paper plates. There’s tea, too, of course, mostly herbal—rooibos and camomile, though, not that other herb. (The distinctive aroma that the “straight press” of yore invariably called “the sweet smell of marijuana” is noticeably absent.) But, whatever OWES is, what will it become? Where is it headed? Will it dazzle or fizzle? Will it catch fire or backfire? Will it end up helping the Democrats or the Republicans? In short, what’s the meaning of it all? So far, the best answer is the one that Zhou Enlai, the Great Helmsman’s great henchman, supposedly gave when President Nixon supposedly asked him to assess the impact of the French Revolution: it’s too early to tell. At the moment, all that can be said with certainty—even if Mayor Bloomberg disagrees—is that OWES has become one of the city’s most interesting bargain tourist destinations.
Occupy Wall Street does not occupy Wall Street itself, which is narrow, easily cordoned off, and unsuitable for sleeping. What OWES does occupy is Zuccotti Park, a roomy rectangle of trees, benches, and open space two blocks up Broadway from Wall Street and about the same short distance from the 9/11 site. Zuccotti Park—formerly and, by its new residents, still informally dubbed Liberty Plaza—is privately owned but open to all, the result of a zoning deal between the city and a real-estate company. The OWES event, which began on September 17th with a minimum of attention from the straight press (now known as the mainstream media), soon got three shots of adrenaline, one small and two big. A false report that Radiohead would serenade the plaza drew a larger than usual crowd. A cell-phone video of an N.Y.P.D. deputy inspector spritzing strong pepper spray into the faces of three apparently inoffending female protesters, who fell to the ground blinded and screaming, went globally viral. And a Brooklyn-bound march over the Brooklyn Bridge ended in confusion and rancor, with some unnecessary police roughness and seven hundred peaceful marchers carted off to be booked, their wrists bound behind them, uncomfortably and egregiously, in plastic handcuffs. By last week, OWES was soaring. On Wednesday, some of the most powerful unions in the city—transit workers, teamsters, teachers, communications workers, service employees—helped pack Foley Square with fifteen thousand people for a rally in support. Afterward, it took them three hours of chanting and sign-waving to shuffle their way through a half-mile police corridor to Zuccotti Park. And OWES has gone national. There are now spinoffs in more than a hundred cities and towns from Atlanta to Anchorage, with plans for more.

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