Yesterday evening, I took the time to check out what all the commotion was about in Lower Manhattan. When I first heard about the Occupy Wall Street protest two weeks ago, I was honestly unimpressed. Although I applauded its anti-consumerist, anti-corporate character, I failed to understand how they would hone those beliefs into practical and reality-based change. Moreover, it seemed like the movement was rife with many ideological inconsistencies and contradictions which, at least in my book, precluded me from taking them seriously.
One of these inconsistencies was that in order to watch the live stream video of the protests, which was produced by the protests organizers, you had to first watch a 15 second advertisement. Another was the group’s implicit recognition and promotion of a big budget Warner Brothers film V for Vendetta, where many protesters wore masks (a symbol of resistance and revolution in the film) that resembled the face of the main character V. As I see it, a true anti-capitalist movement – one that subverts the current system – would not be based off of symbols devised from the commercialized narrative cutting-board of Hollywood.
These two contradictions were too much for me. This ‘occupation’ reminded me of misguided Tea Partiers who derided government taxation while at the same time staged their protests on tax-funded public land. In this case, the Occupy Wall Street crowd protested the big banks while at the same time wore clothing styles disseminated by big name clothing designers, smoked cigarettes sold to them by multi-billion dollar tobacco companies, and kept the masses fed and quenched by brands such as Coca-Cola and Frito-Lay. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t believe that you can undermine the system and wear a corporate logo on your vest.
Now I don’t mean to come off as being overly against Occupy Wall Street. In fact, after going to see it with my own eyes, I was impressed by the nonstop protest everything atmosphere that they have established. Although they’ve been exiled from Wall Street to what could be considered as an encircled ‘Free Speech Zone’ two blocks away in Zuccotti Park, they have still been able to claim that space as their own and create an open atmosphere where anybody can come to protest the wrongs of our society. This civic and democratic space did not exist before September 17th, and I think that we are all better off for it.