I was one of the dismissive ones at first. I was even, I am a bit sorry now to say, on Ginia Bellafonte’s side when she wrote, in The New York Times, that “the group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgeably is unsettling in the face of the challenges so many of its generation face – finding work, repaying student loans, figuring out ways to finish college when money has run out.”
A former graduate student who is underemployed and struggling to repay student loans myself, I connected personally with Bellafonte’s lament. I even bought into her critique of the protesters for using Macbooks and iPhones to do their organizing. (Later, when many people basically told me that anyone who got behind that critique obviously had his head up his ass, I started to wonder if I should be embarrassed about my earlier position. I’m not entirely, though.) My skepticism was kind of a recoil from previous bristles with this kind of activism. I love anarchism as a way of living and as a utopian vision, but I have participated in horizontal activism before and seen ugly Ego rear its head and tear the whole thing down. When Occupy started, and even as it began to prove its tenacity, I wanted to believe in radical politics but I desperately needed proof.
I still do. Though I’ve now visited Zuccotti Park about fifteen times, sometimes spending hours absorbed in Working Group meetings or participating in and documenting the General Assembly, I am still looking for something that will help me truly believe that this will lead to change. Read more