A visit to the occupied zone near Wall St.

Not wishing to be left behind by the march of civilization, I popped down to Zuccotti Park in Lower

Not wishing to be left behind by the march of civilization, I popped down to Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan the other day to rub shoulders with the Occupy Wall Street folks — and I mean “rub shoulders” literally, since that’s how crowded the park was. I must have rubbed a couple thousand shoulders just working my way from one end to the other.

What a crowd! And, as we know, the thing is growing — from New York to Denver to Rome to Tokyo. Across the country, around the world.

Well, it’s about time, I say. After several years of listening to Tea Partiers grouse about welfare moochers and illegal immigrants, it was refreshing to meet people who vilify the bankers who actually busted us.

Mitt Romney, who made some $250 million in the investment game, calls it class warfare, so they must be on to something.

The main thing that struck me about the crowd in the park was its diversity, if I may employ that overworked word. Sure, there were the young and grungy, with their dreadlocks and ear-piercings, who are preferred by the cameras of Fox Propaganda, but they were definitely in the minority. I can’t say who was in the majority. There were old and young and in-between. There were white, black and brown. There were little old ladies from Long Island and middle-aged guys from down the street. A big difference from the all-white middle-class grumps of the Tea Party.

My eye was caught by one elderly woman sitting placidly in a folding chair, knitting a red-and-white-striped sleeve amid all the hubbub.

She told me she was from Michigan and had been in the park for 16 days now. When I asked her how long she intended to stay, she said, “I’ll be here until no one else is here.”

What for?

“I want to change things for my grandkids.”

What kinds of things?

“Tax inequity.” And she went on to suggest we should start bartering and “stop buying from corporations.”

Everyone had a different answer, not necessarily realistic, when I asked these questions, but that didn’t trouble me as much as it has troubled other reporters and commentators.

I stumbled, literally, upon a couple of scruffy guys half-sitting, half-lying on a tarp down at my feet. They had come from Montana and had been in the park just 48 hours, they told me.

Why had they come?

“It’s monumental,” one of them

said. “It’s the black swan. It’s evidence that something real is going to happen.”

A seasoned media guy sat at a press table. He told me the event is “an outcry” and that “anger and fun are major ingredients.”

Which may be true, though by comparison with a Tea Party rally, the anger was on the mild side and the fun on the strong side.

A favorite costume was a dark suit, white shirt and red tie — a satirical take on the look of a banker or a stockbroker, usually worn by someone carrying a sign like “Eat the Rich.”

As we all know from news reports, there are no leaders, there is no program. If someone wants to make an announcement, he climbs up on a step or a low wall and shouts slowly to the group in front of him, who then repeat his words in a chorus to those behind them. I had never seen anything like it, not even in villages of Papua New Guinea. Absolutely primitive democracy.

Aristotle thought the right size for a city state was such that with all the inhabitants gathered together a speaker could reach them all. He didn’t consider what these Occupy folks call the human microphone.

It’s not chaotic, but it is anarchic, in the classic sense. Volunteer work groups tend to matters like food and sanitation.

After a few hours I got the feeling that the everyone-is-equal atmosphere was itself the message. No need for a 10-point program or a list of non-negotiable demands. If you want to see what’s wrong with the world, look at us and see what’s right, was the idea.

Interviewers ask these people what their gripe is and leave discontented if the answers are not coherent, but I think it’s pretty obvious: Our country is in the hands of a small number of citizens who are both gamblers and crooks.

As gamblers these citizens play with our mortgages, our life savings and the entire economy.

As crooks, when they lose their bets, they take our tax money to make themselves whole and pay themselves bonuses into the bargain.

The rest of us — the 99 percent, in the words of the Occupiers — can go to hell. We’re the chumps.

They are predominantly Republican, the gamblers and crooks, but they work as eagerly on behalf of a Democratic president as a Republican one.

Their entire motivation is greed, a greed that is insatiable and has no end-point. This has become obvious since the notorious meltdown of 2008 and the decline of our country into economic stagnation.

I thought no one was really boiled about this state of affairs. I thought the only heartfelt political sentiment rising up out of the grassroots was the misdirected sentiment of the Tea Party, with its nostalgia for Boston Harbor and its resentment of the poor, so ably magnified and trumpeted by Fox Propaganda, but I was wrong.

With the tiniest beginning in a park that I didn’t even know existed, look what we now have — tens of thousands converging on Times Square and replications around the world.

So I guess the sentiment was there, seething, and just needed a little boost to bring it to the surface.

I don’t pretend to know where it will go, though I don’t have any high hopes. Maybe it will be hijacked by self-interested groups like public-employee unions, who are already major contributors. (Donations of money, food and bedding are pouring in, The Associated Press reports.)

Maybe it will just peter out as the weather turns cold, which seems to me likely.

Maybe it will change the world, which seems to me unlikely.

But after a day in the park, I do know something is happening that wasn’t happening before.

Categories: Opinion

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