I hied myself over to Albany the other day for what might be called Occupy Part 2, and found it a rather subdued affair compared to last fall’s original. No tents, no free food, no sense of changing the world.
Just a hundred or so people hanging out trying to recover the old Occupy spirit but having a hard time of it, what with the cops making sure no roots got put down. They weren’t even tolerating tables. At one point I startled a few troopers by challenging them, “Are you going to let these scalawags get away with this?” and they right away got defensive and assured me no one was getting away with anything, not realizing I was just goofing with them.
No one was getting away with anything except maybe the AFL-CIO guy I talked to who had set up a modest little folding table with a display of pamphlets where the line of vision to the troopers was blocked by a tree.
Three people had already been arrested for refusing to take down tents or tables by the time I got there about 1 p.m., so there was not at all the air of tolerance that characterized last year’s gathering.
I am talking of course about the doings in the park across Washington Avenue from the Capitol, and specifically the upper half of the park, which belongs to the state, as opposed to the lower half, which belongs to the city of Albany. The lower half is mostly closed for reseeding, as a result of the severe trampling it took last year, when 40 or so tents were pitched there for a couple of months.
I thought it was a poor idea to start an encampment in October, as the cold weather was beginning, but history rarely waits for a sunny day, as Napolean could testify if he were around. Look now: The weather is auspicious, but little else is.
There was the old breaking down into work groups on the same anarchic principles that animated the original Occupy movement, but the difference this time was there was little work to do — no distribution of donated supplies, no trash pickup, no dishing out of food. Just jawing, mainly.
I briefly attended one session under a tree at which a couple of SUNY graduate students held forth on the contradictions of our economic system and the need for a new system in which the means of production would be owned by the people as a whole.
One earnest auditor wanted to know how that would work in practice, for example, how many people would own how many tractors?
“All the people would own all the tractors,” the lecturer answered.
I wanted to ask if that hadn’t been tried already, but since I was present as an observer I refrained from participating. Besides it was a cheery affair and I didn’t want to inject a sour note.
If there is any focus at all to this famously unfocused movement it is on the richest 1 percent of the population as opposed to the 99 percent — “Eat the Rich” being one of its punchier slogans.
Six months ago it was scarcely possible to believe that a bunch of granola heads, grad students and labor-union lefties could have any impact on that situation, and today it seems to me less so, though I admire the egalitarianism of the effort.