A visit to Occupy Chicago

Yesterday I went downtown to visit the new Occupy Chicago encampment in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The loose gathering of activist began their occupation on Friday and continued through a raining weekend. They were inspired by the Occupy Together movement which started at Wall Street in New York two weeks ago.

On a rainy Monday morning I found them still enthusiastically yelling slogans up through the vast canyon walls shaped on one side by the Chicago Board of Trade building and the Reserve bank on the other. Here’s a slideshow of the photos I took:


Click the full screen button in the lower right hand corner for best viewing.

I’m still pondering this Occupy Together movement. It’s easy for me to get excited about people standing up to corporations, but I also am conscious of the dynamic that Jonathan Matthew Smucker highlights in this thoughtful article. In short, questions the tactic of Occupy Wall Street and points out its lack of focus on context, organizing and leadership. His description of the movement that came out of the Seattle protests in 1999 ring true to my experience:

If your big introduction to collective action is a moment like November 30 in Seattle, it’s quite understandable, however mistaken, to try exclusively to replicate such magic. It’s like arriving at a farm during the harvest. Wow, all this delicious food is everywhere, and all you have to do is pluck it from the vine! You just want to keep harvesting and harvesting — why would anyone try anything else?! That the harvest was only possible through planting, watering, and diligent tending (including weeding!) escapes your notice. And this isn’t entirely your fault; if the farm had more resources, your elders would be taking the time to give you a better orientation.

On the other hand, I know how powerful apathy is. If the Occupy Together movement can crack that shell wide open, who knows what is possible?

And then of course there is the wild card of Anonymous who claims to have identified the police offer responsible for macing the women in this video:

It seems to me that Anonymous throws a significant unknown disruptive factor into the mix that Smucker may not have accounted for since there isn’t a clear historical precedent. In the protests after Seattle, police officers operated with impunity. That impunity may be crumbling.

“Revolution is fun, wage slavery is boring.” the young man at the Reserve bank yesterday yelled. I found myself feeling the generation gap as I pondered this slogan, but I admit there’s also part of me that hopes they will yell loud enough to wake us all up.

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5 Responses to “A visit to Occupy Chicago”

  1. Tim B Says:

    I don’t get it.

  2. Anthony Says:

    The significance of the Occupy Wall Street movement is not in its organization or platform. Its leadership is nonexistent, its demands are diffuse and not always logical, and its focus is blurry. But that was true of all social movements in the beginning, and the more grassroots the movements were, the more diffuse they were.

    Of more significance is the fact the generation born after about 1990 is in the process of acquiring its political voice and its basic political outlook. It is willing to open issues the Baby Boomers thought closed, especially about economics. The present generation does not yet know what it wants, but it increasingly realizes it does not want the world the Boomers built. That means no to a form of “capitalism” that takes capital away from most Americans and hands the financial sector 40 percent of corporate profits, no to a form of globalization that constructs a one-world corporate oligarchy in the name of “freedom,” no to an attitude toward the environment that essentially turns the earth into a disposal consumer product, and no to certain forms of Christianity that look more like Roman war cults than the Sermon on the Mount. It might ultimately mean a shift from public/private dichotomies, over which the Boomers obsessed, to big/small dichotomies in which bigness in general, both in business and government, is seen as unrepresentative and corrupting. However, that is speculative.

    Whatever happens, I predict that the next 10 years will constitute the present generation’s “mythic age” that guides their politics for the rest of their lives in the same way the 1960s formed the Boomers’ “mythic age” and the Great Depression formed the New Dealer’s “mythic age.” The youth of Occupy Wall Street — and I am not of their generation — own the future. Like no generation since the Boomers, they are present at the creation of what comes next. Fox News can demonize them all they want, but they are numerically the biggest generation in American history, and they are coming into political awareness at the very moment biology has begun to close the book on the Baby Boomers.

  3. Jonathan Matthew Smucker Says:

    Thanks for the mention. Here’s my latest: Occupy Wall Street Is You.

  4. A visit to Occupy Chicago « Urban Connections Says:

    […] Originally posted at http://young.anabaptistradicals.org/2011/09/27/a-visit-to-occupy-chicago/#comments […]

  5. Beyond Obamaism: Occupy Wall Street and the Capacity to Hope: » Young Anabaptist Radicals Says:

    […] been a month since I wrote a piece on Young Anabaptist Radicals about my experience of visiting Occupy Chicago. It was three days after they had started camping in front of the Federal Reserve of Chicago and 10 […]

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