It has now been a week since Occupy Wall Street was evicted from Zuccotti Park. The park is quiet and desolate thanks mostly to the police officers ringing the perimeter, determining who is able to enter. They are the new occupiers of the park, bringing a different set of rules than the previous occupiers. “Occupation” in the style of OWS meant openness, an ironic twist on a word with usually repressive undertones. The police now at the park have restored “occupation” to its original, militaristic function. What has become of Zuccotti Park over the past week is a stark reminder of what both the protestors and corporatized society are all about.
Before the protestors were evicted, one could walk through Zuccotti Park and see for themselves what the Occupy Wall Street movement stood for. The tent village shared by the mostly young occupiers was a tribute to communal living. The constant pounding of the drums was America’s youth crying out to be heard over the din of consumerism. The free flow of food, available to anyone that wanted it, reminded us of how plentiful our resources are. They were showing us how to give freely without stigmatizing or criminalizing people in need. The “People’s Library”, flush with books about modern society, was a lesson in acquiring information in the information age. The marches reminded us, and will continue to remind us, of our duties as citizens. People who say Occupy Wall Street has no goals or no vision miss the point. It was their example, their occupation of Zuccotti Park, that was the goal and the vision. The occupiers not only showed us what this country could be, but that the collective will to make it so is real. After all, they did all of this in the shadow of the Wall Street giants who pushed us to despair.
That explains the midnight raid on Zuccotti Park a week ago. The Wall Street giants, along with their fellow travelers in government like Mayor Bloomberg, considered the occupation a cancer that had spread across the country. The raid struck at what they saw as the root of the cancer at Zuccotti Park. Police were sent in suddenly and without warning, like a blast of chemotherapy into a patient’s veins. The tents were destroyed, the drums were silenced, the food was taken and the books were burned. More than an eviction, it was a direct assault on everything for which the movement stood. By dismantling the occupation’s infrastructure, they hoped to dismantle the nationwide movement. In this regard, it had an eerie similarity to the “shock and awe” tactics used in Iraq: a sudden, sweeping and coordinated attack on everything that makes a society go.
And what Zuccotti Park looked like in the hours after the eviction was what the Neocons envisioned for Iraq after shock and awe: barren, desolate, a blank slate on which capitalists could build. There was the promise to the occupiers, as well as to the general public, that they could return to the park once it was “cleaned”, much like there was the promise of freedom in Iraq once the war is over. Yet, after a week, the police still surround the park and the sanitation workers are still “cleaning”, much like American troops and contractors remained in Iraq well after Saddam was captured and hanged. It was all an excuse to destroy in order to remind everyone of the extent of corporatist power, as well as to extend that power.
Zuccotti Park now is the corporatist ideal of the world writ small. It is a privatized public space. Police tightly regulate foot traffic into the park. They ensure that the crowd remains very small. The few activists that show up are conspicuous because they stand out. Instead of being part of a crowd of thousands, the people with the signs and the flags are spectacles. Instead of a group of people exercising citizenship, it is a confederation of individuals each drawing attention to themselves. No longer the shining example of collective democracy, it is now a marketplace for individuals seeking their 15 minutes. The corporatists like Bloomberg understood what the park symbolized in a way that the average critic will never understand. That is why while the average critic was dismissing the movement, Bloomberg was giving the green light for a merciless eviction. By occupying Zuccotti Park, the corporatists are now showing the world their own vision for society. It is a barren and hopeless world. Police scrutiny prevents political activism. People are atomized into a competition to be spectacles, like a bunch of reality show stars.
But the new occupation of Zuccotti Park does not mean that Occupy Wall Street is done. Anybody who was at the Day of Action on the heels of the eviction saw a bigger and more determined Occupy Wall Street than ever before. The corporatists, out of touch as always, were wrong in assuming Zuccotti Park was the cause of the Occupy Wall Street cancer. It is our deteriorating conditions as a people and the blind march of corporatism over every part of our lives that is the cause. Occupy Wall Street is the cure, corporatism is the cancer. If the corporatists want to do away with Occupy Wall Street, then they must first do away with themselves. Occupy Wall Street will continue to grow because the corporatist cancer continues to grow. More and more people will see their world decay around them and realize that Occupy Wall Street is their only hope.