Hollywood's god of etymology, Russell Brand, went back to the
typewriter keyboard to scribe an article addressing the political climate in New York City right now.
Don't worry. He definitely calls himself out on renting a 1% hotel room.
With writing like "then, like a baffled alien abductee, I unwittingly found myself first transplanted from Los Angeles to Manhattan then suddenly somnambu-jogging through Tribeca to Zuccotti Park, lured by a peculiar certainty that I simply had to be there," U know U have to read it!!
Among the many triumphs of the Occupy Wall Street movement (a campaign so alive with zeitgeist that I feel here obligated to reference its proper title – #OccupyWallStreet) is the remarkable sense of occasion that accompanies the phenomenon. Since it began a month ago I’ve been subliminally transfixed. Then, like a baffled alien abductee, I unwittingly found myself first transplanted from Los Angeles to Manhattan then suddenly somnambu-jogging through Tribeca to Zuccotti Park, lured by a peculiar certainty that I simply had to be there.
Leaving my apartment with an objective no grander than to go for a run I somehow landed amidst Zuccotti’s tarpaulin sprawl in unforgivable leggings and a headband that would have had Alice reaching for a shard of cracked looking-glass.
There can be few cultures that would unthinkingly welcome into their fold a man dressed as I was in the macabre attire of a spandex scarecrow but the occupants of this pop up civilization offered me first food, then shelter and then, incredibly, hope that we can change the world.
Of course, this may seem like cock-eyed optimism given that physically the site resembles a Kenyan slum, all slung together wigwams, a Toy-Town medi-centre and a cardboard-igloo library, but whilst the visible structures may be flimsy they are held together by an invisible scaffold of ideals founded upon the thing the establishment fears most; the will of the people.
During my first accidental visit I chatted with an enthralling bunch, notably a beautiful group of teenagers, righteous and idealistic and interestingly mellow. I suppose they differ from the London teens that last month took a starkly contrasting course of action from the same impetus of frustration, in that while they may be similarly disenfranchised, they believe in the possibility of change.
Brianna who is seventeen, pagan-pretty and dusky, is attending college by day and occupying Wall Street by night like some heart wrenching cross between Pocahontas and Batman, said that young people are entitled to an education without being bound to a lifetime of debt. Whilst “Messiah” (there’s a lot of those names flying about, go with it; it’s a small price to pay for Utopia) literally danced into the conversation and self consciously, but touchingly, divided up and shared a stick of gum in a “Sermon on the Mount” brought to us by Juicy Fruit. You might think, that given her name, that was the least she could do, but we’re talking about a sixteen-year-old girl here. If Fox News and the Daily Mail are to be believed I’m damn lucky she didn’t shiv me in the guts and film it on her phone.
Here in Zuccotti Square these young people clearly felt safe, purposeful, included and behaved with charm, compassion and respect. Naturally I was impressed but more agitated than ever by my jogging outfit. Really, it’s terrible, I mean if we’re going to bring about systemic and meaningful social change, I want to be dressed for it.
The next day I returned to learn more, in a very fetching scarf with my friend Daniel Pinchbeck the brilliant writer, radical and ludicrously, yet truthfully titled “psychedelic Shaman”.
One of the movement’s significant principles is that there are no appointed leaders. That said, there are more experienced and pragmatic inhabitants to whom Daniel and I chatted. We were given a tour of the site and in spite of the lashing rain and gales, which I, of course regarded as the winds of change and cleansing rain, all we encountered were bonhomous and welcoming. Much more than I’d anticipated. Let’s face facts, one of the campaign’s few edicts is to provide the unrepresented 99% with a voice, had I, when I fitted into that demographic, chanced upon a touring celebrity I would have used that voice to tell him to fuck off, no matter how nice his scarf was.
Perhaps it is this ambience of inclusion, of acceptance and indeed of love that has brought #OccupyWallStreet such success. There is a remarkable absence of anger and resentment which is why the movement resonates so deeply. Is this movement’s implicit goal to reengage our humanity? To reach beyond the political, the national and other illusory, temporary concepts and into our true, spiritual nature?
Justin, our volunteer tour guide was smiling and patient, especially with my incessant questioning about where people go to the toilet; mostly in McDonald’s it transpires – I’m glad Ronald and the Hamburglar at last have a chance to atone for their mucky past and eery jocundity. The sense of cohesion and civic duty in the square, which many call Liberty Square, its former title, was something I found appealing. In my country, England, and across the world there is amongst older people an irritation at the breakdown of traditional values, a grudge against apathetic and uncaring youth, atomized and X-box agog, indifferent to their culture, abstracted from their land.
Here young men who would typically be drenched in spittle-flecked “Get a job” rage diligently join committees for sanitation, cooking and on site security. A voluntary conscription to the cause of change. A nation founded on ideals of harmony and responsibility, on representing the whole, built here in a privately owned square. The ownership of the Square, explained David, a seasoned and visionary activist, is important as the New York Real Estate Group who represent the interests of the powerful institutions to whom this movement is a threat, are now desperate to implement legislative change that will ensure the Occupation will be curtailed and not repeated. Clearly this is no simple undertaking as demonstrated when the suspicious attempts to vacate the Square for cleaning were abandoned. It is unlike Mayor Bloomberg to back down but David outlined this movement is unlike anything this country has ever seen.
Other protestors took the time to educate me on the matters that had brought them to the square. One purple haired, perfect skinned occupant told me beneath the billow and crack of the turbulent tarpaulin that in 2009 24% of American families with children were at some point too poor to buy food. Hunger. It doesn’t get more basic than that. Another lad, black and bright eyed with spectacles that I suspect-acle didn’t have glass in them, informed me that 50 million Americans do not have health care. Perhaps that’s why his glasses weren’t finished.
Of course these problems are not unique to America, they are the symptoms of a global epidemic, said a lady who was there speaking on behalf of the Mexican Zapatista movement using the already iconic “Human Mic” system in which staccato sentences are truncated and repeated by the crowd. A charming and inspiring instant cultural artifact.
[Image via NikkiNelson/WENN.]