|HE SAITH AMONG the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle
afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting. -- Yahweh
My daughter and I got up at the crack of dawn -- before it, actually
-- and went downtown to join the Wall Street occupiers in anticipation
of Bloomberg's 7 AM cleanup, announced yesterday. We arrived about
I had been quite apprehensive about it. I used to be a bold fellow
about this sort of thing, but age has made me timorous; and though the
NYPD were always brutes, they're a lot worse now -- too numerous, too
heavily equipped with expensive lethal toys, and too eager to use
them: and the human material of the force seems much more twisted,
degraded, and malevolent than it was twenty years ago.
Still: somebody once said that 90% of life is just showing up, and I
felt that if I didn't show up for this show-down it would be even
harder than usual to look at myself in the mirror. And my daughter,
who's been hanging out with the occupiers for the last few days, was
also eager (though also apprehensive). So there was no choice, really.
I felt a lot better as soon as I turned the corner and saw the crowd.
There were lots of people there, and more streaming in along with us.
I'm no good at estimating crowd size, but the square, which is not
small, was chockfull and shoulder-to-shoulder, and spilling out onto
the sidewalks and streets nearby.
As always, a very young crowd, though there were a few grizzled old
stagers like myself. The crowd was very revved-up and full of beans,
and at the same time calm and resolute. They were clearly determined
to stand their ground as best they could, but one felt none of the
crazy chaotic energy of a mob.
There was a look on so many of these young faces that was really
beyond praise. How my old heart went out to them. It's been a while
since I've felt this pleased to be a member of our peculiar species.
Some union contingents arrived while we were there and they were
There was some tension in the air as the 7 AM deadline approached. A
speaker was trying to circulate information about legal aid and sort
out those willing to be arrested from those not; the willing were to
stay in the park, the others to retire to the sidewalks adjacent and
lend moral support and bear witness. I was trying to figure out
whether I was among the willing or not.
I'll never know; Bloomberg blinked. The speaker broke off and then
read a communique from City Hall: the "cleanup" had been "postponed"
-- if I understood correctly -- "because there are too many people in
Well, that last clause, at least, was truthful -- probably the first
truthful thing City Hall has said in quite some time. It was a fine
moment; people cheering, hugging each other and so on.
Okay, so it wasn't Stalingrad. I expect we'll see a lot of dubious
Eeyorish head-wagging about the long road ahead, about the difficulty
of 'building' -- what? Whatever.
An acquaintance of mine recently reminded me of a trenchant passage in
the Moor's Civil War in France, speaking of the Communards of Paris:
"They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of
the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is
pregnant. In the full consciousness of their historic mission, and
with the heroic resolve to act up to it, the working class can afford
to smile at the coarse invective of the gentlemen’s gentlemen with pen
and inkhorn, and at the didactic patronage of well-wishing
bourgeois-doctrinaires, pouring forth their ignorant platitudes and
sectarian crotchets in the oracular tone of scientific infallibility."
Old Charlie was no dope.
Not Stalingrad, okay. But it's been a long time since the Ringwraiths
of Mordor-on-Hudson even had to rein in their nightmare steeds
momentarily. And I don't think anybody who was in the square today
will soon forget how they stared down the iron juggernaut just by
There are more of us than there are of them. It's a priceless insight,
and the foundation of everything else.
[View the list]