Glorying in lack of focus

I took a drive down to the Bay Area this past weekend, and the first stop was Oakland. Downtown Oakland, to be exact, and the site of the Occupation, which has now been broken up and scattered. When I was there on a cool gray Friday, the encampment was at full strength, with its 180 tents, library, kitchen, and outhouses. It wasn’t a scene of squalor, but it was a bit motley around the edges. Trash cans were overflowing next to the news crews mobile vans, which were all lined up on the street bordering Frank Ogawa Plaza.

You knew the end was near. The night before, an Occupier had been shot in the head and killed just down the street from the plaza. That was the death knell for Occupy Oakland, and on Sunday, the cops handed out eviction notices. Nobody was surprised when they showed up in full force on Monday morning to clear the area and take back the plaza.

So what are we to make of Occupy Wall Street now? I don’t know. You’ve got squares like me, who keep waiting for a focus of some sort, a message to the people, a goal to work toward, a mission to accomplish. And yet, the more people there are who keep clamoring and screeching for a message (and here I’m in the same boat as Ann Coulter!), and declare OWS to be bogus without one, the more the movement seems to say, “Piss off. You want a message? Here’s your message. Come on down here with a sleeping bag and a loaf of bread and start making sandwiches.”

OK, so I’m intrigued and befuddled. Is OWS and its many satellites a lame and ultimately ineffective version of a real protest, or a brand new bag that wants nothing to do with the familiar traditions and customs of protest and demonstration, but instead chooses to carve out something else? Not a protest, but more. Not a protest, per se, but an upheaval in lifestyle. If this is the case, then perhaps the OWS movement is more closely related to Burning Man than it is to the anti-war marches of the ’60s? And if that’s the case… wouldn’t it be interesting if some mischievous and ridiculously wealthy radical capitalist set up a branch of OWS in beautiful Empire, Nevada, a newly vacated little company town just waiting to be … Occupied?


I felt bad for ole Rick Perry the other night. Having a brain fart just doesn’t seem like a fair or great reason to almost instantly declare a guy’s campaign to be over. Make no mistake, I’m no Perry fan. From what I’ve read about the man, he makes George Bush look like Winston Churchill. But it’s just a startling reality of modern media—you can blow yourself up in about one second.