Friday, November 4, 2011

Who was that...


When the photograph of two people holding a sign that read, "Occupy Tundra," first appeared, I wondered how many small towns were participating in the groundswell #Occupy movement. There must be some rather non-urban settings. My sister, who lives in Bozeman, Mt. made me aware of camps currently in Missoula, Helena, as well as Bozeman. Gotta love those college towns. (two out of three in Montana.)
While they are nothing like the tent cities in Oakland or on Wall Street, they do contain the same amount of disaffected, disappointed people from retirees to veterans, to unemployed college graduates, to laid off factory workers. They have kids, and wet conditions this time of year, and less than adequate food, and all manner of hangers on. The media has a field day with the sub-stories. Recently, in Portland, the coverage centered on a rat in the food tent and a syringe found on the ground. Finally, an elder covering the story for an alternative radio station pointed out that some of those high end restaurants no so far from those demonstrators also have a few unwanted diners. She added that the syringe could also have been left by a diabetic. I know, not likely, but you get the point.
What's most troubling is the splinter groups, and their composition. Unfortunately there are people who are more interested in provoking violence than in participating in a populist movement. If we learned anything in the 60s, it was that along with their physical beings, people bring their personal psychology to demonstrations and marches. Coupled with the fact that the occupy camps are magnets for the homeless, the dispossessed, the mentally ill, and the addicted, there was bound to be some difficulty maintaining consistency, safety, and sometimes morality.
On that first day when Occupy Portland was born, the Guy Fawkes masks appeared. Then the black bandanas. Anarchists? Maybe just admirers of the popular V is for Vendetta graphic novel set in a dystopian world where the overthrow of the oppressive regime is heroic. But are many of these masked marchers after heroics? Are they seduced by dystopian dreams? My guess is that under the guise of political change, they seek the excitement. They are young and eager to confront. Yet, there are young and younger in the crowd that know how violence plays into the hands of authority. It gives them license to use tear gas, clubs, handcuffs. They will protect property before human life in many instances. Certainly the media adore blood.
To my mind, masks serve only one purpose.

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