I walked through the Occupy Portland encampment before it was broken up....
Admittedly my visit was 5 weeks in, but all I saw was people high on junk and some kids trying to look tough while they hacky-sacked. I'm a pretty approachable guy, but no one came up to me with a message at all. Disapointing at best. Last week Andy and I visted NYC and saw the Occupy Wallstreet encampment. We were struck by how small it was compared to the sprawling tent complex that had taken root in Portland, and we were impressed with the sheer volume of the drumming one evening. They had crash cymbals and everything. Pretty cool. At least there were some people shouting something at us there, although I can't honestly say I remember what it was.
Matt Taibbi wrote an article in Rolling Stone recently about how he came to grips with the purpose of Occupy recently. To paraphrase - it's not about a single cause it's simply about wanting something different. These kids recognize that the mindless consumerism of our age is unrewarding and they're hungry for something more meaningful. He posits that the times of being able to start your own sub-culture like the Shakers or Mormons has passed and we're all mindless zombies that can't say no to French Fries and the Kardashians. I think that's nonsense. There's plenty of artists, philosophers, entrepreneurs and the like who are doing their own thing these days, and I don't think it was easy for the Shakers either.
I can sympathize with the frustrations of watching a bunch of junkies and trust fund kids mess things up for no reason, but that's certainly not how the Occupy movement started. Nothing/no-one is perfect. The underlying point of income inequality is a very real issue that deserves far more attention than it got before the occupy movement. These guys are out there in the rain screaming their heads off. As a culture of renegades we owe it to them to turn off the reality TV and give their best intentions the benefit of the doubt for just a moment.
Just to be clear, it's not really the responsibility of protesters to have a better plan. I know that'd be awesome, but the baby boomers didn't know HOW to end the Vietnam war, they just knew it should end. The women who led the suffrage movement at the turn of the century didn't know WHAT women would vote for, they just felt that women should be allowed to vote. Our great founders didn't actually have a plan for a new government when they threw out the British, they just knew that that taxation without representation was wrong. Protesting is an emotional thing, always has been - always will be. It's actually the responsibility of the 1% with all their power and wealth to come up with the bright solutions, seeing as they will always benefit the most.
Giving these kids a hard time because they haven't figured out better answers misses the point. We should be talking about why the poor have only seen a 18% income increase since 1979 while the top 1% have seen a 275% income increase. Regardless of your political leanings, that should make you take pause. That's what we should be talking about, don't you think?