Yesterday on the bus, I saw a girl wearing a black purse decorated with a black rose. It was a nice bag and maybe that’s all she thought of it or maybe she though the black rose was romantic. I don’t know. I associate black roses with anarchism. It’s tempting when I see things like that to think the designer is an anarchist subtly adding that symbolism to her designs. That’s unlikely though. Whatever the designer’s intent or the girl’s interpretation, surely we can all agree that it is black and it is a rose. It isn’t really a rose at all though. It’s fabric cut and sewn to look like a rose, a representation, much like the word “rose” itself, conveying only what the observer reads into it.
Wall Street is a strip of pavement stretching from Broadway to South Street in downtown Manhattan but “Wall Street” also refers more broadly to the entire financial district. Being home to the New York Stock Exchange, the largest stock exchange in the world, “Wall Street” does not merely convey a physical location. Like the black rose, “Wall Street” can be read different ways by different people in different contexts. People hear “Wall Street” and they think money. They think Big Money and, whatever rhetorical flourish pundits and politicians might lend to the pretense that they care about The Will of the People or Free Enterprise or The Rule of Law, people of every political persuasion seem to agree that Big Money runs the show.
Of course, not everyone agrees Wall Street is necessarily the right target. To some, Wall Street represents an economic system which, despite the recent downturn, has delivered great prosperity to this nation. To attack that system is akin to cutting down a tree over a few bad apples. It is the political system, not the financial system, that creates the means and incentives for corruption.
A middle ground might acknowledge that the financial system and the political system are so deeply intertwined that to weed out the ills of either necessarily entail uprooting both.
What’s happening in Zuccoti Park, renamed Liberty Park by its new occupants, is not a rally with a slate of speakers talking at a sea of spectators. It is a forum where people can exchange ideas and experiences, share competing or complementary interpretations of the problem, and offer solutions as varied as those interpretations. If you are sitting home wondering why “they” aren’t protesting X, it’s because you aren’t there protesting X. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch unless, of course, you are at Liberty Park, where there is free food daily. If you don’t like the signs you see, go make your own. There are no leaders to direct your movements and script your message. The occupation of Wall Street is not a tapestry with a fixed set of images. It is a quilt and everyone is welcome to add their patch. See too much red? Add some gold. Too much gold? Add some green. Don’t like any of those colors? Paint it black.
Conveniently located two blocks from Wall Street, two blocks from the Federal Reserve of New York, one block from Ground Zero, and a short walk from City Hall with lot’s of foot traffic, Liberty Park is a great base camp for activism and opportunities abound. Want to set up a community kitchen in the park? Awesome. Want to piss on Hamilton’s grave? It’s just down the block.
Maybe you have a job, a family to support, or projects that need your attention. Stay home. No one wants you to drop everything to sleep in a park. You can offer support in other ways. But if you don’t have a job, this is your opportunity to make activism your job. Come on down.