Occupying Wall Street and Remembering the 1960s
When I was interviewed recently about the Wall Street protests by Triple J and Brisbane’s ZZZ, I stressed their significance as symbolic politics but expressed doubts about comparisons being made with both the Arab Spring revolts and the radical movements of the 1960s. Yet since these interviews the protests have grown and spread across America in a way that does compel some serious speculation that a new movement for social change is developing. Participants and commentators from my generation (broadly speaking the baby boomers) are heartened by the number of young people involved. These young people are witnessing a massive decline in job opportunities at the very time that many of them have increasing debt due to heightened student loans. They also face a world in which the richest 1% prosper while the middle class shrinks, working class salaries are effectively cut, the official poverty rate is now above 15% (whereas ten years ago it was at 11%) and black rates of poverty and incarceration signal an intensifying racial divide. The protestors in Wall St. want to turn that world around, want the financiers to be held accountable for the wreckage they have created, want a more equal society and one that does not squander its wealth on the military industrial complex and imperial adventures abroad. Sounds like the Sixties? At one level, yes, but at another not quite.