A few days ago, I was in Athens to see my all-time favorite musician, Matthew Sweet, perform at the legendary 40 Watt Club. On my way to the venue, however, I spotted a gaggle of quite homeless-looking youngsters holding up signs at the entranceway of the University of Georgia. Since it was fairly dark, I couldn’t read all of their signs, but I did catch the scrawling on one of them: “Unions, the people that brought you the weekend.” They all shuffled about, and most of them looked, well, pretty depressed.
Apparently, Occupy Athens was anything but a rousing success.
You know, I’ve been waiting for a counter-movement to the Tea Party for quite some time. Like the initial Tea Party Movement, this whole Occupy (insert city/street/state/country/whatever) Movement is pretty captivating stuff: watching all of the protestors amble about, picketing those huge barons of Wall Street and getting beaten with truncheons—it’s pretty hard to resist the visual we’re seeing on TV, the Internet and if we’re lucky, on our very avenues and walkways.
That said, you could have just as easily said the same thing about the Tea Party Movement. Whether or not you were in favor of said movement was totally irrelevant, as seeing the waves of people, holding up teabags and signs that called President Obama some probably offensive names was absolutely mesmerizing. But like all movements that are hot air and little else, the Tea Party soon became a parody of itself, this thing that was more of an eyesore and a feeble call for attention than anything that even remotely resembled an important social or political movement.
There are a lot of parallels between the Tea Partiers and the Occupiers. For one, both enclaves are trying to pin the blame for our nations’ economic woes on single institutions: for one side, it’s the government, and for the other, it’s big business. Both movements are also based upon the illusion of being grassroots campaigns despite being bankrolled by organizations that are heavily anchored around political ideologies. And then, there are the protests.
Is there really a difference between watching a bunch of 50-year-olds that have no idea what they’re talking about and watching a bunch of 20-year-olds that have no idea what they’re talking about clutter the street ways of America? As much as both movements are about apparent social and political beliefs, you could say that the two movements are even more heavily divided according to age than what side of the aisle they vote for. If you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty here, the only difference between a Tea Party protest and an Occupier protest is that the former smells like denture cream while the other smells like acne wash.
Yeah, the Occupy Wall Street Movement looks really impressive now, but we all know how these sorts of things typically turn out. Maybe the kids will pull a page from the Tea Party platform and begin endorsing their own hand-picked crop of politicians to represent them in D.C., only to end up casting a ballot for the exact same party they voted for 10 years ago.
By and large, I’m against all organizations that are dependent on protests, as they tend to promote an ideology based not on the merits of what that ideology is, but merely the visual power of seeing so many people apparently in favor of such an idea. When you watch Tea Partiers or Occupiers protest, the main thing you walk away with is not what the organizations supposedly believe in, but simply the fact that a lot of people are in their ranks. That’s probably for the best, however, since neither movement seems to have much of a consistent philosophy to talk about.
Of course, I’m not saying that just because a bunch of people protest in support of a cause, that it's automatically illogical or unreasonable. It’s just a really, really poor medium to get complicated ideas across. If anybody can sum up something supposedly worth fighting for on a single poster board, it’s pretty likely that the individual there has no idea what he or she is actually fighting for.
And so, I guess I’ll keep on doing what most of us are doing, and that’s watching the civil unrest unfurl on our computer monitors and TV screens. It really doesn’t mean anything, but it makes for economical entertainment—the only tragedy here being that neither the Tea Partiers nor the Occupiers realize that they are the punch lines themselves.