We seem to have reached a kind of turning point with the “Occupy” protests. Last night’s violence in Oakland, among other incidents, raises more general questions about the “Occupy” protests. Who are these folks, really, and what do they want?
Some mayors have lost patience with protests that disrupt neighborhoods and interfere with commerce. In other areas the “Occupy” protests appear to have attracted the attention of criminal elements who sense the presence of trusting souls who are ripe for the picking. In still other places the protesters look to be lashing out indiscriminately, and doing curious things like deciding to occupy random buildings
The protests seems to be searching for a common theme — and I predict that the lack of a common theme ultimately will be fatal. This isn’t like the ’60s, when protesters of all stripes — from the Weathermen to the Black Panthers to guys who just didn’t want to fight in some faraway country for some ill-defined cause — were unified in their opposition to the Vietnam War. Economic issues, in contrast, are much more diffuse. It’s one thing to say, in effect: “The economy sucks!” Most people would agree with that sentiment. But after you get past the general, and start to focus on the specific, the fractures appear. For every “Occupy” protester who wants to tear down our current capitalistic system and replace it with a New World Order, how many of the protesters would be perfectly happy to just have a job in the field that they studied in college?