11.8.11 I’ve been watching the Occupy movement with great interest. The bootstraps activism of the ‘60s is something I’ve always romanticized, on the one hand, and been haunted by, because I missed it. I marched against the war back in 2003, and felt disillusioned at the end of the walk as pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian student groups bickered across a podium in the Boston Common, and then Howard Zinn got up and called for a people’s revolution. Protest, I learned, is a many-headed hydra. Was it ever directional?
Maybe the cynicism in me is generational, because I haven’t experienced any watershed changes in my life firsthand. The Berlin Wall fell thousands of miles away. If anything, my lifetime has been characterized by our country’s ideological backsliding and an elliptical repetition of history. And, to be fair, by easy living.
On Friday, I saw Anne Buford’s film Elevate, which follows the lives of Assane Sene, UVA hoops star, and several other Senegalese young men who are using sport to pursue their education and, ultimately, to improve life in their home country. Watching Assane––a smart, physically superior and emotionally mature guy, turning himself inside out in order to fit in and learn the culture at an expensive Connecticut prep school full of largely oblivious rich kids––got to me.
Deep down, I yearn for the idea of a popular struggle that better aligns our country with its high-minded ideals, but if I’m honest with myself about what I want to see in government, the discussion turns on classic liberal talking points.
Back to Assane…the rest of the world fears us, admires us, depends on us because we are rich, not because we are smarter or more just. It strikes me that the trouble we’re facing as a country now, as we see the influence of our money through the darker lens of the corruption it breeds, is spiritual rather than political. The bankers are the scapegoats because, as a country, we’re living on interest like Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, whom Dickens nailed to the wall in 1854.
How do you take that feeling into the polling booth?––Giles Morris