Is it Soup yet?
Citizen Zed - 10/4/11
It seems natural to fault Occupy Wall Street for the lack of a cohesive, focused message. Surely the question animates many among the growing ranks. Failure to anneal an ostensibly mass democratic outpouring into a cutting edge, yeah, that can happen. Crucibles are made, and then you make your own.
Now, thanks to the NYPD corralling and macing defenseless women, here comes another. It’s all stoked with the immature frequency of “Is it Soup yet!?” (a dated but apt analogy). The media are now paying attention and bang: the almost indignant all-cap immediacy of “WHERE ARE YOUR TALKING POINTS?” This is the default signature of serious analysis.
These guys are serious journalists when they’re hobnobbing on Air Force One, kept close; they want that marketing package so they’ll know what to talk about. Now that you’re on the radar, it’s your duty to serve up instant answers. You gotta tack your theses on the church door, feed them the line, because real journalistic decisions have to be made - about how to play at serious reporting for key demographics.
Don’t expect a spirit akin to scientific inquiry, the labor of digging into sinews for clues, or any form of patience prevailing. Aside from a few, such as Ezra Klein who recently pegged a Tumblr for having aroused his serious interest, it’s equally immature to immediately expect media at large to get its hands dirty with journalism. Few caught the jasmine scent of Tunisia or sorted out the deeper heat behind Bouazizi’s fiery example, much less intuiting an impending threat to Mubarak.
Occupy Wall Street and its provincial spawn wrestle with a question. A recent planning event for Occupy Nashville splayed out the tensions in a well mannered way. Many believed it was obvious and rational to demand the removal of money from politics, even if this implied difficult hurdles of constitutional interpretation and thus drafting and/or supporting amendments. If we need the emergence of a rational democracy, if we need a framework wherein any number of other critical concerns can be advanced, then does not the tissue of democracy have to be inoculated against monetary infection? This line of reasoning felt confident that a substantive demand was, nevertheless, equally loose and adroit enough to unify the whole under a rational and publicly understandable umbrella. And yet, another contingent was not so keen on cashing out a process of consensus building so quickly. They wanted more respect for the very democratic advent where they found themselves together. They urged against being shoe-horned too quickly into the structure of a singular demand, especially amidst an intuition that all the hurry was a reactive gesture to a foreign demand.
It had all the awkward beauty of a first date, played out en masse. At the time I found myself more on one side, trending toward thinking the other naive. But I realized the reticent side had won a subtle victory even in being outnumbered, for the focused contingent showed a mature recognition that, after all, the actual work of democracy had just begun - the real face to face spirit was there and alive precisely in this torsion.
“It’s a beautiful struggle, beautiful struggle
The tracks end here but the train’s gotta run”
The soup analogy may yet be most apropos, albeit, it may be more akin to a supersaturated solution. With a patient building of density, with molecular forces jostling together in question, proposition, listening and answer, an alchemical bit of magic may well supervene. If you have both temerity and patience to work yourselves into the right state, a seed crystal is bound to drop. Ideas can become real in the wake of a strange labor. Be ready when it happens, because then the labor turns to keeping it real.