Occupy Wall Street IV: Let Them Eat Cake

Let them eat cake.

When a ruling class loses its confidence in its ability to rule—to make its power legitimate, to translate its access to force into acceptable authority on a day to day basis—the revolution has begun.

What were they thinking when they—the local authorities who know the whole world is watching—announced that they were going to “clean” the park at 7:00 tomorrow morning?  They were thinking this: we have to prove we’re in power.  But when you think this way, that you have to prove you have power, you’re already desperate, you’ll do almost anything, you’re headed for that dustbin of History.  You’ve lost your confidence in your ability to rule.

Today in Zuccotti Park I saw two 20-somethings sweeping, I saw one 30-something mopping—remember, we’re outside—I saw two 50-somethings scraping gum off the polished granite that is the surface you walk on in this park, and I saw everyone else getting ready for the statement Mayor Bloomberg wants to make tomorrow morning at 7:00 by sending Sanitation workers into the park.

A couple of times I asked, “Would it be better if you just stayed put?”  Nobody said yes.

These people are trimming, shaping, replanting the flower gardens in the park, so that tomorrow morning it looks like they were just passing through.  They’ve got pressure hoses coiled on the Liberty Street sidewalk, ready to wash away four weeks of grease and dirt.  They’ve got laundry details in charge of bagged dirty clothes piled up on that same sidewalk, headed for the Laundromat.  They’re cleaning up after themselves.

Has anybody in the oligarchy headquartered across the street volunteered to do the same?

I asked three cops what they thought of the situation, two patrolmen and a whiteshirt, a lieutenant, I think, from the Bronx—“No idea, I won’t be here tomorrow, don’t know what the orders are,” he said.  The grunts were more forthcoming, and more philosophical.  My question was, OK, this is a private park, are you, the public employees of this city, going to enforce the demands of its owner if there’s a confrontation?  The response was fast and smart: “Sure, if you call me to your house because a trespasser is on the premises, I’m going to use whatever force I have to subdue him, same here.”

So I ask, the caller is always right?  What if he’s wrong?  What if this private property he wants to protect is something once shared by the “trespasser”?  What’s so important about this scrap of lower Manhattan?  And if this is private property, why are Sanitation workers employed by the city going to be the first people into the park tomorrow morning?

Never mind.  One of the grunts invokes the praetorian guard of imperial Roman history.  He says, “You think this is any different?”



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2 responses to “Occupy Wall Street IV: Let Them Eat Cake

  1. Alan

    I would say that if the threat of force can get 50-somethings cleaning gum off the ground, you’re still in power.

  2. Ah, but notice three things about these events, or actions–or are they neither? (1) The Brookfield Co. backed down, along with the Bloomberg administration, having realized the whole world is watching and asking themselves, do we want to be compared to Mubarak or Assad? Notice that I’m not making this comparison. (2) The cleaning of the park by the Occupation itself demonstrated (a) its non-violent and its green credentials in one stroke but also (b) its cheerful resourcefulness. (3) Of course the bankers are still in power; the point is that they have no reply, no recourse, to the Occupation except the display of power though force. When rulers can’t be transpose their power into authority as a matter of course, on a day-to-day basis, they turn to force. In the modern world, where consent is the regulative principle of political obligation, that’s always a sign of failure.

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