OK, I might as well admit it.
When I first heard of the Occupy Wall Street initiative, I thought it was just a group of overfed and overeducated and underemployed "white" boys trying to get their own generational street cred. "New Millennial Hippies" (Mippies?) out to gain a little attention, smoke a little grass (or whatever they call it these days) and hopefully get laid by some arty-cutey from the Upper East Side or Jersey (Or both).
That was just the cynic in me talking. Deep down, the "better angel of my nature" was begging to be heard. But the devil in me still thought... as soon as the cops grab and twist a few arms, break some legs, spray a few faces with mace and kick a little ass, the kids would cry "foul, unfair, not nice" and scurry back home.
Maybe it's because I remember standing on the corner of Chicago's Michigan Avenue and Randolph, looking south, down toward the Conrad Hilton Hotel and deciding not to walk down past Grant Park. It was August, 1968 during the Democratic Convention. I was a 20-year-old "black" man who'd just moved out of Robert Taylor Homes, America's largest housing project at the time, after scoring my first decent job -- in the big time ad agency game.
Not that I didn't feel for the hippies and yippies and Panthers getting their heads busted in the park. I was as philosophically on their side as I am on the OWStreeters' today. But I was no fool. I opted out for what became a 35-year career creating ads for the biggest ad agencies in America and their clients. Being one of the first and few "un-whites" in the corporate suites then was my version of contributing to the Civil Rights Movement, as Jesse would say -- "in the suites, if not the streets".
Which brings me -- quite nicely -- to my point. The Civil Rights Movement was one of four American Revolutions. We may be looking at the fifth.
The first American Revolution was... well... er... the American Revolution in 1776.
Number 2 was the Civil War, when Abe Lincoln was forced to get closer to the "all men are created equal" rhetoric of the ultimate American hypocrite, Tom Jefferson.
Number 3 was sparked by another Wall Street greedfest, the Great Depression. FDR decided it was better to give the average American Social Security, a government job or relief, than have them tear the nation apart -- in spite of his fellow oligarch's cries of socialism.
Number 4 was the one I mentioned above, now called The Civil Rights Movement.
What's happening on Wall Street now could be the start of American Revolution No. 5.
The Mippies on Wall Street have two things on their side that protesters throughout history had on theirs:
1. The arrogance and overconfidence of old power
2. The energy and naive idealism of youth. As Tom Paine pinned just before Rev. 1, "we have it within our power to begin the world anew." (I'm told he really said "over again," but somebody thought "anew" was more poetic.) Good call.
My advice to the OWS-ers is the exact opposite of what I've read from the Baby Boomer Fogeys who now have nice gigs bloviating for the main stream media:
Keep things amorphous and amateurish. Don't let the unions and the professional (or unprofessional) left take over. Hold Obama's feet, hands and *&*# to the fire. And be patient. Remember Lincoln ignored Frederick Douglass and the abolitionists for decades. Until he needed them to win the Civil War.
Pollsters say there are anywhere from 25 to 40 million of US out of work. If only 10 percent of those make it their job to occupy Wall Street until they find something better to do -- the powers that be would be powerless to stop them. And as long as they follow Dr. Martin Luther King's model of self-disciplined, peaceful resistance, there'd be no way to send them home except a world-wide televised bloodbath that would make what happened in Grant Park in '68 look like, er... umm... a walk in the park.
The most important occupation you can have right now? Occupying Wall Street.
I'm actually starting to think that if the seemingly unfocused kids who started this fire can just hang on a little longer, the millions of Americans without jobs -- and not a whole lot better to do -- might join them. And since I myself am in... er, uh... "early retirement," I might even be among the latecomers.
I used the reference to the recently departed Gil Scott Heron's famous line as my headline even though I know it's a tired old cliché, because I think maybe this time Mr. Scott may be wrong. The revolution -- if it has any chance to be successful -- will have to be televised, twittered (or is it tweeted?), googled, radioed, social mediated, broadcast, narrow-cast, inked-in, word-of-mouthed, whatever. That's the whole point and the power. And the more it's televised, twitted, etc. the more people like me who will see it, support it and even join it.
This may be the last moment in America's history that we have to wake the average American up from the Dream and introduce them to the American Reality, which is becoming a nightmare. About one percent of your population own or control almost 100 percent of our wealth, our media, our "educational" institutions and, so, our government and our future. Over the next few years, they plan to sweep up the last crumbs left before they disembark... to places unknown. You might as well turn off the porch light. They won't be back home.
This just in. I just got a version of what Nation Of Change, an online left-wing website says is the first official statement from the OWStreeters. It's based on the Declaration of Independence. I just skimmed it and it looks pretty good. It's called "The Declaration of Occupation."
But as an old adman, I'd change the headline to "Declaration of Interdependence." That's the only thing that will make this work -- For all of us to finally, after over 230 years of the American experiment, understand how our aspiring democracy is dependent on each other, not on the G.O.Gs. And, in a mashup of Great American Documents we forgot as soon as we passed the test on them in school, I end with what should be the ultimate goal of all this, "That the Government of the Greedy, by the Greedy and for the Greedy shall perish from the Earth."