Downtown at OccupyLA, it's dirty, it's weird. As diverse as it gets. Is it hard to distinguish a general assembly from a smoke sesh? Yes. Are more people doing sun salutations and downward dog than shotgunning their resume to careerbuilder.com? Pretty sure.
In the wake of last night's forceful evacuation, OccupyLA stands resilient, and at a major crossroads. The Los Angeles chapter has enjoyed a relatively cordial cohabitation with its city, Mayor Villaraigosa, the LAPD, but it's hard to debunk the stigmas that the Occupy movement has earned. The movement garnered 1000+ supporters while hundreds of police officers cleared the streets, but for the cynics that see the scene as a bunch of hippies that brought Coachella to City hall -- they're kinda right.
Within this haven of moral crusaders there are oscillating feelings of empowerment and desperation. What makes it all intriguing is how people who had previously shied away from politics suddenly find it imperative to stay abreast of current events and even shape them, while on the outside looking in, many politicos have felt pretty agnostic, disengaged with Occupy's approach.
To quote the original Gonzo journalist, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
The encampment features a library, daycare center, sanitation crews, and a biweekly publication. No one goes hungry (if you count ramen as food). The community decides how to spend money raised (currently there's a considerable surplus). In a pre-post-apocalyptic way, this micro-society has been erected and growing more polished and independently functional: Democracy in action, defiance in motion.
The naysayers that say that there is no "unified message" and don't know "what they are asking for" haven't taken the time to digest the scene. This is what mid-60s protests would look like in the digital age. Getting drafted to fight in somebody else's civil war was a much more direct issue to contend with -- the symbol Occupy presently lacks.
Today's America is finding its way to acknowledge a hungry workforce angry at what appear to be insurmountable odds. Too many have became aware that the deck is stacked and the dealer is a crook -- and it's not just here. The world's youth, connected as never before, are dissatisfied with their economic inheritance. Debt on debt on debt, yet pre-approved for a new AMEX card. No wonder some of the best and brightest romanticize about going AWOL. The 600 strong at OccupyLA are giving it one last shot -- it appears, for some, their swan song.
Those who have garrisoned themselves beside City Hall each have their own private reasons for doing so. But what they have in common is that they know what the essential problem is: power has been used selfishly. No one in power really speaks about the "common good" anymore -- perhaps because it seems so elusive that it is no longer even practical to project a government, let alone corporate, policy so inclined. The occupiers are trying to raise awareness. That is their clearest message. They don't have simple demands or simple solutions. It was easier, in a way, to shout "Get Out of Vietnam!" It's the job of today's elected representatives to figure out concrete solutions. Because it's really friggin' complicated.
The people who are out there protesting wish to open channels of communication with their governments. It's not a fringe movement or a novel idea. But it is unequivocally American. A rally cry from the bottom up, and really a spectacle to see.
What this cause is missing are the professionals who can translate reason into a message government will be forced to respond to. The movement needs a few astute McGuyvers to look around the encampment and unearth the tools that will add political muscle to the human resource that already exists. Because the protesters aren't yet getting through to the right folks.
That said, what this cause does not need now is a professional mindset. Its charm and its motive power comes from the fact that it's rough around the edges - so domesticating it under one roof completely reshapes the movement. It is a pivotal time for Occupy: when city hall inevitably gets its clean lawn, these activists will need to establish a new platform to channel their energy and raise awareness.
At Occupy, weird or pro, help wanted.