Sunday, December 4, 2011

reflections on a visit to Zuccotti Park

At about 2 p.m. on Nomember 28, 2011, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, where construction of the Freedom Tower continues in earnest, I come upon a small barricaded and heavily guarded patch of concrete ironically decked with Christmas cheer. There number of cops is wildly disproportionate to the number of activists here, with a profusion of crowd monitoring and control devices no doubt poised to quickly detect and disperse any possible resurgence or flash mob. It is immediately clear to me that Zuccotti Park will never again be occupied, at least in the way it once was by Occupy Wall Street. The site is now fully occupied by the rank and file cops, who seem utterly jaded, almost disinterested in their total domination of the scene. Nothing occurs here that is not within their purview, yet they too have no coherent message or demands, and offer no solutions to the sufferings and injustices of the day.  

I sense an air of desperation among the activists who congregate here daily and are evicted nightly. I hear hoarse, half-hearted, routinized voices at the mic check. The few folks holding signs at the barricade are full of strident invectives, but are largely ignored by passers-by. I feel that these remaining occupiers cling to an exhausted meme, one that the authorities at the site clearly have no intention of allowing to be rejuvenated. I am hopeful that they will soon let go of the occupation tactic in favor of advancing a larger strategy through the myriad creative ways that would otherwise be available to them.  

Simultaneously, I experience the activities of the activists as an irrepressible force of change, even if these activities are not dependent upon their holding ground at Zuccotti. I witness them continuing to bring into being the change they wish to see in the world through the comfort working group, free empathy, communal cigarettes, and persistent kindness. The group activities are nuclear (in the familial sense), inwardly nurturing, hunkered and, unfortunately due to cage-like barricades on all sides, insular. But they are also ultimately hopeful and triumphant, like a forgone conclusion.  

The thick crowds of people present on every other patch of public space in this bustling downtown area are ominously absent from Zuccotti, as if a pall had been cast over the plaza. Something momentous happened here. I can feel the historical rift, like what can be felt at North Bridge in Concord or at Auschwitz, or more positively, in old Firenze. I sense a distinctly uncomfortable field emanating from this rift at ground zero. It is driving a mass awakening to the slow-motion ecological and humanitarian catastrophe being wreaked by modern society, and to the bitter, stultifying, not-so-subtle overtones of an emerging militarized state. And in the midst of this damnation I see the germination of the kernel of the solution, striking the perfect balance. 

Meanwhile the sad and lonely Christmas tree pleads for a return to business as usual. But alas, awakening is permanent, irreversible. The arrow of time stubbornly continues to point toward the future, and the cosmos remain steadfastly indifferent.