The Beginning Is Near

Maybe it’s my age [and no, I’m not telling] but I find great promise is those four words scrawled on a makeshift sign.


I’m sure–in fact, I know–there are others of my generation [Boomers] who look at the Occupy Wall St. [OWS] Movement, read the signs and scratch their heads.  Or more likely they criticize the primarily young protesters as naïve, idealistic, disorganized, wanting something for nothing. Why don’t they just get a job? many say.

These reactions miss the point, as far as I’m concerned.  These youngsters want something all right.  They want their futures.  They want to control their own destinies with a measure of integrity, a sense of possibility rather than bending to the yoke of a failing system, one that only works for those on the top of the heap.  The statistics are there for everyone to read. No mystery! Wages of ordinary Americans have been stagnant, while the rich have become richer than Midas.  Jobs have been sent willy-nilly beyond our shores but the trade-off  [we’ve been told numerous times] are cheap consumer goods, the more the better. 

He who has the most stuff wins.  Many people bought into that.  For a while.

Throw in 9/11, multiple wars, massive unemployment, rising health care costs, climate-related weather events, the negligence in the Gulf of Mexico, etc. and the shine has definitely come off the latest gadgets and toys.  As an electorate, we’ve had a slap upside the head.

What I find astounding is people blaming this particular group—the OWS protesters, primarily the Millennials–for what is clearly our responsibility, a product of our refusal to hold our politicians accountable and demand justice–a return to the Rule of Law–instead of foisting the unpleasant, annoying task on our children [or grandchildren, as the case may be]. We’re the ones who bought into the Big Lie. Or worse, pretended it didn’t exist. These young students and 20-somethings had no hand in what we watched and allowed to develop.

The kids are making us look bad. They’ve endured dismissal, ridicule, concrete beds and lousy weather.  And they’re called the slackers?

Nor should we forget that Boomers are running things right now.  Our generation sits in the halls of Congress and refuses to pass legislation to put the country back to work.  Boomers sit in the offices of the White House and pretend to hold a populist agenda, while doing the bidding of their monied benefactors.  They sit on the Supreme Court and try to convince us that corporations = personhood.  And they certainly populate Corporate America and Wall St., where repeated decisions and deals have been made to maximize profits at the expense of ordinary citizens.  Not all Boomers, of course.  But our generation is well represented in the lever pushing–the Make Love Not War crowd.  Time to own it.

But even if we’re far, far removed from the corridors of power, just living our lives, I would suggest quiet acquiescence of the status quo isn’t working either.  Hello, Boomers.  The confidence fairy that has been running [ruining] our financial system will not be coming to spread pixie dust over the wreckage and make things right.

Not going to happen. And the young?  They see right through it.

For over thirty years, corporate greed has grown, metastasized to the point that nothing is sacred—not the health or education of our people, not the environment [on which we depend to exist], not our principles of equal opportunity, not even our insistence that The Rule of Law is imperative for our Democratic Republic to survive. 

And what was the trade? Constant debates that American health care is the best in the world without adding the qualification: only if you can afford it.  The refusal to admit that the decreasing quality of our primary and secondary educational systems condemns many of our citizens to poverty and the staggering increase in university tuition costs and subsequent debt saddles our college graduates to years of unmanageable debt.  The reckless and short-sighted risk-to-wreckage of our environment be it through fracking or drilling or proposed tar sand pipelines, while we turn up our noses to promoting and supporting green technology. The cruel pretense that all our citizens start off on a ‘level-playing’ field, while the evidence of privilege and influence-driven access to favors are as acute now as during the Gilded Age.  The unwillingness to investigate and prosecute those involved in the biggest heist in history, the very same financiers and corporate bigwigs, who continue to exert control over our political system. 

Two years ago, Dick Durbin stood before Congress and said: The banks own the joint.

We should have listened or turned up our hearing aides.  Because sadly, the man spoke the truth. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil is not a strategy for the future.  It’s unsustainable.

So, when I look at the live streams of the cross-country demonstrations, read the twitter feeds, I don’t think slackers.  I think of a generation who has said what we, the grownups, should have said quite some time ago: Enough is enough.  Or as Bill Moyers said recently: “People are occupying Wall St. because Wall St has occupied the country.”

Yesterday, between 7 to 10,000 people took part in a general strike in Oakland.  They shut down the port of Oakland, a major access for Chinese goods, the 5th busiest port in the country.  Local businesses shut down in support of the effort.  To its credit, the protest has remained remarkably peaceful although early morning reports indicate that violence did break out before sunrise. Unfortunately, the authorities in Oakland nearly cost the life last week of a young Marine vet, Scott Olsen.  Discontent can have consequences.

But attitudes are shifting and changing. Voices are being heard.

Last April with little fanfare, Joseph Stiglitz stated in a Vanity Fair article:

“The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.”

Since the Occupy Movement started, this sentiment has been echoed, magnified:

On October 22, Noam Chomsky gave a speech on Dewey Square in Boston and said:

“I’ve never seen anything quite like the Occupy movement in scale and character, here and worldwide. The Occupy outposts are trying to create cooperative communities that just might be the basis for the kinds of lasting organizations necessary to overcome the barriers ahead and the backlash that’s already coming.”

At Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford recently wrote:

“There comes a time of awakening. We are now in that time – although some Black folks are not yet awake. Our job is to wake our people up, so that we don’t sleep through this moment.

The young people that began this Occupation Movement less than two months ago are not “us,” but they have done all of us a great service. They have shouted out the name and address of the enemy – the enemy of all humanity. The enemy’s name is Finance Capital, and the address is Wall Street, and that is the truth.”

Chris Hedges recently stated on Truthdig radio:

“But this is a widespread movement; it’s decentralized; it takes on its own coloring and characteristics, depending on the city that it’s in; and so there will be, you know—as you point out, I mean, movements are by their very nature messy and make steps forward and steps back. But I think that there is a resiliency to this movement because it articulates a fundamental truth of inequality that hits the majority of American citizens.”

Even House Speaker John Boehner remarked in a recent speech at the University of Louisville:

“I understand people’s frustrations,” he said. “The economy is not producing jobs like they want and there’s lot of erosion of confidence in our government and frankly, under the First Amendment, people have the right to speak out … but that doesn’t mean they have the permission to violate the law.”

Hey, it’s a start.  Certainly better than designating OWS as ‘The Mob.’

People are rousing from their long, restless slumber. The conversations have begun and are different from what we’ve heard or read before.  The protesters persist. They march, they endure.

The Beginning is Near.

27 Comments on “The Beginning Is Near”

  1. ralphb says:

    Thank you for this fine post. It’s brilliant and I love it. Why everyone cannot see OWS as working in their best interest is simply beyond me. As a boomer, we should either lead, follow, or get out of the way.

    • Peggy Sue says:

      I think you’re right, ralph. Particularly the ‘get out of the way’ if you haven’t anything positive to offer. This is the Movement we’ve been waiting for, so I’ve got my fingers, toes and eyes crossed. Chris Hedges has referred to it as our last, best hope. Personally? I think the man is right.

    • Peggy Sue says:

      Thanks, Minx. And I did hear about the two people run down. I hope the details I heard are ‘not’ true–that the driver was annoyed by the crowds in the street??? So, he simply hit the gas pedal. And then, the police let him go?

      This would not be good.

    • Woman Voter says:

      Hearing about that was upsetting, and the varying reports didn’t help matters. I haven’t seen an updates on their conditions or their ages/names. I hope they are doing better today.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Great post, Peg. Very well thought out and well written.

    I only have one complaint. I guess this is just a pet peeve with me, but I dislike generalizations based on population cohort. I hated it when Obama attacked boomers in 2008, and I don’t like it when I see millenials characterized as overly narcissistic and demanding employees. While age cohorts do share some experiences, that doesn’t mean they all think alike or act alike.

    I’m not going to take responsiblity for what Bush did just because he was born around the same time I was. Back in the day, I was marching and protesting against the war and against injustice, Bush wasn’t. In fact, only a minority of boomers protested against the war. And there were lots of older people involved in those demonstrations too! But we did make a difference.

    And in fact, only a minority of boomers are rich or running the government. Baby boomers as a group have not surpassed our parents’ generation in terms of moving up the ladder economically. That’s because in the ’50s and ’60s, the economy was growing by leaps and bounds, but by 1973, we were struggling. I was only in my 20s in 1973, and I’m at the leading edge of the baby boom. Look up the stats on what has happened to real income since the ’70s.

    I always knew that it would take young people to get a real resistance going. They have the energy that we had in the ’60s. They are also building on what we did back then and learning from people our age and even older. Just look how they have shown respect to people like Noam Chomsky and Pete Seeger.

    My point is that this isn’t about generational divides. It’s about whether people see this country as a place of opportunity for all people–or just for the top 1%. I agree with you that we need to support the actions of these young people, and from what I’ve read, there are many baby boomers participating in the occupy movement. But as a generation, we are too old to carry the burden alone. We needed these young people to step up. And they did. Thank goodness!

    • Thursday's Child says:

      Agreed! I’m so glad you said all that, because then I would have had to attempt it myself and I have difficulty expressing myself in writing sometimes.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I meant to add that I never lost my hippie sensibilities either. I still believe in peace and love and understanding. LOL

      • Woman Voter says:


        I must say I noticed a difference and that is that this generation marches and marches and marches, or is it my age…boy when I got to the port bridge I had to rest…they were on their third round about in the marching. Good thing they were handing out water, to the masses that were marching…

        I loved all the flags with the varying messages and the family atmosphere which was a vast cross sections of the generations 0-80s (babies in strollers to seniors in wheel chairs). I will keep the sea of people with their peaceful message in my mind, and not a group of 20 to 70 that caused trouble after the march was declared over ( I left at 11pm and it was still peaceful). The violent anarchist need to see that PEACE has nothing to do with violence and that the marchers have nothing to do with their violence, because we are PEACEFUL.

        It was refreshing to see the truckers give their support to the marchers via toots and honks and smiles as we marched past them and their rigs. Peaceful protests are the way to support Occupy Oakland and Occupy Wall Street movements and don’t let people tell you we were violent, we weren’t (Estimates are 7-15,000 thousand marchers were present in Oakland for the General Strike).

    • Peggy Sue says:

      I’m really not trying to pick on the Boomers, BB. I am one :0) And you’re quite right that not all Boomers have been passive or are pulling those levers that affect us all. But a lot are, and I think we need to acknowledge that, instead of pointing to the younger generations behind us and sticking them with the easy, unattractive labels that have been swirling around–slackers, bums, spoiled brats, people who want free stuff. Don’t mean to suggest people here have taken that angle. But I’m reading an awful lot of that elsewhere.

      There’s no question that Boomers have gotten a bad rap over the years. Some of it deserved but a lot of it not. I get annoyed when the kneejerk reaction is to blame ‘everything’ on the Boomers. Because as Billy Joel sang out [another Boomer]: We Didn’t Start the Fire.

      What I find encouraging about this particular movement is that it’s open enough to include everyone. It speaks a multi-generational language, broad enough to include a real crosscut of America. There are critics who say that is a problem–it’s too loosey-goosey, not winnowed down enough. But to me, it makes perfectly good sense because the fallout is affecting us all–the young, the middle-age, the seniors, white, black, brown, the sick, the well, women and men and all political persuations. We’re all crammed onto this boat together. For better or worse, our fates are linked.

      Btw, I absolutely know what you’re talking about in terms of stagnant wages since the 70s. It’s not pretty. And there’s no way to justify it. A particular stat that really horrified me was from American Prospect that since 2000 alone over 42,000 factories had closed in the US. That was as of December 2009 with another 90,000 manufacturing businesses at risk of going bankrupt at that particular time. Then you have to consider all the ancillary businesses that have no customers, shut down–more unemployment. And again, I hear the labling going on nonstop about the long-term unemployed–parasites, moochers, lazy.

      So, sorry if I wasn’t clear on that. Not trying to bust on my fellow Boomers. Just shake some of them awake.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I know you weren’t trying to pick on anyone, Peggy Sue. The thing is, divide and conquer works–whether it’s male vs. female, liberal vs. conservative Dem, or generation xyz vs. generation abc. Obviously the majority of any generation is not going to be made up of activists. But those of us who care need to stick together and keep remembering that we’re all in this together. United we stand, divided we fall.

      • Thursday's Child says:

        Just trying to think, haven’t drawn any conclusions. You said divide and conquer works, true enough, and mentioned various divisions you consider spurious, but not black vs. white. I’m not sure why that is. I have noticed the OWS crowd appears mostly white and googled to see if I could find any commentary on that. DKos says they don’t think OWS is too white as the movement mirrors the national demographic of approximately 12% black. That may be so, but I know for a fact that New York City does not mirror that national demographic. There is a much higher percentage of blacks and Puerto Ricans in NYC than nationally, but the NYC OWS crowd still looks largely white. Don’t know yet what to make of that.

  3. ralphb says:

    McClatchy: There’s many a gray head in Occupy Wall Street crowd

    NEW YORK — Vince Taylor doesn’t fit the stereotype of unkempt twentysomething protesters at the Occupy Wall Street site in Manhattan, which was clear from the homemade canvas sign he held there.

    It read: “75 AND DISGUSTED.”

    Taylor, a retired economist with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, flew across the country last Friday from his home in Mendocino, Calif., to join the Occupy Wall Street protest.

    “I thought it’s important that people recognize that there are a lot of very thoughtful people in this country that identify with the Occupy Wall Street people,” Taylor said. Like many of his fellow protesters, Taylor said he was concerned with income inequality in America and corporate influence in Congress.

  4. ralphb says:

    2012: There is Only One Cure

    There are many elements of change.

    This is a tough one for the Oligarchs. Really. I can’t imagine their contingency plans, and all their think tanks could have come up with this. They expected the riots of 66 and 68, or perhaps they envisioned a charismatic leader who they could discredit. Or assassinate.

    Leaderless. Peaceful. Powerful. Old. Young. Right wing. Left wing. Centrists. Black. Latino. White. Asian. Straight. Gay. Military. Anti-war. Blue collar. White collar.

    Most of all? Numerous. Really f*cking numerous.

    And this, my dears, is the tip of the iceberg.

    • bostonboomer says:

      They have the guns, but we have the numbers!!

    • Peggy Sue says:

      “And this, my dears, is the tip of the iceberg.”

      And ‘that’ I think is absolutely true and is a definite strength. As Hedges has said you can’t decapitate a movement when it has no leader, when everyone is the leader. The opposition cannot outwit a strategy that is evolving in the moment. And then there’s the growing numbers.

      We shall see. The real challenge will be keeping it peaceful. But I’m really impressed how peaceful things have been so far. That takes a lot of self-restraint. But that’s the winning ingredient.

    • bostonboomer says:

      More from Ralph’s link:

      The stressors that have caused our rising to the streets all have a common base, indeed. Old to young, we are in dire economic straights, even thought the manifestations of our complaints are as varied as our racial, religious, political and personal views are.

      They cannot blame hippies. They cannot blame people of color. They cannot blame students. They cannot blame veterans as Un-American traitors. There are no easy targets. They cannot blame the youth, when Grandparents without Health Care are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Middle-aged unemployed and those with new PHD’s and no work.

      Oh, there are individuals and even groups with valid complaints that still feel isolated or slighted by the movement. There is irony, indeed in the fact that once white-bread middle class has begun to suffer the conditions people of color have endured for centuries, suddenly we give a damn. But I think the streets themselves will fix that.

      We are first and foremost citizens that live in the United States whose voices and means of living an unmolested, stable future have been stripped of us.

  5. Beata says:

    My brother, who is in his late 50’s, has been to several Occupy marches and rallies here. We live in a midwestern university town. He reported to me that most of the local protesters are not students; they are middle-aged. Many of them are union members. Others are long-term unemployed who fear they willl never get another job again. There are quite a few senior citizens as well. The university student Occupy group is just beginning to organize here and there are plans for them to unite with the already established local Occupy group. This movement is big. It is diverse. It is growing. And it is not going away. Ignore reports to the contrary.

    • Woman Voter says:

      In Occupy Oakland General Strike the greater number were young people, many in skate board, bikes, and other modes of transport (one wheel, several wheels and some odd things), but there were older people too.