So I've kind of been following the 'Occupy Wall Street' thing and then the 'Occupy Cleveland' thing, and of course the whole 'Arab Spring' along with my preferred mix of geopolitical ephemerals and the local machinations.
Given that we haven't darkthroned through the city in a little while and the weather was favorable, we decided to amble down to the Free Stamp (which is an ugly piece of public art by the way) and observe the protestations against the Man in the park with the Free Stamp across from the federal building.
I saw protests every other week when I lived in Kent during the Bush years and this was more or less the same thing. Abstract slogans directed against big abstract entities, acoustic guitars, bongos, signs, people just kind of hanging around, people that I know but not really well. Slogans about coming together and changing things and people cheering and instead of feeling thrilled about the possibility of a better world, I realize once again that I just can't believe in it, much in the way I'm sure that my friends are bemused by my embrace of so-called "organized religion."
Having been immersed in reading history among other things recently, I really don't feel like anyone has solutions. Every revolution begins idealistically with flowers and hugs and celebrations, but there are the inevitable power struggles that follow, the old guard and structures of corruption find ways to assimilate within a new framework, and things get ugly and violent because ultimately the same structures that cause suffering will continue to exist. We say we won't get fooled again, but meet the new boss same as the old boss.
I feel old too, and I feel like I look like an undercover cop or something because I'm in my work clothes and so is Randal, even if we're not corporatistas. I wonder if I'm defanged because of my working-stiff-ness but I was just as cynical about this stuff as an equally naive college kid even then, before I really had to deal with unions and overlords and feel like a pawn in the class wars of the boomers.
It's hard for me to take people with an anticapitalist/anticorporate stance seriously when they're texting on their iPhones made with metals from war-torn countries by a big corporation and posting updates to Facebook. Adbusters had some degree of subcultural cool when I was 16 before I realized that they're just marketing a whole other meaningless brand, not to mention that they make their non-brand shoes in China too. I don't want Kalle Lasn running my country any more than I want Barack Obama or Random Republican or whoever. There's a lust for power and control over minds I see there that I find disturbing as well, the kind of thing that draws in disaffected youth and makes them feel enlightened and part of something.
Last time I checked, the drug war was still going on, a whole lot of countries are getting predator droned and we're still in Afghanistan and shady CIA business is still going on. But money talks and those without the scratch are ultimately voiceless until the lives of those in power are threatened. I fear the angry mob just as much as the powers that be. People who think too much are screwed either way.
And I'm looking at the Key Tower, at the Cleveland School District Headquarters, the Municipal Courthouse to the north, and thinking about how if we were really going to raise hell about something, it shouldn't be this abstract raging against the corporate machine, but against the bureaucracy and the unofficial power structure that have screwed over this city with blatant chutzpah for the last forty years. Start local and work your way out. There's plenty of bad to go around in this city within the party machine alone.
Raise some hell about the RTA or the corporate welfare to sports team owners or the Cleveland Clinic not treating the people who live across the street or the slum landlords or the corrupt bureaucracy that keeps anything from getting done or the schools that disenfranchise generations of kids or the gouging by the Water Department.
But wait, that would involve actually having to do something instead of caring a lot.