Occupation of Wall Street- going from strength to strength

October 16, 2011 5:55 am Published by Leave your thoughts

“I’ll believe the corporations are people when Georgia executes one.” This forceful statement appeared on a large hand-made sign displayed by an ‘Occupy DC’ demonstrator, conjuring the hero-martyr Troy Davis.

Signs made and displayed in the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement, like the movement itself, are a long-awaited confluence of art and political action. Judith Malina, co-founder of New York’s Living Theater who once spent a month in a jail cell with Dorothy Day after being arrested for civil disobedience, said at the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Washington Square Park last Sunday: “I’ve been waiting all my life for this.” (Judith is eighty-five.) America’s political poet Allen Ginsberg, who sold the manuscript of his poem ‘Kaddish’ to pay for a Living Theater tour, said that a single line of poetry can liberate a city a thousand miles or years away.

The great battle is for our collective mind: a battle to freely imagine peace on earth, a stop to global warming and nuclear proliferation, a more equal distribution of resources, a stop to torture and war, free health care and education for all. The weapons of a non-violent populist movement are, naturally enough, those of the imagination – art, poetry, theater, and steadfast on site meditation. Gandhi taught us that if we can imagine it, we can have it.

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are forbidden electronic voice amplification. In response to this silly dictum, the demonstrators, phrase by phrase, amplify a speaker’s voice with the voices of many. The effect is hauntingly dramatic – the voice of one echoed by the voices of all. Hearing this wonderful echoing, I’m transported back to Greenwich Village in the 60’s when we at the Open Theater were making political plays like ‘The Serpent’, exploring vocal techniques to discover God’s voice.

Earlier this week on Christopher Street, at the memorial for gay activist playwright Doric Wilson, I was struck by how Doric’s daring theatrical pro gay stance and his presence at Stonewall are intimately related to Occupy Wall Street. Generation unto generation -an ongoing fight. We must stand fast, continue to occupy all our streets non violently, artfully, with the moral authority of an outraged humanity.

Police attacking and arresting, as they did last night in Occupy Boston, will work to the detriment of established power. Just as American attacks in Afghanistan cause outrage and enmity toward America, so police attacks on Occupy Wall Street demonstrators inspires more demonstrators.

Occupy Wall Street is an amazing movement. Like Judith Malina, I’m glad to be alive to see it. People from many countries, of different classes, occupations, ages, backgrounds, and races join together to march, sing, and live together on small patches of urban land, reclaiming for humans what has been co-opted by the corporations.

Relying on social media for planning and organization, Occupy Wall Street is inclusive, not exclusive. It appears leaderless – a great strength in a celebrity-driven society where ordinary people don’t seem to count. By not yet identifying leaders to be elected, or congressional bills to be passed, a burgeoning movement for good remains outside a corrupted system. A hydra with many heads is immune to decapitation. We are all Troy Davis.

So how will change finally be effected? We don’t need to know that yet. How something like a single line of poetry brings down a whole corrupt system will reveal itself. We know it has to do with the unbeatable force of public opinion, with the growth of human imagination, and our steadfast ability to envision a better world.


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This post was written by Jean Claude van Itallie

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