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The Occupation of My Heart

October 18, 2011

I need to talk about the past, and what to do about it. Because it haunts me like a friendly ghost, a gorgeous mirage, and like a siren song…with both meanings of siren.

Sixties nostalgia has always occupied my heart. The old joke for people like me back in the 70s was, Don’t worry, the 60’s will come around again — in about 100 years.

Turns out it’s only taken half that time.

When I rode the A train up to Times Square last Saturday to answer the call to “occupy” it, I found myself out on the streets doing something I hadn’t done in decades.

I quickly found myself taken by the sheer magnitude and vitality of what I saw: Fifteen thousand people, there as if they were hand in hand with other thousands who were also out in the streets on this same day in 60 countries around the world.

I looked around me and thought — where in heaven’s name did all these people come from?!



These kids chanting political slogans and holding up signs…I never knew there were so many politically minded young people around! Had they always been there? I mean, the campuses have been quiet a long, long time. It’s as if a seed that’s been growing for years is suddenly breaking ground. I was startled and inspired.

What Occupy is doing for me is refreshing some of my most precious memories…memories of being suddenly swept away with others in an adrenalin flash flood of What If We All Really Got Together?!  There is a wave of hope, change, possibility, and, whether you ride it or stand against it, everybody gets wet.

For anyone who wants now, this can be an I’m-Really-Not-Alone revolution. Living it adds a spark to daily life, because instead of passively feeling, as many do,  like history’s lonely victim, now you feel like history is something you can be a part of; and that you can do something that actually seems to matter, and that’s bigger than just you. Suddenly, you have the sense that, as Martin Dagoberto says in his recent piece on  “We are quickly heading to a choice point, where our thoughts and intentions as a group are having an increasing impact” on the human family. 

Because you get in your kishkas that change is far too important now to be left to politicians.

Back in the day, I was a part of it, and felt a kind of profound belonging I haven’t felt before or since. “I seek to be a cog in something turning” as Joni Mitchell wrote in her song Woodstock. When the wave of the counter culture washed over my town in the mid 60s I rode it for all it was worth for ten years. I had a taste of what life could be like when lived large like that, and a part of me has been waiting for that wave to come around again ever since.

So I found myself compelled to join in last Saturday, albeit with, to tell the truth, a touch of wariness. And here’s where my (and our) memories may be useful. Because fighting the plagues of the mainstream culture back in the day, we radicals caught every disease we did battle with. Many of us were racist (anti white); sexist (anti male); heterophobic. We hated the haters, and we wanted to kill the killers. We met the closed mindedness of the majority of Americans with a mirror image depicting our own orthodox fundamentalist dogmatism.

The political alternative many of us were promoting – Communism, would within 20 years be shaken off as an oppressive yoke by millions of freedom-hungry people –the “Occupiers” of their day.

What were we thinking? Were we thinking?

Looking back from our vantage point now, however, perhaps the 60s were “only the fitful dreams of a greater awakening,” as Jackson Browne put it.

And right now, I find myself drawn in to what’s happening. The movement, if one could call it that, has an innocence and purity and grass roots spirit that to me is like a precious infant, full of wonder and wondrous to behold. I don’t want them to lose their innocence, as I know they will, when The Empire strikes back.

So I fear for them. But in the meantime, my heart’s occupation is to nurture this flame much like others and I have been doing by keeping the faith all these years.  

This movement – maybe it’s more like an eruption – needs guidance, lest, like an infant, it falls on its face, or over a cliff. Or gets stomped on. So I feel protective, and want to impart my generation’s hard-earned lessons.

But maybe what I’m lacking here is the humility to recognize that this baby has something to teach us old codgers as well: What babies always teach us: How to be happy, and open, and even (dare I say it?) optimistic.

Listen to this: My old dear friend and 60s roommate Russell (we got gassed together at a Fort Dix demo in 1970) who now embraces the Tea Party and especially Ron Paul, wrote…  

“So glad to hear you were at the protest! I am sympathetic to this movement…you can see and feel that it is made up of ‘We The People’…There really are things that the Right, the Left, and the Middle can all agree on:…ending government bailouts of millionaire bankers (using tax-payer money)…and ending the wars!…this is, indeed, a 360-degree protest!…Perhaps we will man the barricades again, together (I’ll be just to your right)”.

And here’s another cause for optimism — the fact that this is everywhere! Because just as the corporations and the market economy has been globalized, so now has the rebellion.

And this rebellion, and the urgent boomer aspiration to make a better world, has been camping out and occupying a corner of my heart all my adult life. -And yes, you could say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, now, am I?



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7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 18, 2011 11:34 am

    Hey Charlie, yes it is good to see that which is unnaceptable in the status quo challenged by MANY. My fear is as you said differently, deja vu all over again. To be more specific, that this challenge will be followed by an even greater backlash from the far right, just as happened after the 60’s and early 70’s when the ground was prepared for the Regan revolution and its aftermath, which we are now experiecing. To not fall into the same trap, the movement will need to better understand the nature of the trap so that new better ideas can rule society. We cannot just ask for this policy or that. If the eroneous economic and corporate legal and their relationship to political structures, which are the driving forces behind that which is destroying our economy and standard of living are not changed then we will not make significant change. Below are 2 links to interviews that begin to look at the underlying, but unstated causes.

    Keep it up my friend!

  2. October 18, 2011 3:39 pm

    Hell, yes!

  3. david abramowitz permalink
    October 18, 2011 4:02 pm

    You’re a fool, you know, but I love it!

  4. Laurie Yankowitz permalink
    October 18, 2011 4:41 pm

    You wove an impressive number of thought streams together for a fine, 3-D post!!!

    Power to the people,


  5. October 18, 2011 9:04 pm

    YES! Very exciting movement and I only wish I could have been there at Times Square. “We are the ones we have been waiting for…” It will be interesting to see how and if leaderships and clear agendas form out of this- and how we can truly impact the future- for ourselves and the next generations.. But for now, the wave is building up momentum- ABOUT TIME!

  6. Ed D'Angelo permalink
    October 18, 2011 11:03 pm

    Thanks for this, Charley. I can’t agree with the media that this movement lacks focus or organization. It’s highly organized–just read the minutes of their general assemblies. It’s organization without leaders– something anarchists have been talking about for almost two centuries. As for focus, there’s a central message that’s simple and clear: there’s too much economic inequality, the 1 % have too much wealth and power. What’s not to understand? A mass movement can’t formulate specific policy, it can however provide an agenda, and it has.

  7. murray permalink
    October 21, 2011 1:08 am

    Just as Tunisians, Egyptians and now Libyans have awakened to the chaos and uncertainty in their future, young and older Americans, Tea Party adherents and Wall Street Occupiers are crying out for real change and accountability. Both strains of our political spectrum see a future for their children and grandchildren lessened and are lashing out at POWER. Maybe, there is more in common than they realize.

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