We drove into Manhattan on yet another sizzling day for the “Yours In Debt!” debut and the first thing we saw was a Banksy mural on the Lower East Side, which seemed like a good omen. Then I got a big piece of red felt at a fabric store to make red squares for ten bucks, even better.
The Lower East Side has so changed. A lifetime ago I used to come down to Delancey to get salsa records when I was a DJ. Chi-chi it was not but it had a great vibe and I still have some of those records. Now there’s an organic juice place on every corner–the one opposite where we are working on Suffolk has the most expensive juice I’ve ever seen. It’s good–but $9 for a small container? The old jewish shop signs still survive but under them there are art galleries, hat shops, feminist sex toy stores and all the other paraphrenalia of hipsterdom.
I’ll write something about the content of the piece later but for now I’ll just reflect on this performance of Occupy. Last September and October, the performance was all about process, the mechanics of direct democracy. For those of us who had not had much experience of the global justice movement it was at once fascinating and liberating. OWS was about everything it seemed.
There’s less simple optimism now but more purpose. I was moved to see the front row of the performance filled with Strike Debt comrades, who have all heard me say this stuff before and anyway know just as much about it. When the lights came up I was somewhat embarrassed–and also delighted– to see David Graeber sitting right in the back, as is his wont. My role in the performance is The Expert, who talks about debt. So it was a little bizarre realize that I had done it in front of the real expert in the field.
Sometimes people say Occupy is inward-looking and perhaps there’s some truth to that, as there is in any organization. There’s also real solidarity, as I saw tonight watching people leave in sweat-drenched shirts from the black box space, whose low-rent A/C was not up to the challenge of 95 degrees.
It’ll be interesting to see if events like these and the direction taken over this summer mark a turn to Occupy having a clearer sense of its political targets and self-identity. These will probably be needed if the watch-words “disperse/strike” are to have purpose. Can Occupy consense to consense? So far, I’d say yes.