Song for Occupations

For three years since the bailout of the banks—with each year’s news of record profits and bonuses; with the failed re-regulation in Dodd-Frank; with the revelations of the Fed’s hiding other bailout lending programs; with the spectacle of politicians taking banking and lobbying jobs before and after serving the public; with the banks’ donations to campaigns; with each instance of Obama’s economic continuity with Bush and Clinton—it crossed our mind, Why doesn’t somebody just go and stand on Wall Street? Until someone from the press asks, “Why are you standing here?

It probably crossed many Americans’ minds.

But then the voice of conscience would whisper, “Why don’t you go and stand there, coward?”

And our cowardly answer had been, We’re waiting for someone else to start it.


The first time we saw Zuccotti Park, on September 17, our heart sank. There were maybe two or three hundred people. We came that day because all summer the Adbusters website, then many others, had been saying that all the angry people of the nation were going to descend on Wall Street and be heard. We thought there would be at least a thousand of us.

A few hundred proved to be enough to start things. It was only the first day.


The first few times we went to Zuccotti we didn’t run into anyone we knew. This was disconcerting. And then, gradually, we met more people, and ran into them. Gradually, too, we started running into the people we’d known before. They’d been there all along. We just hadn’t been going often enough.


The first two weeks, the only people we saw at Zuccotti Park, besides the friends we’d planned to meet, were interns. Funny to think of them as an emerging demographic category. But they were interns, undeniably: people we knew as interns at magazines, interns at websites, young people who could write, artists who couldn’t find jobs commensurate with their talents. A few who’d struggled up to assistant this or that.

We wondered, as we strolled around ugly, slanting, paved, tiny Zuccotti, which under other circumstances we never would have agreed to dignify with the honorable name of “park,” where were the pundits, the adults, the ones who speak on panels, who opinionate on blogs, who go on TV and say what’s going to happen? None of them in evidence. Just their interns.

Lots of students, too, past and present. The fall semester started just before OWS did, and it took a little while to figure out who in our classes, if they were absent, might have been arrested.

More from Issue 13

Issue 13 Machine Politics

At its inception, the movement was both inarticulate and surpassingly eloquent, in the way of a cry of pain.

Issue 13 Machine Politics

Laws, courts, the forming of States, the charters of cities, the going and coming of commerce and malls, are all for you.

Issue 13 Machine Politics
Raise the Crime Rate
Issue 13 Machine Politics

Lvovsky is a good poet. But how do I know he’s an original poet, a new poet?

Issue 13 Machine Politics
Issue 13 Machine Politics

Docuscope had passed the test. Was it the only program that could do so?

Issue 13 Machine Politics
Issue 13 Machine Politics

Computers are near-omnipotent cauldrons of processing power, but they’re also stupid.

Issue 13 Machine Politics
Issue 13 Machine Politics

Duly initiated in sock videos, artists graduate to a handful of galleries, where their advanced degrees reassure collectors.

Issue 13 Machine Politics

These girls seemed immune to New York’s damning seasons, which always threaten to expose one’s tax bracket, especially if it…

Issue 13 Machine Politics

Any translation by nature opens itself to an eternity of learned kibitzing.

More by this Author

Issue 29 Bottoms Up
December 15, 2009

Earlier this fall, as part of its “New New York Intellectuals” series at Eugene Lang College, n+1 hosted a discussion with young…

Issue 14 Awkward Age

Big Baby may be reading Birther apocalyptic conspiracy tracts, but at least he’s reading.

Issue 6 Mainstream

Canons in daily life just demarcate the books you can count on other people feeling comfortable about in conversation.

Issue 15 Amnesty

The internet, we mean women, never pays for its content—or for their drinks!

Issue 7 Correction

Forgive me for so crassly responding to your piece by finding myself in it. But somehow I feel invited to!