Now in their second week, the Occupy Wall Street protests haven't gained much direction, but they've certainly been gaining more attention. It's generally impossible to measure the success of a protest movement while it's protesting. (Did many people think that the crazy people at Congressional town halls in the summer of 2009 would, basically, have veto power for the entire Republican Party two years later?). So, to pick a totally arbitrary measure of cultural resonance, let's look at the famous people who want to lend their name, support the cause, and be seen on the scene. Most of the names on the list of high-profile visitors aren't terribly surprising to see, and if you've been keeping up with the critical coverage about the activists' sprawling list of demands--or lack thereof--neither is the advice they had to offer.
Dr. Cornel West
The Princeton professor was the third celebrity visitor on Monday and wearing his trademark black suit, tie and scarf West picked up a cardboard sign and posed with protesters. On Tuesday evening, West returned to open the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly and according to the group's website, over 2,00 people showed up to hear his speech. "I am so blessed to be here," West said, "It got me spiritually breakdancing all the way here because when you bring folks together of all colors, all cultures, all genders, all sexual orientations, the elite will tremble in their boots."
Lupe Fiasco and Immortal Technique
The activist and linguist showed up in spirit, announcing his solidarity for the movement in a statement posted to the Occupy Wall Street website:
Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street -- financial institutions generally -- has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world). And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power. That has set in motion a vicious cycle that has concentrated immense wealth, and with it political power, in a tiny sector of the population, a fraction of 1%, while the rest increasingly become what is sometimes called "a precariat" -- seeking to survive in a precarious existence. They also carry out these ugly activities with almost complete impunity -- not only too big to fail, but also "too big to jail."
The courageous and honorable protests underway in Wall Street should serve to bring this calamity to public attention, and to lead to dedicated efforts to overcome it and set the society on a more healthy course.