On a very recent trip to New York City, I made a special pilgrimage to Zuccotti Park, nestled on the edge of Wall Street. While the park itself was vacant, it was heavily guarded by NYPD, who eyed me with a degree of suspicion. Their wariness of my presence was understandable: less than 24 hours before my trek to Wall Street, those same police officers were squaring off with Occupiers, attempting to ‘reclaim’ Zuccotti Park, the original home of Occupy Wall Street. Staring out over the barricaded, empty park, I was faced with a daunting question: Is Occupy Wall Street dead?
In short, the answer is no. Despite the fact that Zuccotti Park, and even our own Occupy USF, have cleared out by force or otherwise, the ideas behind the Occupy Wall Street are starting to pervade the American psyche. It is evident in both vocabulary and the general public’s acknowledgement that there is an economic disparity in the United States.
Today, we call the average American “a 99%-er”, a term that was foreign pre-Occupy. Even the word “Occupy” has taken on a new meaning, deviating from its original, slightly less controversial connotation. We now associate a word with a movement, subtly changing the semantics of our language, if only in by a single word.
More importantly, people are actually willing to discuss the fact that the economy seems to be in some never ending downturn, while stories of executives fattening their own bank accounts flit in and out of the media. Occupy Wall Street made it acceptable to be angry with the status quo and acknowledge that something in the reigning economic system might be unfair, although many people dispute what exactly the source of that inequality is.
It opened up the dialogue about what could be done to fix our current reality that puts so many hardworking people underwater on their homes and businesses. The type of discourse Occupy gave rise to was unthinkable prior to the movement because it made acceptable to admit to struggling financially and express discontentment.
One can argue Occupy Wall Street, at the end of the day, was just a bunch of angry people sleeping in a park and occasionally blocking traffic. However, the impact it had on our society is undeniable. Even if the movement didn’t achieve its goals (remind me, what exactly were they again?), the opening of dialogue and acknowledgement that maybe something is wrong with the way things are is an absolutely necessary step in creating some sort of systematic change.
Occupy Wall Street is the seed of some ideological shift that inevitably will be the direct result of the discourse it created.