I could never understand how one can love one’s neighbors. …One can love one’s neighbors in the abstract, or even at a distance, but at close quarters it’s almost impossible.
— Ivan Karamazov
This, I think, is the difficult terrain Occupy has to now navigate. Although the Movement still carries a wide, sympathetic base of popular support, it is this very depth that becomes its problem. On the one hand, it was originally the young and disenfranchised who carried the flame that reawakened political consciousness in this country. The cry from the encampments was to radically alter the economic and governing structures of a system felt to be monstrous. This cry crept up into the middle class, awakening them to their own insecurity and vulnerability.
But, on the other hand, the middle class doesn’t really want radical alterations. Like it or not, what the middle class wants is reform, a yearning to return to an old way: a way of stable employment even if that employment is wrecking the earth and is dependent upon militaristic imperialism. It is a way of life that gives the shrinking middle more toys, more money, more access to privileges. The beneficiaries of this system don’t want an end to capitalism, nor even an end to global corporations. Basically, they just want the dream of a stable job, home ownership, reliable health care, and the ability to get their kids through school while saving for retirement.
Many who committed to the encampments desired a new way of life; but the well-housed sympathizers mostly just want the old ways to be renewed. The campers desire a world that moves towards holding all things in common, a world of military stand-down, and a world of no more borders. This is not the vision of the majority who admire the courage and passion of the campers, but who do not share the communal values originating there. Most of the 99% still want private property and segregated, hierarchal wealth.