I just had breakfast with a friend who besides seeing at a few heavily beveraged parties I hadn’t caught up with. After catching up on the fun and drama of being in the indefinable age group in Los Angeles the discussion shifted towards politics and found its way to the Occupy* movement. I voiced general support for the concept though I was unclear as to what the defined concept was, my friend thought it wasn’t necessary though agreed that there are issues with the economic and political systems in place today.
I had to find out more, so I drove out to City Hall in downtown Los Angeles to see first hand what was going on.
The Los Angeles City Hall is 32 story building completed in 1928, chances are you have seen it on TV or countless movies. It shares a city block with parks on each side, the park on the west being three times larger than that on the east.
The OccupyLA movement took hold of both parks, the east park is little more than a lawn with no shade, but nonetheless filled with tents and signs against capitalism, war, banks, the monopoly guy among others.
The west park, is not only larger, but is a mini forest with a central “square” to which paths from the four corners of the park lead to. Tents occupy the entirety of open space, there were porta poties to the north, a shower tent, a medical tent, a mobile kitchen, a day care for small children, recycling corners and other facilities. The area was surprisingly clean, no litter or graffiti anywhere. Though the people here had the intention of staying here as long as necessary, they seemed mindful of their surroundings and taking care of it.
There isn’t a sterotypical inhabitant here. They array of diversity was quite large; union workers to hipsters, children to grand-mothers. While many of the people here would seem to be your usual suspects in movements such as these, many just seemed to be the average Americans you wouldn’t stereotype when you see them. I didn’t expect to see Ron Paul supporters but they were there, right next to the protesters damning Bill O’Reilly, Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.
To say the least, this is not a unified movement. There are many signs and many demands, but the central core of protest is centered around the banking system and the influence of corporations on the lives of Americans.
I don’t agree with many of the signs there. I do believe in a market based economy. The issue for me lies in the long and steady deregulation of the financial sector and the political access that special interests have based on political contributions. This is where I stumble, I can’t write exactly why the financial sector has failed simply because I can’t fully understand it. Most systems and constrained by physical imperatives where it be in medecine, materials, aerospace, engineering, electronics etc.. the basic science determines what can be done and what can’t. Innovation is discovering how to find new ways to make products better, cheaper or entirely new but still within the realm of what is possible. Any system needs parameters for it to function, rules that determines what works and what doesn’t, and these rules also ensure that the system functions on the long term.
The financial and political systems that we have in place are not bound by any physical science, these systems are entirely man-made including the boundaries in which they operate. Being man-made they can be prone to human error/other. The financial system has been created in order to benefit the short-term gains, its long-term survivability was never envisaged in its design, the political and legal, all man-made systems, have been redesigned from their original intent to support the unsustainable financial system.
There is place for creation of wealth, for upwards financial mobility, but there needs to be rules that allow that to happen without other parts of the system failing for that to happen and to ensure the long term viability of the system.
This movement is necessary in many ways to bring the discussion back to the center. The United States is a nation of extremes, it has to be big for people to take notice. Over the last two years, the extreme right of nation through the tea-party has driven the national dialogue from the center to right of center. The existence of this counter-movement to the left at the very least brings the conversation back to the center.
I talked to Lucy, I asked her how long she had been at the park, she said pretty much since the beginning over a month ago. The only time that she took a break was when she went to St. Louis to visit her son, but she saw an occupation there as well and spent the day there too. She told me that in June she lost the love of her life, she had spent three wonderful years with him and lost him to pancreatic cancer, she wasn’t expecting to find her soulmate when she was 76, but she did. At the end of the day these are just normal Americans following that part about the pursuit of happiness.