Reading the news reports on the Wall Street occupation, the most common theme would seem to be the perplexity of journalists as to the “objectives” of the protesters. The “biggest problem,” it is said over and over, “is that there has yet to be a cohesive message”; the protesters have not expressed an “especially clear objective”; indeed their cause is “virtually impossible to decipher.” In recent days, protesters have begun responding to such criticisms with lists of policy demands—including highly worthy ones, like repealing the Bush tax cuts, overturning the Citizens United decision, or reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act. For me, though, the appeal of the occupation has been the gross obviousness of its objective. The objective is the location: one occupies Wall Street in order to protest it. But what does it mean to protest Wall Street? Obviously, it means to communicate that what goes on there is harmful—to some of us, and maybe to all of us. To communicate to whom? Well, we might start with the bankers, those “anxiety-stricken status seekers” (as Etay called them in his great “Predatory Habits”), historically “more vulnerable to social censure than to rules.” Will it succeed? It depends what we mean by that word. Already the occupiers have succeeded in turning Wall Street into the kind of thing worthy of an occupation.


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