Occupy the Wall

Occupy the WallWe are against the wall, hands held high, occupying the smallest space possible, sharing pictures of kittens or babies, harmlessly murmuring to ourselves in the hopes that others will believe we are normal.

Not to diminish the importance of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but in many respects the wall that needs liberating isn’t in New York, but Facebook. We will remain divided by what should unite us until we have seen the handwriting of protests on that wall.

The personal becomes public on our walls and we will continue to see infantile fantasies projected there until we have made revolution intimate. The Star Wars mash-up or ball-busting joke isn’t only distraction; it’s avoidance. News that you have eaten a bagel isn’t so much an intrusion on my life as it is desperate demonstration that our lives are still orderly and understandable. They are not.

Wall Street does not interfere with my life, you say, please leave me alone to enjoy the utterly ordinary. All I want is the life I have projected onto my wall, the life I see projected on other walls, the life we pretend together.

The bullshit declaration that you find Pot Farm or Farmville more entertaining than life is an insult, not only to me and to what we could share, but to you. You are more interesting than that. But like you, I plug my ears with nonsense, repost feel-good causes that I do not truly support, all in an effort to avoid thinking the unthinkable: That this is the moment we have waited for our entire lives.

I understand why you say, “No, this is just another lazy afternoon and I’m on my way to get coffee or pick up the kids.” “I like beer.” “I am not going to engage the world.” If you are my age, you remember getting shouted down in the 1990s when you said that the game was rigged and we are still not quite the masochists they wanted to make us.   

My generation is allergic to street demonstrations. We have too many inherited memories of the failures of the 1960s, too many insecurities and hang ups. We will not take to the street until we have fully embodied our own lives in every respect and that battle begins on the wall.

Occupy the wall and you occupy the mind. Infiltrate the personal and you spark the creative and political. Make reality unavoidable, even in the private recesses of our walls, and you have reclaimed sacred land, the wellspring where every revolution is born.

On the other hand, the revolution is impossible as long as I can feign interest in football, become engrossed in Entertainment Tonight or Google Michael Jackson autopsy photos without feeling remorseful. You can conquer as many Wall Streets as you want, but as long as I can avoid my sacred responsibility in this moment, you have gained nothing.

If I were to judge our times on the evidence of my wall, I would think that we live in a world of kitsch objects, bad television and America’s funniest videos reruns. My friends – intellectuals, artists, musicians, podcasters, writers, editors, permaculturalists, survivalists, peak oil nuts – as thoroughly ignore Wall Street protests as the media.    

For my part, I want challenges that cannot go ignored and fingerprints that do not wipe away on my wall. I want to be interrupted and to interrupt others. If the world can gasp that we have lost a Steve Jobs, I want it to shudder that a new way of life is opening in front of us.

So politicize, spiritualize and sexualize the wall. Run it out into my living room, where it interrupts serious discussions about silly things like Dancing with the Stars. I’m not afraid of finger painting. Get messy on my wall.

If you do that, I will receive an amplify your message, like the Occupy Wall Street people are receiving and amplifying speeches, becoming human microphones. Ken Kesey said that he would rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph, and we should follow his example, calling down the lightning and transmitting it from wall to wall.

It’s time to rebuild the wall as a supporting structure of our culture instead of a barrier separating us from one another. If you occupy my wall I’ll occupy yours.


Want another opinion? Roger Ebert is one of my favorite reviewers and a personal hero.

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