openDemocracyUK

Batman in Wall Street

The sub-Hollywood spectacle of the new Batman film - being shot in Wall Street - provides a striking contrast to the unheroic determination of the protesters in Zucotti Park.

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
7 November 2011

Batmobile Wall Street Occupy.JPG
The Batmobile on its way down from the Stock ExchangeNone

As Hollywood indulges in its idealised battle over the control of capitalism, with a passive citizenry forced to choose between two kinds of violence, a very different, determinedly unheroic but potentially profound process is unfolding in the Atrium. The contrast with Zuccotti Park is striking. There, a sub-Hollywood voyeurism and spectator tourism is being acted out, to the sound of incessant, mind-numbing drumming and flag-waving, in what passes as public discourse in a now dumbed down USA.

But the best of American scrupulousness and dedication to process and inclusion is underway as the protestors gather and talk away from the noise, preparing their own, far better democracy.

The NYPD looking in

The public impact of the messages from the Occupy movement seems indigestible and is going to take different forms in different countries. Here in America it is growing. For a start it has money. Occupy Wall Street has been sent half a million dollars in donations and it is now working out how to deploy these resources. I watched as a young black woman from Harlem asked about raising the needs of an occupation in Harlem where the landlords had turned off the heating. It seemed very likely that the Assembly would give them the $2,000 they need for space heaters, blankets and renewed internet. On Saturday they decided to spend $20,000 on large military tents to replace the small two-person igloos in Zuccotti Park, and this will increase security in the Park as well (there have been a couple of cases of sexual assaults and, as we know, the Hells Angels are a US reserve force).

Drums and flags at the park

The same contrast is true of the London St Paul's occupation. What matters is less the encampment and its internal character - although these will have an effect - than the larger consequences of a new generation saying that the capitalist system isn't working and is wrong, when evidently it isn't working and it is wrong. Replacing it will take time, thought and hard work. That is the message of the towers of Liberty Plaza.

Facilitators working meetingMixed messages

But here and across North America, below the headlines and away from the drumming, a new network is forming determined not to allow its own representation to be stolen from it and to preserve and develop its own message: "this is what democracy looks like.".

The neighbour of OWS

Drums in the park

Looking towards Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange after Batman has battled it out

Wall Street. Saturday, Nov 5, occupied by Gotham city SWAT police

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