intersection 10.11.11

The Moving Garden
Every Person in New York

Amplification is not allowed in Zuccotti Park, but through social media and bushels of Apple-designed devices, the Occupy Wall Street protest is now being echoed throughout the country.

While that amplification may have been enabled by social media (and, belatedly, mainstream media), and may in some sense reflect the many-to-many aspect of this nascent movement, the impulse behind the protest has nothing to do with the means of communication being used, even if some journalists have struggled to reconcile protestor use of Macbooks and iPhones. Follow the message, not the messaging device.

That message is, for now, left unsharpened. The reasons for gathering, though, could not be more deeply felt, a long-brewing, toxic mix of governing quagmire, zero accountability for unethical and criminal behavior in the financial sector, and the Citizens United decision designed to scuttle the election process. Oh, and high unemployment.

The reaction to those with the temerity to finally say enough has produced some astonishing responses that range from "blame yourself" (Herman Cain) to the sneering pseudo-journalism of CNN's Erin Burnett. If you've been listening to the airy, antimacassared noodlings of Peggy Noonan on the moribund Meet the Press—and there is no reason you should—it is clear how profoundly out of touch life is inside the Beltway.

In yesterday's Times, Paul Krugman perfectly and succinctly analyzed all this kneejerk pushback, concluding that "Wall Street's Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is."

And that may be why, in part, our sometimes tin-eared Mayor yesterday recalibrated his rhetoric about Occupy Wall Street, allowing protestors to stay put. He may have concluded that some gifts to the city do not come in the form of, say, a David H. Koch Theater.

In a serendipitous, non-Social-Media form of cultural moment amplification, New York artist Lee Mingwei's The Moving Garden recently opened at the Brooklyn Museum. It is an installation consisting of a 45-foot-long granite table in which 100 flowers are added daily. Visitors may take one of the flowers, provided they 'make a detour on the way to their next destination and give the flower to a stranger as a gift.'

That is as apt as any description we've yet heard about what is happening downtown, even if a protestor said yesterday, "It's a protest. It's not f****ing Woodstock."

Fair enough. But perhaps there's something to be said for flower power after all. Carefully tended, Zuccotti Park holds all the promise of a moving garden in which ordinary citizens detour on their way to their next destination and give a gift to their city and their country. May they teach their parents well.

Jason Polan started Every Person in New York in March of 2008. He plans on working on the project until it is finished. Look for Every Person in New York on Tuesdays in MUG and daily at Jason's site.

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