The center was not holding.
-Joan Didion, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”
[T]here is Occupy Wall Street, whose activists skew much younger, but who, if my experience in speaking with them is representative, are drawn from a similar class profile as MoveOn members and Daily Kos diarists. Most are college educated, now saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in college debt and no job prospects.THE CENTER WAS NOT HOLDING. It was a country of bankruptcy notices and public-auction announcements, and people were underwater; their homes were underwater. Grover Norquist wants to drown the government in the bathtub, and the firefighters watched the Cranicks' home burn for want of a fee. It hits 100 degrees in Brooklyn: we break the fire hydrants, and children dance in the streets. Last year, heat waves caused rolling blackouts, and we prepare for the worst.
-Chirstopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites
The Dutch settled Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn in the 1600s. The Caribbean population move in sometime later. My aunt tells me that Lefferts Gardens is really just Crown Heights, but the real estate agents wanted a new name. James Lefferts, after whom the neighborhood is named, attached land use restrictions to the buildings, forcing the construction of single-family homes, and in some parts of Lefferts Gardens, the restrictions still stand. So, while New York is a city of transience and movement and newness and gentrifying hipsters and yuppies, Lefferts Gardens resists that, and generations of families stick stubbornly to their homes.
For a week now, this is my home. I'm Minnesotan-by-way-of-Ohio, and my friends are from everywhere-by-way-of-Ohio, and we're eschewing Williamsburg because it's too expensive and Bushwick because the trains don't go to the right places, and we're looking for jobs. No one wants unpaid internships because no one can afford them. No one wants to sell out, but we all need the money, so dreams of writing or painting or professionally doing good become mundane hunts for copy-writing jobs at marketing firms.
Alice goes from shop to shop on Smith Street looking for work at chichi restaurants. She has a degree from a prestigious liberal-arts college. Sarah won a prestigious fellowship but can't find a summer job. I'm a web developer with degrees in analytic philosophy and music and aspirations of writing. No one's doing what their supposed to be doing—or doing anything at all—except Hassan, damn him, but he's smart and lucky and only barely makes enough to get by.
No one Occupied Anywhere, because no one's angry—just resigned. There is no voice of our generation, but if there were, I guess it would be Occupy. But why aren't we angry? I watch Rachel Maddow and try to muster up some fury, but I'm too tired.
One night, my friends gather at Daniel's place. He's permanently subletting because it's cheaper than settling down. His is by far the nicest apartment of any of ours. We eat bad cheese and drink worse wine and talk about nothing and there's a pall over everything because we're all exhausted and have work tomorrow or have nothing tomorrow, which is even worse. I ask why not one of us went to Occupy, and everyone has a theory. Direct democracy of the sort espoused by Occupy is for suckers, Hassan says—but he's a cynic and doesn't really believe it. New York was too far, and occupying at college was preaching to the choir, Alice opines. Maybe we're all just hypocrites, Sarah says quietly. The truth is something else. No one Occupied Wall Street because we were all already Occupying our own lives, and for now, that's enough. There's a fine line between resignation and anger, and it won't take much more to throw us over the edge. As the voices of our generation echo across Wall Street louder and louder, we'll grow closer and closer towards Zuccotti—towards insurrectionism, toward Bethlehem.