Occupy Wall Street protest movement made me think of Saturday Night Live's Remember the Eighties sketches, done in the nineties.For some reason, Monday's one-year anniversary of the arrival of the
Not so much the skits themselves, but the point they made about our strange desire for nostalgia, even for events that happened almost yesterday on the temporal continuum.
I wonder if Sept. 17 is going to be added to the unofficial secular milestones we seem to be accumulating like Catholic saints' feast days. We've got 9/11, D-Day, Vimy Ridge, the Ecole Polytechnique massacre ...
They're meant to make us pause and think about the significance of the event. Sure, but what if all you can come up with is a shrug?
That's kind of how I feel about the Occupy movement.
A year ago, anti-poverty activists and ordinary folk fed up with the growing disparity between rich and poor descended on Wall Street, the dark heart of global capitalism. And they stayed, setting up camp in Zuccotti Park until police pushed them out a little less than one month later.
[ Related: Occupy anniversary rallies include Ottawa protest ]
Meantime, sympathizers mounted similar occupations in major North American cities, including Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver under the battle cry "We are the 99 per cent."
The downtown Vancouver encampment was marked by the apparent drug-overdose death of a young woman, spurring authorities to go to court for an order to clear Robson Square for safety reasons.
A year later, Occupy veterans came back. In New York, police arrested 185 people, according to the New York Times, and Peaceful protests were staged in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver by relatively small crowds.
Other than for the Occupy vets themselves, does the anniversary hold any significance?
The National Post's Araminta Wordsworth, compiling a synopsis of editorial opinion about the day, seems somewhat cynical.
The anniversary demonstrations, he says "serve merely to remind law-abiding citizens why they were so irritated in the first place," he wrote Tuesday.
"It's not as if the Occupy members achieved much, beyond occupying public spaces and making nuisances of themselves.
"Banks continue to record high profits, launder money and invest in dubious instruments. The Republicans in the person of the uber-wealthy Mitt Romney are still pitching for lower taxes for ultra-rich, while corporate interests meddle in elections."
Others, as Wordsworth notes, are more pragmatic. U.S. commentators point out the issues raised by the Occupiers now have a higher profile and terms like "the 99 per cent" and "the one per cent" are part of the vocabulary.
The public largely supported the Occupiers' message, said Andrew Tangel of the Los Angeles Times, but not their disruptive tactics. The movement's lack of leadership and refusal to put forward a specific list of demands diluted its impact, observed The Associated Press's Meghan Barr.
I was struck by a comment I heard on television Monday night from a Vancouver Occupy protester. The movement is young, she said. You don't look at year-old baby and judge it a failure.
It's an interesting analogy but not completely apt. The Occupy movement was supposed to ignite a groundswell of public outrage over people's eroding economic well being. In that, it failed.
But the seeds it planted may yet bear fruit.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has seen his campaign flat-line in part because he embodies the philosophy the Occupiers successfully targeted.
I have to wonder whether he would have gotten an easier ride if Occupy had never happened.
(Photo courtesy The Associated Press)