The Problem is the Drummers . . .

. . . at Occupy Wall Street. It makes your average large Pagan festival sound much better organized—and these days, most of them are—perhaps because they have (a) an end date and (b) do not try to abolish the idea of private property (“my” sleeping bag.).

From New York magazine:

It began, as it so often does, with a drum circle. The ten-hour groove marathons weren’t sitting well with the neighborhood’s community board, the ironically situated High School of Economics and Finance that sits on the corner of Zuccotti Park, or many of the sleep-deprived protesters.

“[The high school] couldn’t teach,” explained Josh Nelson, a 27-year-old occupier from Nebraska. “And we’ve had issues with the drummers too. They drum incessantly all day, and really loud.” Facilitators spearheaded a General Assembly proposal to limit the drumming to two hours a day. “The drumming is a major issue which has the potential to get us kicked out,” said Lauren Digion, a leader on the sanitation working group.

But the drums were fun. They brought in publicity and money. Many non-facilitators were infuriated by the decision and claimed that it had been forced through the General Assembly.

“They’re imposing a structure on the natural flow of music,” said Seth Harper, an 18-year-old from Georgia. “The GA decided to do it … they suppressed people’s opinions. I wanted to do introduce a different proposal, but a big black organizer chick with an Afro said I couldn’t.”

Ah, anarchy. And it can turn on you fast, eating its own.

At festivals, I have slept peacefully through all-night drumming, because I knew what it was, who was doing it, and what it meant. And it was sort of trance-y.

A lot of Americans share the protestors’ frustrations about government and business, I suspect, but are turned off by the grubbiness, the mess, the cacaphony of clashing slogans and demands.

Drum circles and giant puppets are not how you change minds in the year 2011. You can “share your feelings” and “make a statement,” but do you project the image of someone whose statement is worth anything?

Plenty of pathos here, but not much logos or ethos.

5 thoughts on “The Problem is the Drummers . . .

  1. Experienced something very much like this during the Republican convention protests in 2004, when I used to live across the street from St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, site of a protest encampment. Much schadenfreude for my friends in the 1%, it’s brutal.

  2. harmonyfb

    I think part of the important point of this ongoing demonstration is the ‘conscious-raising’ aspect. One might argue that all those protests during the 80’s (‘We’re here! We’re queer!’) accomplished nothing in the short term, but in the long term it got people used to unfamiliar ideas and made it easier for reform to take place. I expect that this protest will do the same thing even if it doesn’t result in any short-term concrete advances.

    1. harmonyfb

      The above should read ‘consciousness-raising’, not ‘conscious-raising’. I think I need new glasses.

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