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Francine ProseBack to OpinionFrancine Prose

Finding clarity of purpose at Occupy Wall Street

This was originally published on the website of Occupy Writers.

Photo: Flickr/Atomische•Tom Giebel

As far as I can understand it myself, here’s why I burst into tears at the Occupy Wall Street camp. I was moved, first of all, by what everyone notices first: the variety of people involved, the range of ages, races, classes, colors, cultures. In other words, the 99 percent. I saw conversations taking place between people and groups of people whom I’ve never seen talking with such openness and sympathy in all the years I’ve spent in New York (which is to say, my entire life): grannies talking to goths, a biker with piercings and tattoos talking to a woman in a Hermes scarf. I was struck by how well-organized everything was, and, despite the charge of “vagueness” one keeps reading in the mainstream media, by the clarity — clarity of purpose, clarity of intention, clarity of method, clarity of understanding of the most basic social and economic realities. I kept thinking about how, since this movement started, I’ve been waking up in the morning without the dread (or at least without the total dread) with which I’ve woken every morning for so long, the vertiginous sense that we’re all falling off a cliff and no one (or almost no one) is saying anything about it. In Zuccotti Park I felt a kind of lightening of a weight, a lessening of the awful isolation and powerlessness of knowing we’re being lied to and robbed on a daily basis and that everyone knows it and keeps quiet and endures it; the terror of thinking that my own grandchildren will suffer for whatever has been paralyzing us until just now. I kept feeling these intense surges of emotion — until I saw a placard with a quote from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” And that was when I just lost it and stood there and wept.

Francine Prose is the author of many bestselling books of fiction, including “A Changed Man” and “Blue Angel,” which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and the nonfiction New York Times bestseller “Reading Like a Writer.”


  • AfterForever

    Big money has been packing its bags and sending them overseas for years now (jobs, investments, etc.) It will soon be gone. There are greener pastures in China, India and Brazil.

    America needs big money – but big money no longer needs America.

    It is too late for protest.

    Service work is the future of America, along with the return of manufacturing. But the labor unions won’t be there to ensure fair wages. Nor the minimum wage.
    The ‘American Dream’ is dying and will soon be dead. Politicians are already preparing us for this eventuality. All you have to do is listen.

    Like water, money follows the path of least resistance. Look to China, India and Brazil to see where it is pooling. Wages in these countries are slowly going up, as they are going down in our country. Just as the jobs slowly went to these countries and left America.

    Do you see a pattern? The reversal of rolls?

    Do you see America’s future?

    The protests here in America are just beginning.  But they are doomed to failure. Americans will eventually accept their fate. They will be given no other choice. Gas and grocery prices are on the rise. Think back just two years ago how much you paid for a loaf of bread, gallon of milk or to fill your car up with gas.  The prices have doubled, and they seem to be going up at every visit to the grocery store or gas pump.

    No, the protests will wane and die as the need to house and feed themselves grows stronger than the protester’s desire to fight back. And America will settle into its new third world status.

    The real enemy is not the republicans or the democrats. Politics is simply a tool. Nor is it a country or person. It is an entity. A vast and powerful entity. More powerful than all the countries of the world combined.

    An entity that controls everything from the shadows and impacts every corner of the globe. And it does so without military might.

    It is a multi-headed beast with many identities and facades. It has one goal – to make money.

    Big money.

  • bob

    I think we can fight back if we will.  But we had better start soon.  “Occupy Wall Street” is a good starting place.  Support it whenever and wherever you can.

  • David_henrygsMANN

    You can only fight back if you have A tool, instrument, or weapon effective enough to actually fight back with Bob!  How about Henry George & The Single Economic Rent of Land Value Tax/Ground Rent System, AND Progress & Poverty!?!   Here’s My Personal/Presidential Web-Site:!  So you can help elect me as The Indpendent Henry George Candidate in and For 2012!

  • Jdc


    The 26th
    Amendment to the Constitution (granting the right to vote for
    eighteen-year-olds) took only three months and eight days to be ratified!  Of the 27 Amendments to the Constitution,
    seven took one year or less to become the law of the land..  Why? 
    Simple!  The people demanded it.
    That was before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.  In about three days, most people in the
    United States could have this message.


    Congressional Reform Act of 2011


    1. No Tenure
    / No Pension.  A Congressman collects a
    salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

    2. Congress
    (past, present, and future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the
    Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system
    immediately.  All future funds flow into
    the Social Security system and Congress participates with the American people.
    It may not be used for any other purpose.

    3. Congress
    can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

    4. Congress
    will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the
    lower of CPI or 3%.

    5. Congress
    loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care
    system as the American people.

    6. Congress
    must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

    7. All
    contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The
    American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made
    all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a
    career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should
    serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

    If each person contacts a
    minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in
    the U.S.) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.

  • John Ross

    The common thread with all the demonstrators is they are all victims of the growing global corporate economy that deliberately creates massive unemployment to drive down wages and in the process is polluting the Earth to ecocide and extinction. The solution is to put all the unemployed back to work by safely recycling 100% of all human-generated waste products while they train for better jobs, and peacefully reduce the human population with family planning education, which will create a labor shortage and raise wages. 

  • Bonnie Sue Robles

    It’s called inequality!

  • Peeka

    I always thought that “Occupy Wall street” occupied the wrong place.  The vast majority of people that worked on “Wall Street” were just like the 99%.  What should have been occupied was the homes and neighborhoods of the CEOs and of those people earning over $500K/year.