Occupy Wall Street: A “Work of Art”

An article by Eve Ensler, Reader Supported News
11 October 10

The occupy movement began mid year and has persisted with varying enthusiasm across many parts of the world. It can be seen in the light of belonging: as a protest movement or as a sign of disenfranchisement. The 99% evokes the silent majority which politicians have called upon in former times, the people power of the Philippines in the waning Marcos era and the more recent events of the Arab Spring.

Eve Ensler’s article describes her visit to the occupation and also quotes a variety of participants she met.

This is how Ensler interprets what she sees:

Occupy Wall Street is a work of art, exploding onto a canvas in search of form, in search of an image, a vision.

In a culture obsessed with product, the process of creation is almost unbearable. Nothing is more threatening than the moment, the living breathing ambiguity of now. We have been trained to name things, own things, brand things and in doing so control and consume them. Well, the genius of Occupy Wall Street is that so far it is not brandable and that’s what makes its potential so daunting, so far reaching, so inclusive, and so dangerous. It cannot be defined and so it cannot be sold, as a sound bite or a political party or even a thing. It can’t be summed up and dismissed.

This is a very articulate opinion piece about Occupy Wall Street which describes it as a community, and a movement to be celebrated. Since this was written there has been much more written, spoken and filmed which could be worth exploring for a variety of views and interpretations.


Demise of the Dictators

Fouad Ajami is a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. In this article, Demise of the Dictators, from Newsweek of 14th February 2011 he puts “the Arab revolution of 2011” into perspective.

He begins:

Historians of revolutions are never sure as to when these great upheavals in human affairs begin. But the historians will not puzzle long over the Arab Revolution of 2011. They will know, with precision, when and where the political tsunami that shook the entrenched tyrannies first erupted. A young Tunisian vegetable seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, in the hardscrabble provincial town of Sidi Bouzid, set himself on fire after his cart was confiscated and a headstrong policewoman slapped him across the face in broad daylight. The Arab dictators had taken their people out of politics, they had erected and fortified a large Arab prison, reduced men and women to mere spectators of their own destiny, and the simple man in that forlorn Tunisian town called his fellow Arabs back into the political world.

Ajami’s eloquent piece ends thus:

From afar, the “realists” tell the Arabs that they are playing with fire, that beyond the prison walls there is danger and chaos. Luckily for them, the Arabs pay no heed to these realists, and can recognize the “soft bigotry of low expectations” that animates them. Arabs have quit railing against powers beyond and infidels and foreign conspiracies. For now they are out making and claiming their own history.

Interesting choice to quote a George W. Bush speech in his last point.

Ajami , Fouad . “Demise of the Dictators.” Newsweek, published 6 Feb. 2011. Web. Accessed 27 Feb. 2011. <http://www.newsweek.com/2011/02/06/demise-of-the-dictators.html>.

Other articles of note on the people’s uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya also consider the issues at the heart of the matter: the desire to live a safe, free and happy life:

Stealing Libya’s Revolution by Michael Mullins, Eureka Street, February 28, 2011.

Egypt’s Revolution Belongs to the Young People, Not the Muslim Brotherhood by H. Boulard & S. Chafik, AsiaNews, February 7, 2011.

The Springtime of the Arab World by Samir Khalil Samir, AsiaNews, February 24, 2011.

morgestraich & latärne by dongga BS at Flickr.com

Belonging to a place

For the literary or artistically minded, Janine Burke’s New Book, Source: Nature’s healing role in art and writing, offers some interesting texts. Here is the first paragraph of the introduction:

Creativity is a place. Memory is an image. The artistic process itself is a journey, a specific one, the return to a lost and cherished childhood realm, the original source of inspiration and identity. For the artists and writers in this book – Claude Monet, Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Karen Blixen, Ernest Hemingway, Blanche Hoschede, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso and Emily Kame Kngwarreye – recreating Eden was a life-changing, art-making, healing rite that provides a map of their careers and an index of their subject matter. What sounds like a fairytale is, in fact, a reality.

The complete introduction itself is of interest, then there is an essay and full page photo for each of the featured artists. You can have a very good look at this book through the Google Preview on Boomerang Books, and listen to the author discuss her work on ABC Radio National’s Book Show  (usually available for four weeks from broadcast, which was 25/11/09)



Cut to the chase

In media res – in the middle of a sequence of events, as in a literary narrative

Peter FitzSimons – journalist, broadcaster, author, speaker, former Wallaby – delivered a keynote address recently where he spoke on the importance of story and in particular how he found the right way to tell the stories that matter to him. 

The method FitzSimons descibed reminded me of a comment by educationalist Leonard Sax, who says: draw boys into reading by starting ‘in media res’  – in the middle of the story or with the action.

Peter’s books range from sports biographies (Nick Farr-Jones; Les Darcy) to the stories of major battles in Australian history (Tobruk; Kokoda) and most recently Charles Kingsford-Smith and Those Magnificent Men. (Find out more about the books here.) To get right at the meat in a story he often uses little know vignettes which are uncovered in research – the soldiers’ reaction immediately after Hitler’s death for instance – to make a big story personal. He has equal success in using this method as a speaker.

Peter credits American writer Gary Smith with teaching him how to pull a reader right into the story. Smith writes for Sports Illustrated and has been one of it’s top performers for some years.

Smith doesn’t start an article by describing the cafe where he is meeting his subject. He begins a piece on golfer, David Duval, by describing a painful scene from Duval’s childhood, pulling no punches and showing why it might be that Duval has a lot of grit. (No Man Is An Island by Gary Smith)

A more recent piece, an article on surfer Kelly Slater from earlier this year, Ready For The Next Wave, Smith introduces this way: “Kelly Slater is winning world titles again—a record nine and counting—and planning to bring his sport to the masses. But before he could do that, the uneasy rider had to solve the nagging mystery of why he surfed.”

Sports Illustrated is a great example of a magazine with a large, searchable archive of articles, many of which will fall into the theme of belonging. Search for some more of Gary Smith’s stories, or seek out similar quality articles on topics of interest.

Photo: Peter FitzSimons at Mosman Library Originally uploaded by Mosman Library

How I almost died, twice

garyhughesby Gary Hughes, The Weekend Australian Magazine, March 7-8, 2009

Journalist Gary Hughes and his wife, Janice, barely survived the recent bushfires which destroyed their home in St Andrews, Victoria. This feature article is written as a diary of the days after the fire. The journalistic instinct to record and to share was a reflex for Gary, but he reflects on this as a double edged sword as the adrenalin wanes.

We find that, as we repeatedly retell our survival story, the details are getting briefer and briefer. We are shutting ourselves off from reviving memories. We are starting to put up walls. There is also a deepening disconnect with the real world. As we visit the local supermarket we know so well we find we are strangers in a strange land, a land where normal people lead normal lives and have normal homes. We do not belong to that world any longer.

A reflection on wilderness and belonging

Foggy Forest by K-girl on Flickr

Foggy Forest by K-girl on Flickr

In the editorial of the October 2008 issue of Wild Magazine, Ross Taylor describes his own sense of belonging to a bushland area he has known since childhood, The Grampians National Park in Victoria: 

Wild places change us if we choose to embrace them; it is hard to delineate how, but for me it is an opening to a different relationship with the land. I like the idea of belonging to the land rather than owning it. It seems like a more sustainable philosophy than our current path of endless acquisition and growth.


Taylor shares his memories from childhood and more recent visits.

This article was found using an online subscription database (ANZ Reference Centre). The search terms used were “sense of belonging” (without using the quotation marks). The search was further refined to “A & NZ Magazines”.

The link below requires subscription access, so check your school library or its home page for access to this or other databases. New South Wales residents can also access online databases through their local public libraries and the State Library of NSW. Request a Reader’s Card from SLNSW and access databases from home.

Taylor, R. (2008, October). HOME IS WHERE the heart is. Wild: Australia’s Wilderness Adventure Magazine, Retrieved February 3, 2009, from Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre database.