I won't bore you with my non-committal opinion of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but since the protesting hit Berkeley, I have been feeling a little nostalgic. When I was at Cal (aka University of California, Berkeley), I was fascinated by its history of protests. One of the first papers I wrote there was on the Free Speech Movement (FSM), and I always wanted to take part in a protest like that while I was at school.
But I was saddened to learn that that part of Cal's history had really fallen by the wayside. I went to a few protests while I was there, but none of them had that feeling of solidarity and historical significance that came with the FSM. And there were very few protests held for things I felt strongly about. I'm sure there were still far more protests at Cal than at most schools, but I just wasn't getting the vibe I imagined should come with them.
Not that this is all bad. I'm glad we didn't have the civil rights and Vietnam War issues that fueled most of the protests at Cal in the sixties and seventies. But there were still things worth protesting (the Iraq War being the big one for me).
Of course, as soon as I left, a group of students took over Wheeler Hall in protest of the 60+% tuition increases that were scheduled for that year. I watched from Chicago, wishing it had happened a few months earlier (but still happier that I avoided the crazy fee hikes).
And now the Occupy movement has come to Cal, and there have been major protests for the last few weeks over even more tuition hikes (80%, yikes!), and while I am very glad that I am done with my degree and don't have to worry about the financial implications of this shit, I do almost wish that I was there and could take part in these protests that finally matter, to me and to the country (or at least the major news networks).
At the same time, I am glad I avoided this:
And I'm glad that I wasn't in Haas when someone decided to start waving a gun around on Tuesday (though apparently that was not related to the protests).
Still, I think I would enjoy the atmosphere, watching people fight for what they believe in. That to me is the real spirit of democracy in this country, and it is quite a sight.