My battered SDS membership card is emblazoned with the lovely opening line from the Port Huron Statement: We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort…looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.
Fifty years on, Port Huron can be read in a thousand ways, but its vitality lies in its self-description—“an agenda for a generation”—taking “generation” at its most generous: production and reproduction, development and genesis. More call-to-arms than manifesto, more a provocation than a program, more opening than point of arrival, Port Huron is an invitation to create.
“The 60’s,” thoroughly commodified now and sold back to us as myth and symbol, has been till recently an annoying brake on activism. It was neither as brilliant and ecstatic as some would have it, nor the devil’s own workshop as others insist. Whatever it was, it remains prelude to the necessary changes and fundamental upheavals just ahead. The self-appointed Board Members of “The Sixties Incorporated,” looking nostalgically at a ship that’s already left the shore, are mostly missing the point. We’re still living, still of this generation.
Once again more labor than delivery, Occupy is a movement-in-the-making, shifting the frame and connecting the issues, expanding the public square, defining a moment, creating hope. Like every movement before it, Occupy was impossible before it happened, and inevitable the next day. Power responded in familiar fashion: they ignored it and then mocked it, they tried to co-opt it and then beat the shit out of it—repeating as necessary.
In this time of rising expectations and new beginnings it’s even more pressing that we embrace the urgency embodied in the last words of the Port Huron Statement: If we appear to seek the unattainable…we do so to avoid the unimaginable.
Occupy the Future!