2. Occupy Wall Street is fueled by youth. Reporters covering the ongoing occupation of Zuccotti Park have encountered and profiled a host of characters from all walks and stages of life. One of my favorite interviews so far has been Marsha Spencer, a 56-year-old grandmother who can be found on weekends at the Park’s western edge, knitting gloves and scarves for fellow protesters. She makes no bones about what’s driving Occupy Wall Street — young people: college students saddled with years of debt, 20-somethings struggling to land a job, and an entire generation banging its head on what seems to be the ever-lowering ceiling of their possibilities. “It’s all about them,” Spencer told me on a rainy morning last week in Zuccotti Park.
Not true for the Tea Party, whose typical supporter is older, wealthier, and whiter than the American demographic average. It is a movement, by and large, of the haves — not the have nots. “It’s essentially reactionary,” says David Graeber, a professor of anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, who helped set up Occupy Wall Street’s much-heralded General Assembly and is one of the first people to push the movement’s now ubiquitous slogan ‘We are the 99%’. “The Tea Party core group is white middle-class Republicans who are angry that they seem to be losing their position of preeminence in society.” The ranks of Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, are most heavily populated by young people, who, says Graeber, “are supposed to be the ones at the forefront, re-imagining their society.” Their protest fits into a long continuum of student and youth rebellions, most recently seen in the Mediterranean rim countries mentioned above.