In ideology and geography.

As the planned event called Occupy Wall Street turned into a movement over the past week or so, I’ve followed it with great interest in what it is and who’s protesting and what their goal is and what would constitute ‘victory’ for the growing population of protestors.

I’m open-minded and curious and want to understand the scope and depth and breadth of this thing. That’s hard to do, as it keeps morphing.

An assortment of thoughts…

This WSJ opinion piece struck me as candid right from the start.

There is no law of nature or human action that a phenomenon like Occupy Wall Street must mean any single, consistent or coherent thing.

And it hasn’t, as it has evolved. Students and unions and political partisans have become involved, and former protestors of still-unresolved causes joined in.

Joseph Stiglitz called it a movement against the ‘regime of the 1%‘…

The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent.

In conclusion…

Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.

So then. What’s occuring is a re-ordering of what’s gone wrong in the cause of ‘the public good.’

Meanwhile, the movement has gone global. And it’s gotten very ugly very fast. The rhetoric keeps changing, too.

Anti-greed protesters rallied globally on Saturday, denouncing bankers and politicians over the international economic crisis, with violence rocking Rome where cars were torched and bank windows smashed.

At this point, I’m wondering…what does this prove? What cause does this advance?

Galvanized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, protests began in New Zealand, touched parts of Asia, spread to Europe, and resumed at their starting point in New York with 5,000 marchers decrying corporate greed and economic inequality.

But in Rome…

Smoke bombs set off by protesters cast a pall over a sea of red flags and banners bearing slogans denouncing economic policies the protesters say are hurting the poor.

But what’s wrong with this picture?

The violence sent many peaceful demonstrators and local residents near the Colosseum and St John’s Basilica running into hotels and churches for safety.

Confusion over exactly who stands for what is evident in this piece the Beeb ran on the European protests.

Then, coinciding with Sunday’s official dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, the protests took another turn, this time coined for ‘social justice.’

The message of the “Jobs and Justice” event, organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network along with labor and civil rights groups, was that today’s poor, unemployed and homeless embody King’s unfinished business.

Before the march to the King memorial on a radiant fall afternoon, they packed the lawn at the foot of the Washington Monument, near the Sylvan Theater, carrying signs that read “I AM A MAN” and “The rich must pay their fair share.” They demanded passage of President Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act. The legislation was blocked in the Senate last week.

The Democratic controlled Senate, just to make matters clear, complete and yet allow that they remain complicated.

And a growing cause for concern.

The early Sages said: Anyone who becomes angry is like one who worships idols. They also said: Whenever one becomes angry, if he is a wise man, his wisdom leaves him; if he is a prophet, his prophecy leaves him… This is the way of the righteous: They accept humiliation, but do not humiliate others; they listen when they are shamed, but they do not answer; they do this with love and are joyous in their sufferings.

I do not believe the individuals at Occupy Wall Street are fools, but I fear that in anger their wisdom may leave them. I do not believe they have nothing of value to say, but I fear that in anger their prophecy may leave them. I am perfectly willing to assume that the protestors are, by and large, good people, but I take James Madison’s dictum seriously: “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”

This story is still evolving…

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....