If what is past is prologue, the recently busted “Occupy Boston” protesters can take solace from what eventually became of their 1960s forerunners, whose example they so conspicuously emulate. (But surely it would be unfair to call those arrested early this morning sixties wannabees.)
History records that a surprising number of the college protesters of the 1960s, after starring in their own movies by protesting the depredations of unbridled capitalism, the military industrial complex, and the Vietnam War, discovered... money! Or, more accurately, the lack of it, going on to become themselves overly compensated Wall Street investment bankers, hedge fund managers, partners at white-shoe law firms, and chairmen and CEOs of companies doing business with that government, including the military that they had so long despised.
I suspect that in due course many of those arrested last night will experience a similar metamorphosis. The arc between protester and plutocrat is not that long. Those who traverse it will end up contributing disproportionately, just as their sixties counterparts did and do, to entrenched, mostly Democratic, politicians. (Big Business, which controls government and does business with it, likes its government to be Big.) In so doing they will forget that the politicians they support are successors to people like Mayor Menino, enjoying symbiotic relationships with the very public sector unions (in this case the Boston police union) whose buzz-saw tactics the “Occupy Boston” protesters now deplore.
So, in the final analysis, what can be said of the arrested “Occupy Boston” protestors? Or of the entitled plutocrats against whom they protest? Or of the entitled, unionized police who arrested them? Or, for that matter, of the entitled, entrenched, politician who ordered their arrests?
That they deserve each others’ throats?
That the more things change, the more things remain the same?
How about this: We all desire change and a more just society; but the only change worthy of the name is brought about by men and women who are prepared to suffer at the personal level.
Protesters, plutocrats, police, and pols who are at once desirous of fame and money, yet fearful of failure and sacrifice, are not reliable agents of the change we all seek.
Frank L. McNamara Jr., a lawyer at Bowditch & Dewey in Boston, is a former US attorney for Massachusetts.