Political philosophers for centuries have been arguing over what the state of nature before the advent of civilization looked like. Thomas Hobbes famously noted that in the SON life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” because everyone was at war with everyone else. Jean Jacques Rousseau thought that Hobbes was full of it because, in his view, SON was a lost Eden where noble savages full of natural goodness roamed the bountiful earth free and happy. It was society and all its material seductions that corrupted humans, making them envious, deceitful, vain, unfree, and miserable.
But New York Post’s Candice M. Giove, after spending a night at the Zuccotti Park, offers a riveting account suggesting that life for those who opt out of the civilized world is more savage and less noble. She notes:
The parcel is now a sliver of madness, rife with sex attacks, robberies and vigilante justice.
It’s a leaderless bazaar that’s been divided into state-like camps -- with tents packed together so densely that the only way to add more would be to stack them.
And despite an NYPD watchtower overhead and the entire north side of Zuccotti lined with police vehicles, it is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous places in New York City.
At around 3 a.m., she recounts, a vagabond gumshoe dubbed “Conscience” tells her, “there’s a situation.” Apparently, Fisika Bezabeh, 27, a Zuccotti squatter, who had allegedly clobbered a manager with a credit-card reader at a local eatery earlier in the night, had returned to the eatery. “We can’t take him in by ourselves,” an OWS security-force member yelled. She describes:
The Zuccotti “cops” had just spent an hour and a half tracking Bezabeh through goat paths in the park armed with a description from the manager.
“We cannot take him in by ourselves, the cops have to come!” reiterates the OWS security force member.
They call the NYPD -- and it becomes abundantly clear that the cops down there are sick of the antics.
“Every single night it’s the same thing. I mean, some guy was a victim of rape!” an officer snarls. “There comes a time when it’s over. This is a disaster. It’s all we’re doing, every two seconds, is locking somebody up every time. It’s done.
“It’s done,” he repeats. “Occupy Wall Street is no longer a protest.”
Nor is this an isolated occurrence, apparently. Giove reports:
As I cautiously walk the Zuccotti perimeter, picking up photocopied literature on anarchy, there is a poster on a tent bearing a set of park rules that includes: “If you want to hook up, go to a singles bar.”
There is literally no space to unfold my sleeping bag. I ask around for help.
Out of nowhere, a man pushing a shopping cart with his friend inside rammed the thing “Jackass”-style into a police barrier and walked off laughing like a hyena.
A woman emerges from a makeshift tent that looks more like a layer cake -- a clear tarp draped over a sleeping bag that is on top of a filthy mattress. It even has a welcome mat missing the “m” and the stench of a vagrant.
“There’s not much space left,” she said and walked off into the darkness.
Every camp tent is like its own state. There is “Camp Anonymous,” the group best known for anti-Scientology protests.
It’s neighbored by a tent full of vampires, the “Class War” tent and the “Occupy Paw Street” tent, whose residents hand out treats to occupying pets.
There’s also “Camp France” and the “Nic at Night” tent, which supplies the protest with smokes.
I settle on a sliver near Broadway by an OWS library -- which frighteningly has a children’s section. On a bulletin board, there are personal messages like, “Call your sister!”
I’m wedged between a newbie from Brooklyn and some guy from Toronto, who preferred the experience of urban camping to his buddy’s couch or a hotel.
“My knees will crush you,” a hulking squatter shouts. “I don’t want to hurt you.
“You’re in my doorway. I’m going to crush you.”
Someone takes offense and yells, “Manners!”
He’s much kinder when he emerges later from his green tent and hands me a shiny Mylar blanket for extra warmth. “It’s going to get cold,” he said.
This spirit of generosity and the naivete of the original OWS protesters is devolving into a state of distrust and paranoia, however.
They speak of theft, about government infiltrators and tales of Rikers Island castoffs being dropped off to roam and ravage the site.
From underneath my blanket, I hear allegations of financial corruption and intimidation over sexual orientation.
“I’m in a tent that keeps getting flooded, ransacked and robbed,” fumes a transgender group leader -- a female who identifies as a male.
He said that the transgender group would create its own police force for transgender protesters and females, since an immense distrust loomed over the OWS-created authority.
That group is also demanding financial transparency amid growing concern over the use of the $750,000 war chest.
They have a point. I notice supply-station cupboards are dangerously lacking any blankets, tents, tarps or Mylar.
“Someone forgot to get that stuff out of storage,” an attendant claimed.
“We have three-quarters of a million dollars in the bank and all these f--king people are not doing financial accounting while we’re calling for it from the larger corporations,” says the transgender leader. “A lot of good people are quitting.”
A day later, a female-only “safety tent” would be erected to shield women from predators.
Organizers plan to add a medical tent, as well as others designed to provide safe sleeping for gay, transgender and co-ed groups.
The threat of rape is very real here -- for women and men.
I think from all of this we can conclude that so far at least the Zuccotti Park experiment is bearing Hobbes out.
Giove's whole piece is well worth a read.