Will unemployment be 40 or 50%? Will we be fighting a dozen wars, or, defeated everywhere, maybe even none? Will the occupy encampments become "enduring" tent cities? Will Chicago protesters plant vegetables and raise chickens in Grant Park? For a preview of what's to come, look no further than Philadelphia itself.
Two weeks into Occupy Philly, there are about 350 tents right in the heart of Philadelphia, as well as makeshift dwellings of pallets, tarps, cardboard and plywood. One has a two-foot-high platform, so it can endure the cold and rain better than most. These people are planning to stay, in short. This plaza has long been a magnet for Philly's homeless, with about 50 folks curled up on benches each night. Now they're joined by hundreds who are only symbolically homeless.
Some of the long-time homeless have picked up donated tents, and three times a day, they also line up at the Occupy Philly chow tent. Though they tend to be more scruffy and older, it's not always easy to distinguish between a regular homeless person and a protester, but, if you think about it, each homeless individual is already a protester.
All-too-visible and rapidly increasing in each city and town, the homeless are an accusation that our system is truly messed up. In the "greatest country on earth," the top 10% own 71% of the wealth, while the bottom 40% must scrape by on less than 1% and, this year, at least 3.5 million Americans, or more than 1%, will experience homelessness at some point.
Martin Luther King's last project was to organize Resurrection City, where poor Americans could be made visible to the Washington elite, the rest of America and even foreign tourists. Living in makeshift dwellings, they were a protest against America's misplaced priorities, but King was shot before Resurrection City was even erected, and Bobby Kennedy, its brainchild, was murdered just afterwards.
In Philadelphia, a new Resurrection City has arisen, however, and across the street from this rapidly expanding community, there's Philly's swankiest address, the 48-story Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, where a one-bedroom bachelor's pad can be had for half a million bucks, and the penthouse, $12 million. Backlit by warm, yellow lights, Ritz-Carlton residents can be seen each night looking down at the mess of tents below. Some peer through binoculars, others snap photos, but they didn't pay through their cosmetically enhanced noses to put up with this stinking Third-World vista. It is quaint and lively, yes, but also squalid and somewhat menacing. Tonguing a prosciutto roll, they frown and imagine the day, soon, too soon, when these tents will surround them completely.