WASHINGTON -- Gone, gone, gone are those glory days when the idealistic young of America told New York and Washington just what they thought. (Well, almost.) Disappeared to some new zoological park are those yet-unshaped voices that dared to challenge the "Charging Bull" statue of Wall Street. (Well, sort of.)
Out of sight now, the tents and the "revolutionary" romances, thrown together in the throes of the movement that would change America forever.
In short, the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan a year ago and which set out to make over the take-no-prisoners big banks, the hedge-funded idiots who nearly sent the country into bankruptcy and the napping regulators, is finito. No more, no more.
Where did they all go? Home, no doubt, to the farm of Ohio, to the cornfields of Illinois, to the fragrant late summer of Mississippi and to the therapy of the waves in California. It is, in the end, rather contradictory to occupy one's own land.
And what has come of all those intense young Americans? Frankly, not very much.
In a memorial New York Times article for the year's accomplishments, "Occupy Wall Street: A Frenzy That Fizzled," writer Andrew Ross Sorkin critically addressed this tricky question:
"Has the debate over breaking up the banks that were too big to fail ... really changed or picked up steam as a result of Occupy Wall Street? No. Have any new regulations for banks or businesses been enacted as a result of Occupy Wall Street? No. Has there been any new meaningful push to put Wall Street executives behind bars as a result of Occupy Wall Street? No."
And finally, "Has the movement changed the debate over executive compensation or education reform? It is not even a close call."
Oh, the Wall Street banks were a little miffed by the additional security costs. But the only real change forced by the occupiers was the decision by Bank of America and other big banks to abandon certain additional charges for the use of debit cards. Lenin would turn over in his grave.
But the failure of Occupy, at least for this term of its "people's office," stretches far beyond these infinitesimal setbacks, for all rebellions live with redemptive failures. No, there is something here far greater than themselves.
Occupy Wall Street was to be our first "social media" revolution. We were to Twitter and tweet our new narrative, to Facebook and face down our enemies, to interact and Internet with the entire world. The problem was we didn't know exactly how that would, or should, or could be done.
A person can get all excited by a Twitter message and march down to 18th and K or Zuccotti Park to see what he or she could do. He could get "the call" on Facebook, through e-mail or, God forbid, even a phone call, if you're in an 1890s mood, and hit the streets with his pals or mates. He might as well get the call by way of a dream, for all it's likely to be worth.
Remember the kids in Tahrir or Liberty Square in Cairo almost two years ago? They were the free spirits of the new Egypt -- or, better said, the freed spirits of this tempestuous Egypt. Hard to describe any ideology, let's just say they were Arab secular democrats. And they were sure they would win -- just look at their numbers, at their anger, at their determination to risk their very lives to overthrow the old order and bring in the new.
But from the very beginning, like the young Egyptians, the Occupy movement's "mission was always intentionally vague," explains Sorkin. "It was deliberately leaderless. It never sought to become a political party or even a label like the Tea Party." In the end, he found it "hijacked by misfits and vagabonds looking for food and shelter."
So when they couldn't scream and run and charge the police any longer, who stepped up to rule? In Egypt, it was the Muslim Brotherhood, born in the earlier Arab nationalism of the 1920s and an Islamist organization that stayed organized during the country's worse days. After promising not to run a presidential candidate, their nominee, Mohammed Morsi, easily became president.
The other groups in charge in Egypt today are the police and army. And the situation is almost exactly the same in the other countries of the Arab Spring, as young Egyptians, Tunisians, Bahrainis and Syrians wonder alike when exactly summer will come.
The question these last two years will beg, in New York as well as Tunis, is: "Can social media cause revolutionary change?" My answer: It can issue the call to revolutionary change, but then, nine times out of 10, the revolution itself will be taken over rather quickly by often secretive groups formed around particular ideologies that are well-organized enough to make use of the chaos the well-meaning girls and boys leave behind.