When the Occupy Wall Street movement began, I have to admit, in a cynical way, I was just looking at the people in the protest as neo hippies. A generation of young people mostly invested in doing what they wanted, including getting high and getting laid and maybe getting a $5 chai latte while using the free broadband to tweet and Facebook and whatever the newest version of that might be. (Note to old people like me… If you’ve heard of it, it is no longer cool.)
So anyway, I had an initial opinion about the kids and it was a one dimensional picture that I created based mostly on one second video edits and a couple of jokes on the Daily Show. All of my favorite comedians chimed in with something about the protest or the protesters on their podcasts (another note to old people, a comedian who does not have his or her own podcast at this point, is essentially a dinosaur waiting for the asteroid’s cloud to blot out their existence) and I even caught a snippet or two on the actual news.
Then of course, NYPD Capt. Tony Baloney decided to spice things up with a little pepper spray and not only did the media’s attention become stronger, it became longer. The news providers were more and more willing to up the segment length from 15 seconds to 30 seconds and then 2 minutes and finally whole segments. What had been a cartoonishly simple drawing of the people and the movement suddenly became a full color painting on a giant canvas. People from divergent backgrounds started to look, explore and appreciate the story as they began to feel it and experience it in fullness. The story of it was no longer hippies chanting slogans, it was moms and dads, unemployed assembly workers, laid off transportation workers, homeless home builders and a host of others from as many different backgrounds and locations and economic circumstances as you can conjure in your imagination. They were all there and they were saying essentially the same thing. “These guys broke the economy and got even richer than they already were while the rest of us found ourselves out of work, out of insurance, out of food and shit out of luck. And we don’t know exactly what to do about it, but we want something… anything done to fix it and keep it from happening again.” I’m paraphrasing.
The average American is a pretty resilient creature. We whine a bit when the cable is out or there’s no Pepsi left in the fridge, but by and large, we can be counted on to get up, go to work and eat a bunch of shit if it means we can feed our families and pay for some “hardly covers anything but the catastophic shit” health insurance. We’ll put up with a lot. The basic inequities of our system are clear and evident to all of us and have been for a long time. We’re used to the idea that there is such a thing as ultra wealthy people who have more money than two or three sub Saharan countries combined. We accept it and even to some degree admire it and we don’t want to abolish it because we all hold out hope that someday, we can be there too. maybe a lottery win, maybe a kid who can play football and another kid who comes up with the next Facebook. We don’t want to do away with ultra richdom, we just don’t want to have our faces rubbed in it every single day. And even that could be ok (remember we have tv shows and magazines that only exist to show us pictures of rich people, their houses and their vacations) as long as we didn’t think the whole game was completely rigged.
But the incontravertible evidence of the rig was finally presented in the court of public opinion and I gotta believe this is where we rest our case.
During the last ten years, as the circumstances of the average person in American got worse and worse, the top one or two percent of the economic population increased their holdings more, as a percentage, than has ever happened in the history of this country. Clearly, every dollar that fell out of our pockets was falling into theirs. Whats worse was that it wasn’t accidental. They actually created a system that they knew would fail and by so benefit them while screwing us. They created a betting system that would allow them to bet on the fact that we would all lose and they would all win and then they also came up with an insurance policy for the whole thing so that they could get paid off double and triple, all the time sucking more money out of us, the economy and the future. Then when the thing finally did blow up, the guys who sold the insurance policies (and had to pay off) and the guys who didn’t buy an insurance policy (and lost their investors pension funds) got all of their money back AND SOME because the government decided it would be worse for everybody if these financial titans were to suddenly need to find jobs.
To add insult to injury, after our representatives in the government bailed these financial pillagers out, they used hefty bags of cash to pay bonuses to the very people who had crippled the nation and to some degree the entire world economy. The argument was that the bonuses were contractually required, but I guarantee you that I can find a lawyer in about 20 seconds who would willingly spend the next ten years trying to break the contracts or at the very least tie up the funds in a knot of red tape the size of the Wall Street brass bull’s balls.
Of course, all of this happened with the back drop of Halliburton and Black Water actually losing track of actual billions of dollars, flown over on actual C-130’s and stacked on actual pallets and wrapped with celowrap. Yes, Americans out on the street, destitute and wishing only for a job and place to sleep, had to wander from warm spot to warm spot while actual tons of dollars were lost. Not spent, not wasted on speed boats and hookers, not used for blow or private jet rides to Ascot for the races,.. no, just lost, as in we have no idea where it is.
So now, on Wall street, a bunch of Americans, some of them hippies, some of them mommies, some of them republicans and some of them democrats, just want something to be done. They, and by they I mean we, or me or everybody I know, would probably prefer something substantial and punitive but we’d more than likely be mollified by something symbolic. But, truthfully, there are some really rich people in this country who need to step very carefully for the next little while because some shit could happen. People are so frustrated and so disenfranchised that they are actually willing to spend late fall in the park, for night on end, in New York City, no showers, no heat, no comforts and the constant threat of arrest. They’re willing to do this in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Columbus, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and a list of other cities across this nation. Not because they’re hippies and need a cool thing to do. Not because they just want to get on tv or have a story to tell. They’re doing all of it because they want something to be done. They don’t know what, but something. Anything.
So,we have choices. Once in a while we get a choice handed to us that lets us decide not only something to do, but something to be. This choice we have in front of us will say a lot about who we are to people who read about us twenty or thirty years from now. Our kids or grandkids, or even beyond that kids will eventually see some photos and read papers about the time Americans stood up and said, rich is ok, we all want to be rich, but jesus fucking christ, you guys have taken all of it and left us nothing and that is just plain wrong. and oh, we just sorta remember that we outnumber you 300 million to a thousand. You can either fix this thing you broke or we’re going to come live on your estate in the Hampton’s, eat your dog and take dumps on your driveway.
Life is all about choices and this one can make us better or it can make us take a dump on your drive way. Choose wisely.