Hitting the Wall
You may not be aware of this, but there are people occupying a small park near Wall Street, right now. It all kicked off with a march of about a thousand people (perhaps less, depending on who you believe) protesting “the blatant injustices of our times perpetuated by the economic and political elites” on September 17, 2011. A smaller contingent stayed behind after the initial protest with the intention of “occupying” Wall Street until their demands are met.
If you haven’t heard, that’s because the mainstream media has been pretty quiet about the protest. The reasons for this media brownout are deemed many: There is no centralized organization (although that doesn’t stop the media from covering the TEA Party every time they fart), the movement is just not that big, and there is no major figure supporting the cause (although, thus far, Roseanne Barr, Lupe Fiasco, Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon and Cornell West have all stopped by to show some love).
The biggest reason for a lack of coverage, however, according to what I’ve seen reported by the press, is a lack of specificity on behalf of the protesters. The New York City General Assembly, the group that seems to be creating the policy for which the protesters advocate, offer a list of “demands” on their website which they call their Principals of Solidarity. They include:
- Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy;
- Exercising personal and collective responsibility;
- Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions;
- Empowering one another against all forms of oppression;
- Redefining how labor is valued;
- The sanctity of individual privacy;
- The belief that education is human right; and
- Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.
None of these principals are objectionable. On the contrary, everything on that list is something that governments, businesses, all of us should strive for. What seems to be missing is a focus. I mean, why are they there? What, specifically, are they fighting against? We know the TEA Partiers are fighting unfair taxation (ALL taxation, in some cases) and what they see as our government’s drift toward Socialism.
And here is where the problem starts to become clear. In a sense, what these protesters are advocating is Socialism—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Of course, no one wants to call it that. Socialism, like Liberalism a decade ago, has become a dirty word. Using it automatically makes potential supporters turn their nose up in disgust. After all, this country was founded on Capitalist principals, and any attack on the Free Market is an attack on America. Or is it?
When Roseanne Barr took the mic a few days ago she said something interesting. During her speech, she said that, “We will simply combine Capitalism with Socialism and create Peoplism.” Is such a thing possible? Isn’t that like mixing matter with anti-matter? Won’t the Universe just implode—cease to be?
The truth is that we’ve been doing that very thing for nearly a century now. As a nation, we support anyone starting a business and encourage those who are still dreaming of starting a business. That is the lifeblood of our economy and our nation. However, we also help the weakest among us. We do our best to not let others suffer. Most importantly, we try to protect and educate all of our children so that they can have their opportunity to contribute to the American Dream. So what’s the problem?
Here’s the problem in a nutshell—the problem that those occupying Wall Street seem to be having difficulty expressing: There are forces out there, corporations, traders, etc., for whom money is damned near a religion. Anything that makes it easy for them to get and hoard more is good. Anything—any law, any regulation, any tax—that makes it harder for them and their greed is bad. They are willing to go to any length to accumulate and maintain as much wealth as possible, and their favorite thing to spend it on is politicians and groups that will further that greed. Money = power = money = power…
Don’t believe me? Watch this video of a Wall Street market trader, Alessio Rastani, recently interviewed on BBC, and listen carefully:
Scary, huh? It’s like listening to Darth Vader.
There was a lot to swallow from Rastani’s frank words, but the most important thing, at least in terms of this article, is the admission that “The governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world.” He may have been speaking figuratively, but he wasn’t far from the truth. All these companies and corporations that push so hard and pay so much to lobby for laws that benefit them & against laws that would in any way stem the flow of cash going into their coffers, that fund groups like the TEA Party to unwittingly do their bidding, that laugh as we continue to fight about race & religion & class—they don’t care about us. They never have.
The scariest thing is that our mouthy friend Alessio isn’t the Darth Vader in this feature. He isn’t even General Tarkin. He’s just a stormtrooper. He just wears the boot pressed against our necks. The real villains are those who use our system—the system we rely on to eat, to work, to live—for their own sick game of Russian Roulette.
They can even point the guns at their own heads because we’re here to bail them out. And we do it. We do it because we have to, because if the system shuts down we all suffer. And still they have no respect for us. Why should they? We forget. We forget how Enron fucked California before fucking themselves and ended up fucking a shitload of innocent workers who thought they had decent, secure jobs. We forget their never-ending sins and go back to fucking each other. We have not earned their respect. Yet.
Trust me when I tell you that I want the people of Occupy Wall Street to succeed. If you are poor, working class, or middle class, you need those folks to succeed. Shit, I know plenty of rich folk who get fucked, too. I have a friend who runs a big publishing business. He relies on loans to make payroll. If he can’t get a loan because Vader fires a bullet instead of a blank, my friend has to hope he sells enough books to pay everyone, on time, every week.
We are all in danger. We should all probably take at least a little time out of our lives to stand with the brave few who are trying to protect our way of life. Goodness knows they can use the help. However, until our heroes find a way to make everyone see exactly what we’re fighting against, to put a face on the Boogie Man, no one is going to see them, either.
Fernando Quijano III is the Vice President of the Maryland Writers Association. His work has been featured in Welter, Smile Hon, You’re in Baltimore & the poetry anthology, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire. An excerpt from his unpublished novel, Forever, Lilith was included in the Apprentice House anthology Freshly Squeezed. He has been featured at the Baltimore Book Festival, Stoop Storytelling, & The Signal on WYPR, Baltimore's local NPR station. In his spare time, Fernando volunteers to lead workshops for Writing Outside the Fence, a program for the ex-offender community, as well as at the Brock Bridge Correctional Facility. Fernando was recently awarded a B grant for his writing by the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund.