I freely admit, I can be cynical…really cynical.
Which is probably why when I heard of the Occupy Wall Street protest, my first question was: if they are trying to cause trouble on Wall Street, why the hell are they doing the protest on a Saturday? At the time, I didn’t know it was going to be an ongoing thing, but even when I found that out my cynicism remained. I expected the usual mish-mash from the left, individuals with individual signs representing each and every cause, from PETA to Anti-Police Brutality, from ending the wars to ending whatever else they now wanted to end. I used to live in San Francisco and it would oftentimes seem not a week could go by without some kind of march down Market Street, just like it also seemed that the same people came to every protest; there was no unified message, just everybody cradling their pet cause, making a lot of noise, but really, doing very little.
After all, the civil rights era is long over and the police/government have had forty plus years to figure out how to marginalize a march into nothingness. Sure, maybe marches help build community, but what do they actually accomplish?
So, Occupy Wall Street…cool, yeah…okay.
Well, I’ve been working on my cynicism of late, trying to mute it a bit, which doesn’t mean I now feel protest marches are effective.
But this occupy Wall Street thing?
Been watching it build over the past couple of weeks and yes, their appears to be no unifying message beyond anger at the banks for screwing over this country and anger at the government letting them do it, and believe me you, I get that. I personally wouldn’t have a problem if Wall Street erupted in flames, burned all the way to the ground. Nope. I’d bring beer and marshmallows, celebrate…just like I celebrate these rumors about Bank of America being in real financial trouble, especially now that Kamala Harris and California have backed out of the mortgage fraud settlement. Good. Bank of America belly up? No problem. Fuck ’em. All those bank bail-outs, too big to fail? Government gives the money directly to the banks rather than giving it to the people in trouble with their mortgages so they could then give the money to the banks…you know, banks still get rescued, plus the people get to keep their houses too. Might have been a good idea. Apparently, politicians thought not, you know, because banks give politicians way more money than home-owners and banks wanted to cut out the middle man so yeah, okay, fuck the politicians too, but…I digress. Point is, hell yeah I get it.
So like I said, I been watching the occupation protests, the arrests, the developments, the growth, the union endorsements, the increase in news coverage, their unwillingness to be moved and over time I realized something…
I don’t want to sit around and be a cynic anymore.
That cynicism is too self-defeating.
True, at the end of the day…after the occupation is all said and done, who ya gonna vote for, whatever sociopath the GOP puts up or Barack Obama’s austerity-lite? Those choices won’t change, but something else could, something more important than two political yahoo’s running for president, and that something is the narrative.
That’s what the Occupy Wall Street protests seem to be changing right now.
For the past few months all we have been hearing from politicians, both Democrat and Republican is how this is the age of austerity, cutbacks, tightening our belts. The mainstream media outlets echoed it, the commercials preached it, the banks and corporations nodded their heads in assent…but that is beginning to change. The occupation is helping to prompt questions, getting people to think about Wall Street greed just a bit more. Fucking Sean Hannity actually called in and interviewed/trashed a protestor on his show, so yeah, even the corporations/banks/GOP apologists are now paying attention to the occupation, at least inasmuch as they are trying to discredit the whole thing, and that acknowledgment is change.
And it isn’t just 5000 people in the park in New York anymore, yesterday it was also 3000 people marching against Bank of America in Boston.
The narrative is altering, and the narrative can be more urgent and more important than both the politicians and corporations combined.
People, in their homes, in the bars, in the parks, in the restaurants and at the grocery stores…people talking about the wealthy, the top 1% and how they don’t pay their fair share. People are talking about Wall Street, not as that faraway place with the stock markets and the investors and whatnot, they’re talking about the role of Wall Street, of those markets, of the costs those who work there are exacting on the rest of the country. People are talking about the banks, about withdrawing money from the big banks and going local to their community institutions.
It’s much more talking than usual, and that ain’t a bad thing. This could be the beginning of something bigger and this is not the time for cynicism. Alas, true, this whole episode could fizzle out rather quickly, kind of fade into just another series of left wing war story, like more lost tales from the Seattle WTO uprising, but it doesn’t have to. Much will depend on our cynicism, both individual and collective…yours, mine and theirs.
If you want to write these protests off, dismiss them as nothing, as hopeless, you certainly can, just as you can slag the protestors because maybe you don’t particularly care for their methods…or because they look funny, they’re disorganized or more importantly…maybe you trash them because they haven’t given up. Well, if that’s the case, then you have two choices really, you can leave well enough alone and go figure out why you thought it better to complain from the sidelines, or you can suspend your doubts and get involved, be creative, help, give it a chance and be a part of building a newer narrative because really, what else we got going on?
Sitting around, waiting to vote next year?
Besides, cynicism is precisely what politicians and Wall Street are counting on and I’d rather not give them what they want.
From the Occupation’s first statement, voted on and approved this past Thursday night, here are just a few of their grievances against the wealth that is Wall Street and their practices:
They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage. They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses. They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions. They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay. They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce. They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them. They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil. They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit. They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
Seems pretty reasonable, these and many other concerns, most based on problems with a system and its institutions that place profits over the lives of people, both at home and abroad, oftentimes accomplished through the contribution of large sums of money from the banks and corporations, and the wealthiest few of this country, making sure they are heard by the politicians…not the other 99% of us.
So yes, the protestors are out there getting heard, and asking for others to join them in being heard and yes, we can certainly make fun and do nothing, but when done with that, what do we got but the same fucking problems we had before so…
Nah, don’t want to be cynical anymore.
Rather read up on what’s going on, be a part of it and think about change with an open mind and a sense of the possible as opposed to the safe self-conceit of the negative…
It’s our choice, they’re our freedoms.
And we might want to think hard, because if this should continue to grow, if this should eventually provoke change, if this should teach a new generation about what they can do, what they can make happen…do you really think the banks, the mainstream media and the powers that be are going to let something like this ever happen again?
Sometimes all you get is one shot.
So, make it count, seek solutions and let’s all change this narrative for good.
Have a nice day.