Friday, October 7, 2011

And Now?

Occupy Wall Street reminds me of the occupation of the administration offices of Columbia U. and other universities across the globe in the late 60's. Net effect?; Nada. It seemed that what those protestors wanted 40 years ago was to change the occupants of the chairs, not fundamentally change the system. What was then, and is still required, is a fundamental change in the system. The system wherein Columbia U faculty is revealed to be co-conspirators in the financial collapse of 2008. See what the University intends to do about the problem here. For the forty ensuing years from the time of the protest and the revelations from the film "Inside Job", students were content to pay their money and earn the tickets they needed to be employed in the companies that perpetrated the greatest financial crisis in history. What they had protested for and won was greater inclusion in the system. They got it. Women and people of color now have equal opportunity to exploit and game a system in which they too can become members of the 1% club.

Many students from Columbia U are on the streets and participating in Occupy Wall Street. While celebrating the act up quality of these actions the fact is that they will come to naught unless protesters focus, and get very specific about who they are targeting. Wall Street is amorphous. It is at home in Greenwich, at work on K street, and their puppets are peppered all through Capitol Hill. Lap dogs are fighting any reform that might prevent the next collapse, any tax reform, and any remedial legislation. The extent of the spider web that is Wall Street extends to international banks, the IMF, and the World Bank, and the collusion of governments world wide. Nothing less than a world in evolution is going to change the foundations on which Wall Street thrives. Therefore protesters are going to have to get very strategic, If, and this is a big if, they really want to change any element of system that exploits them.

As long as the protesters understand the symbolic nature of their protest, and exploit the excessive police push back, they can gain the time they need, and the public forum in which some of them can specify what they demand in outcomes, and the policy changes that will correct the underlying problems they identify.

Maybe the single most horrible aspect of the collapse that has prompted this act-up is the foreclosure crisis.

Not only did Wall Street, (and here I use the terms to indicate the interlocking system of money men in allied agencies), create the systems that crashed on the backs of home owners, they continue to refuse to rectify the conspiracy they created, that is throwing people out of their homes. Let's demand that Fannie and Freddie reset the principle on the loans they control. We own them. We ought to demand they modify mortgages. The same energy that is being harnessed in protest on Wall Street should move to Washington in front of the responsible agencies. We can do this.

In terms of the pragmatics, what we can do to implement an outcome that will signal a change is gonna come, is the boycott. We vote with our pocketbooks. Let's see if there is any willingness to "sacrifice", do without the toys, that are manufactured by the companies represented on Wall Street. Let's begin with the hallowed. Don't like the fact that Apple off-shores the manufacture of all those devices that Steve Jobs created, Boycott Apple. That's what it is going to take. To get beyond the pettiness of personal gain we are going to have to accept our complicity in a system that while it is working to our advantage, is exploiting others. We've been here before. When it was revealed how and by whom, and at what wage rate our sport shoes were being made, we were asked to boycott in protest. We didn't. To protest is easy. To delay the purchase of an Iphone, or a pair of Nikes, that's an act of courage.

We are going to have to rethink what we mean by jobs. We are going to have to get beyond the myth of so called "free markets". We are going to have to stop adoring the rich, and being jealous of the less fortunate who get assistance in life support. We are going to have to fundamentally change a system that is extractive, that measures GDP in terms of the exploitation of nature, and that extends the worst aspects of capitalism to developing nations. We cannot count on politicians and organizers of any stripe that suggest what is needed is more inclusion, more of the same, more, so called, infrastructure development. Roads and bridges and cars got us here. They are not the way out.


  1. The official list of demands:

    Tellingly, not really a list of demands. I think the strength of this -- or certainly what's interesting about it -- is the lack of focus.

  2. What they lack, here, there, and everywhere, is an articulation of what the alternative might look like.

  3. The Occupiers should laser-focus on the unholy alliance between corporate interests and Congress, 70% of whose time is spent dealing with the special pleading of corporate lobbies. Aim it straight at Congress and the electoral process and make sure the middle class knows what's going on and why it should matter to them.

  4. If they're really serious, the MF Global NY office is on 33rd and 5th...maybe they could walk uptown a few blocks.