Thursday, October 20, 2011

Meet the New Boss ~ Same as the Old Boss

Occupy Wall Street has drawn our attention, but trying to understand them feels too much like trying to find Waldo:  Lots of details and no center of focus.  We’re unclear where we should be looking.   

When asked by news media what their cause is, protestors at each location have answered with a remarkable range of hopes, dreams, frustrations, and non-sequiters.  One said, “We’ve got to get the money out of politics.”  Another said, “These corporate dollars should be going to schools.”  A third said we should be growing corn for ethanol!   

Even those who seem to be targeting the unpunished bankers of Wall Street haven’t articulated what they want.  In the unlikely event that a Fat Cat in a high rise had even the mildest inclination to inquire, who would step forward and speak for the protestors?  What would she say? 

No doubt there is unrest in the United States.  Something’s wrong and Americans don’t like it.  At the very least we know that Washington’s infuriating partisan charade has settled into our living rooms.  While politicians play-act, they seem to mirror the malaise drifting across the countryside, through our towns and businesses, tugging at us, weighing us down, contributing to our economic doldrums.

But the thing is, most of us don’t understand the conglomerated behemoth of a financial system that has swollen and continues to swell.  What does it want?  More?  Shouldn’t it be on our side?  After all, if it saves us, we save it.  Right? 

We do know that we resent “them” and blame them for the joblessness sleeping on our couches and standing in the kitchen in front of the fridge at midnight.  We feel them reaching into our pants pockets when we know they have money of their own.  We don’t like the arrogant, indifferent attitude that shrugs its shoulders and looks away when asked what has gone wrong. 

Even the analysts don’t seem to understand our economy; otherwise it wouldn’t be so easy to find “experts” with views diametrically opposed.  They’re giving it their best guess, God bless them everyone, but “black is white” and “up is down” just aren’t helpful.  Have the banks flexed and the government flinched?  Who’s in charge?  What are the rules?  Who’s the enforcer? 

When pelted with fact after conflicting fact, that is, opposite statements which all may be true, we cannot surrender just because we’re unable to spell out our own internal certainty that we’re being messed with on a national scale.   

That’s where the Occupy protestors come in.  But they didn’t think it through.  They haven’t done their research or planned their arguments.  They don’t have a spokesperson or a point to stay on.  So they camp out and shout out the Tommy Smothers retort, “Oh Yeah?” 

They know they’re right about the gut of the American people:  We know in our hearts and minds that those whom we’ve trusted are screwing us over, either through their greed, their cynicism, their self-interest, or their incompetence. 

We know our protestors mean well.  We also know the road to hell.  One of several fates looms for Occupy Wall Street.  First, they and their affiliates could slip into that pale corner of the conversation inhabited by those who failed to plan and thereby planned to fail.  They could become the shooting star, the flash in the pan, the limp noodle of grass roots movements. 

They could, God forbid, lose control, vent those frustrations borne from their own lack of focus, lack of leadership, lack of response, and ineffectiveness.  They could be put down the hard way.  Ill portent for all involved. 

And a third, most intriguing option presents itself:  Occupy Wall Street has amassed a mountain of food and supplies, filling a cavernous space near Wall Street with those donated goods to sustain their movement.  

Even more interesting, they have collected $300K and opened a bank account.  That’s right.  Amalgamated Bank, which bills itself as the only 100 percent union-owned bank in the United States, is the repository of Occupy Wall Street funds. 

Who signs those checks?  Who will be paid to do what with that money?  Will the cities “hosting” these occupations be repaid for the added sanitation services, for example?  Will Occupy Wall Street redistribute these funds among the other Occupy groups across the country?  With no stated goals and no pact with anyone, the imminence of irony arrives.   

Will “Occupy” go corporate?