Volume 81, Number 19 | October 13 -19, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
The voice of the turtledove: It’s really overdue
By Daniel Meltzer
Occupy Wall Street is neither an occupation nor is it on Wall Street (the Street being too sacred a place for the People to assemble). It is a state of mind, and a statement of disgust and rejection of the status quo in these United States of America, which are arguably less united today than at any time since the Civil War. If the scene at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan is disorderly, it is because the superficial orderliness that surrounds it in the canyons of power that are the Financial District, is as false as the phony storefronts on a Hollywood set.
The haves love order. It protects what they have. Personally, I think a little bit of improvisational jazz every once in a while can be a good thing. Chaos vs. complacency.
The burst of energy and imagination is already a hit across the country, with demonstrations and encampments cropping up from coast to coast. In the immortal words of Paddy Chayefsky’s prescient, if crazy-like-a-fox, fictional anchorman Howard Beale, they/we have “had it up to here and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
And just what is it that we aren’t going to take anymore? How have we been so offended? Let us count the ways.
“Creative” bankers and corporate executives have brought our economy to the brink of failure by, like a fast-talking card shark, fashioning “derivatives” and similar financial devices that lured home buyers with low-interest loans and then “bundled” and sold them in bulk for other bankers to cash in on. Or so they thought.
The artificially inflated real estate bubble (the result of years of “trading up, up and up and…” with aggressive real estate brokers goading people to “buy, then sell, then buy again, then sell…” before it peaked, with the assurance of future profits) finally burst and prices came down like last winter’s blizzard. Sucker homebuyers across the land found themselves shelling out monthly mortgage payments on houses that were now worth a fraction of what they had bought them for. It became cheaper to just move out and walk away from the mortgage than to keep paying and try to sell, if they could, and for what? Down payment, equity and home — gone.
The investment bank Lehman Brothers, most notably, failed completely. Billions of dollars vanished overnight. The banks that survived did so largely with the help of cash and loan guarantees from the U.S. Treasury — your tax dollars at work — not for you, but for bankers who were now robbing you for the second time. It was a huge rip-off and nobody paid a fine and nobody was put on trial.
In addition, U.S. manufacturers have for years been sending work overseas, to China most notably. Other than Ralph Lauren and New Balance, when was the last time you put on an article of clothing or bought an electronic device, a toy or an appliance made in this country? When you call with a question about your phone service or an overdue delivery do you find yourself speaking with someone in Manila? Or Mumbai?
Millionaires and billionaires are rolling in dough while the homeless are rolling up their bedding and belongings on the street or in overcrowded shelters every morning.
Ronald Reagan fired all of the country’s unionized air-traffic controllers for having the nerve to strike for better working conditions, and Republican rhetoric began blaming all our woes on unionized working people in general. “Benefits” that we had enjoyed for decades — healthcare, unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — were sucking capital out of the system, they said, while behind the oak and mahogany doors of the board rooms, or inside their sleek corporate jets, C.E.O.’s and C.F.O.’s and their ilk were writing themselves multibillion-dollar bonus checks, even when their companies had either posted huge losses or were raking in record profits by slashing payrolls, and their cash reserves piled higher and higher. Heads they win, tails we lose.
Next to this, I would call the “disorder” at Zuccotti Park pretty neat. And if others complain about the drumbeats and not having enough room for their strollers, then they can do what I do when confronted with the din and the closed sidewalks around the seemingly never-ending new luxury construction in my neighborhood. Put in the earplugs and cross the street.
Flower Power, 21st-century style, with the chanting and the bongos, has arrived.
“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land” (“Song of Solomon”).
The time has also come for the corporate-sponsored media to pay attention to the so-called 99 percent and to start talking to their readers and their audiences, not their advertisers.