3 Types of Wall Street Protesters Hurting Their Own Cause
Dear Occupy Wall Street Protesters,It took me awhile to figure out what was bothering me about you. It certainly wasn't because I'm indifferent to the recession. In the last three years, I've had my ass kicked a lot harder than most of my friends, what with losing my house, my car, and my savings, so yeah, protest seems appropriate. Especially, as we enter a third year with no sign of progress.
I shouldn't say no progress. I hear stock in canned goods and shotguns has gone way up. But something didn't sit right. Maybe it was because I didn't understand who you were, what you specifically wanted, or why you chose Wall Street as the focus of your rage. And I wanted to know these things, because during financial crises things get scary. People join unfortunate movements, races turn against each other for jobs and scapegoats get ... scapegoated. My discomfort was a source of constant irritation to my friends who questioned if I'd secretly gone fascist or at least Republican, but as I asked them to explain the point of the movement each emphasized different things. This amorphous protest without a leader or focused agenda had become an inkblot test for everyone's personal social/political gripes.
I see a picture of a giant puppy being sodomized by industrialists. Why so vague when your protest could have some neat disciplined talking points? Like, say five talking points. Five talking points that could be expressed in about two minutes. Y'know, like over a million people have already seen in that video by former labor secretary Robert Reich: Personally, I find that message really compelling, and based on your signs I'm guessing you do too, but I don't hear it getting through. Probably because for every well-intentioned, well-informed, pragmatically-minded protester like this one or like this one there is a patchouli-laced, economically-retarded jackass hogging the media attention. (In the rare cases when the media decides to cover you at all). And that's a shame because the spokespeople for the status quo want to destroy you. They will say anything they can to dismantle and discredit this protest. And you are helping them. Why not let the best and brightest move to the front. And while you're at it, maybe let these three other kinds of people just, y'know, clap and hand out fliers because they're distracting from the message.
Protesters Who Think the Problem is Simply Corporate GreedOne of the best things about working in New York City is that I get to go down to the protests and hear countless demonstrators eloquently explaining the abuses of corporate greed and showing how it has tainted a system at the expense of honest hard-working families - or at least that's what I hear as I have my liberal, pinko wet dreams while snoozing on the downtown 2. Unfortunately, what I actually hear is a lot of people talking about "fuckin' Corporate America, man," and that's just about it. That is not the refrain of a successful protest. That's why you never saw this:
"I have . . . had it up to here with these crackedy ass crackers." Let's keep this a movement about change, not blame. Marching in the streets and calling for retribution from those shadow figures you believe caused the recession like it was a murder is better rhetoric for a lynch mob than people seeking to restructure society. Not to mention that the "fuck Corporate America rallying" cry is easy fodder for Conservatives to say simply, and convincingly, this is a group that hates capitalism.Hating capitalism is not on the table. This is America. Capitalism defines our history, our economy, and our national psyche And the purpose of this protest cannot be a naive attempt to change the very souls of American businesspeople. To punish businesses for their greed. It's the wrong message and counterproductive. Call me jaded, but I thought we all just took it for granted that businesses are amoral creatures driven by profit. Being enraged at Corporate America for being greedy is like reading Cracked.com and being enraged by its use of the list format. This is who we are. In the America I thought I lived in, we expect business-people to be driven by profit, but we rely on our Government to protect us from those abuses. We expect Government to set laws to govern what a business can and cannot do. Government can establish a minimum wage, ban child labor, and tax imports. Government can enact rules against predatory lending or . .. anything if it has the support of the people. And we expect our government to keep us safe from this cold unfeeling beast we call capitalism with things like food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, and social security.Isn't that the relationship we've all agreed on because it makes sense? If you visited the zoo and your whole family were mauled to death by several ferocious tigers, would you march to Indonesia, protesting the insatiable blood-lust of tigers? Would you seek to have tigers removed from the zoo even though they're the biggest attraction, selling the most tickets and keeping everyone in business? Or would you just, y'know, be furious because the Zoo forgot to lock the cages? I thought we all knew tigers were dangerous and we agreed we'd keep them around anyway because we had competent zookeepers and big steel bars.Let this be a protest which defines and demands a structure from our government to protect us from the wild animal of capitalism, because you'll never make a tiger a vegetarian no matter how many of you take a dump in Zucotti Park.
"Tofu? Sure, I'd love some. Just open the cage."
Protesters Who Don't Grasp SymbolismI'm really happy to see that you protesters have spread out across numerous major cities in recent days -- not just because it means a movement is forming, but because Wall Street was a symbolically flawed place to hold the protests in the first place. You know who would love to see the economy pick up? The day traders on Wall Street. Or did you think everyone who worked in the financial district of Manhattan was in that richest one percent you heard about in Reich's link above? Wall Street might be one of the centers of the world's economy, but to point a finger at it as if there is one bad man in a three piece suit, smoking cigars and raping the statue of liberty on his mahogany desk is just simplistic. What about the banks, CEOs, and, perhaps most of all, complicit government leading up to and existing during this recession? There is no shortage of blame, and to focus anger at the flailing stock market makes as much sense as protesting cancer outside Memorial Sloan Kettering.
"Call a cab, for Miss Liberty. I'm done."