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:
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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 Greed
One 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 "f****n' 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 "f**k 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."
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Protesters Who Don't Grasp Symbolism
I'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."
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I always thought the march should be in Washington DC. Look at all the pushback Obama is getting in opposition to his plan that millionaires pay the same percentage in taxes that the middle class does. Don't you think a few thousand angry voters might make a difference in that debate? Or even if you really want the point of this protest to be about prosecuting those in financial quarters who have broken laws with their greed, well, you know they do have a Department of Justice down in D.C. and everything. Why not apply your pressure there? After all, it's not like those corrupt officers of Wall Street were gonna just hand themselves over.
Protesters With Attention Deficit Disorder
I know there's no shortage of things wrong with our country right now, but your movement has its greatest strength if you focus your energies. Let's be specific. Can we start with taxation? You saw the video, right? Taxes on the super rich are generating less income now than they did under earlier Republican Presidents of years ago. And still there's no guarantee anything will change. Again, see the reaction to Obama's tax proposal. But unlike children dreaming of the impossible and possibly undesirable task of changing the nature of capitalism itself, let's focus on something feasible. A new tax structure is possible because it's not new. It's just a question of putting the goal posts where they used to be. And maybe if your support can help change minds, empower the political left, and get something tangible passed, people will no longer be able to discredit you or feign ignorance at your agenda. And you can move on to the next thing from there.
And if you can't keep it just to taxes, can we at least keep the topic to the economy? I know there is no formal list of demands, but at one site, there is a "living document" of demands that range from changing the tax structure to ending on the war on drugs. And in other forums, protesters encourage others to add to and adjust demands. The merit or lack thereof of each of those demands is not the point. The point is focus and insistence on reasonable demands that will grow your numbers.
Focus is hard when there are so many factors causing such a bad situation for so many. And I know it's impossible to expect specific solutions to an entire global economic meltdown, but the better and smarter your behavior, the more your numbers will grow. The more people who are working two jobs for half of what they made three years ago will join you. The fact that liars will lie about your goals and your members does not give you a blank check to raise the ante on the rhetoric getting bigger and louder. Instead, it's a time for increasingly focused, clear-headed behavior. Reasonable, logical demands over and over again until the Sean Hannitys and Ann Coulters of the world look increasingly ridiculous for perpetuating a myth that anyone who thinks our current system is broken is somehow un-American. Because not even they will be able to say that forever. Not when millions of people from every race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political group and age are worried about affording food, paying the rent, and sending their kids to school.
That's why I think the biggest threat to your movement are those of you who would hijack, marginalize, or radicalize the message. It's time for the best of you to move to the front of the line and speak for the millions more waiting to join.