Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wake Up John Doe

When the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations began, I watched how the major American news networks scratched their heads trying to figure it out and take it seriously. They saw its potential as a news item but couldn't decide what to do with it. Unlike the demonstrations of the Arab Spring, which the networks were anxious to own and, in some cases, to physically take part in, there is no single, clear agenda in the Wall Street protests (aside from the obvious one - it isn't called Occupy 42nd Street).

Consequently, the American media have tried to portray the protesters to fit their own unofficial ideological agenda. Fox News, for instance, has denounced them as nothing but anarchist hippies. Other media networks are being more cautious, just in case the movement amounts to something. Politicians are taking sides as well, with the 2012 presidential race looming. Republicans are calling Occupy Wall Street - at best - a pointless distraction, while Democrats are tentatively supportive or noncommittal.

I, for one, think it is encouraging that there doesn't seem to be a unified, monolithic message towering above these messy and shambling demonstrations. Some observers have tried to make the various conservative movements that seemed to spring up spontaneously in 2009 - that eventually coalesced into the Koch Brothers' Tea Party - analogous to the multifarious origins of the protests on Wall Street.

One thing is clear: Occupy Wall Street is a movement of the left. So often with such movements, there is a tendency for unaffiliated leftist groups to be hijacked by extremists like the anarchists who always seem to appear on the fringes to scare away liberal or libertarian elements. Certainly the enemies of the movement must be hoping that it turns violent. It is a maddening habit of leftist groups to refuse to compromise and cooperate with one another for a common cause.

Conservatives argue that Wall Street isn't responsible for the worldwide economic crisis. Barack Obama, who took office four months after the Crash of '08 and three months after the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 that saved the American banking system, is responsible. The banks, conservative reasoning suggests, should've been left alone to fail.

However much I somewhat agree with that disaster scenario, the bailout of the banks was not a Get Out of Jail Free card, inviting them to continue the same practices that brought about the crash. However much the banks do not seem to have learned their lesson, it was eminently necessary that their misdeeds didn't completely shatter the world economy. The cries of outrage at the evident money madness infecting the 1% of the American population that controls 40% of the American Pie may sound shrill but they are genuine. It has shaken alot of people's faith in capitalism - a system that relies on that 1% to behave themselves. Too many Americans know that they cannot rely on them any more.

I think the moment someone comes forward to give Occupy Wall Street one face and one voice and one message, it is finished.

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