Let Them Eat Poverty

The elemental sleight of hand trick in modern American politics is to divert and channel populist anger into the two traditional party platforms and electorates as imperceptibly as possible so that voters don’t realize they’re going against their declared self-interest. But by 2030 according to current demographic trends when the U.S. will be a minority-majority country deploying ever more sophisticated social media platforms to convene at will – this may no longer be possible. These two developments, identity-based technology and advancing multicultural composition, spell out most clearly why the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is not and will not become the left wing version of the Tea Party.

Outside of a common neo-populist sense of class victimization fueled by unrequited rage against the financial sector’s “Inside Job” duplicity and chicanery, the right wing libertarian Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street protesters really have nothing in common. The former from a position of declining ascendency continues to react against Republican Wall Street bail-outs coupled with Democratic stimulus and healthcare programs by focusing on cutting deficits and reducing the size of government, preferring to administer present pain in exchange for future salvation. The latter starts out as disenfranchised akin to the Joycean “history from which we’re trying to awake” and is concerned mainly with extremely degrading and disheartening income inequality and bleak career paths in a country where rising mobility like financial engineering has become an oxymoron. Both are quite different in majority age groupings, racial composition and diversity, social strata, political impulses and instincts, and even geographic origins. Even more significant, the Tea Party has evolved into traditional political organizing on local levels while OWS still functions as a loosely structured social media phenomenon obtaining its sustaining organizational coherence just as much from the digital energy it inspires nationwide as generated in situ.

Until now there has been no upside to protesting against the ingrained, incestuous, and sclerotic national “dialogue of the deaf” between a highly self-serving political status quo and a highly self-serving, heavily invested financial sector elite who paid themselves bonuses from bail-outs while everyone else gave at the altar and then went without. Concurrently, there has been nothing but downside for those at the receiving end of closing a factory. Americans are occupying Wall Street because this is what we have done to them: shutter community’ livelihoods all over America, send jobs overseas while keeping corporate profits parked in foreign subsidiaries to avoid paying commensurate taxes at home, scarf up scarce domestic research and development funding only to barter made in America intellectual property with overseas governments for access to that nation’s market share costing more jobs at home, and short-change a military with inferior products and inadequate policies for what comes next, our military composed of willing to believe volunteers from fly-over country dying to defend an American way of life that then fails to provide them with a job and decent medical care once they return home. No upside and all downside brings us to today’s American Dream, bait and switch hell which has been reduced to zero minus what’s left. This is why our Millennial generation feels defrauded and trapped in a vortex of diminishing expectations appropriate to wage slaves and temporary employment mules harnessed to shoulder growing entitlement burdens like creatures born of unfunded mandates.

Zuccotti Park, formerly Liberty Plaza Park adjoining Wall Street, has become America’s national crisis center staffed by an emerging chorus of melting pot citizen voices, the “other 99 percent”, who are choreographing a new cultural declaration of independence in the nation’s proverbial market square. As Mother Nature conveniently co-locates poison and its antidote, so we are at the beginning of Occupy Wall Street’s insanely democratic clarion call magnifying itself digitally through infinite social media extensions to end predatory capitalism as we know it and uplink a healthier, more sane, just, moral, and infinitely more patriotic civic culture.

We are witness to the end game of economic elites manipulating social anger on the part of America’s debt-encumbered, unemployed, and underemployed classes who are now fighting back for the basic dignity associated with career-enhancing, family and community sustaining jobs. In our current societal race to an unequal opportunity bottom, freedom has become less than “just another word for nothing left to lose”. Instead, class warfare has metastasized into caste welfare but only for those financial, corporate, and political Brahmins who rigged the upper strata decks and tilted the gated playing fields to design and then vote for their own options, bonuses, salaries, promotions, and tax write-offs. Capitalism misplayed this way means creating the most unfair and inhuman conditions possible that gut and then flip any natural law of supply and demand, national or regional comparative advantage, loyalty to one’s country, or even compassion for hapless neighbors, into a global vortex of ends justifying the means with shareholder winners taking it all. Everyday people are discarded as fungible assets according to the market price of corn, soybeans or other material commodities which is justified as a current Congressman from Iowa intoned this year on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

What we have now is a system and a way of life that has produced forty-six point two million Americans living in poverty while one percent obscenely hoards half of our country’s obscene wealth. There is no trickle down or up in this scenario besides someone else’s misery. It turns out that except for the top one-percent, none of us are as socially empowered or as freely mobile as the devices we use. The juxtaposition of Steve Jobs’ mourned and untimely passing with the spontaneous, unanticipated rising OWS movements in hundreds of U.S. cities paints this dangerous dichotomy between American mankind and our machines in ghetto graffiti sharp and painful hues. Our tone-deaf politicians appear to come from another planet as they keep missing the simple truths that could set us free in favor of the ideological rope-a-dope driving the frontal lobes of their eternally fundraising minds. Publicly bailed out financial institutions turn “socialism for oligarchies” into slick, self-perpetuating insider do-loop deals where, to paraphrase Michael Lewis’ memorable depiction of Solomon Brothers in its heyday, the greatest insult of all is to call someone a client.

Our Wall Street occupiers insist on a race to a new marketplace top where meritocratic risks are equal to meritocratic rewards, and where land ownership, home ownership, and workplace ownership are part and parcel of the indivisible American birthright. The mocking echoes they hear back from the entitled class of “let them eat poverty” only serve to stir an outraged and relentless peoples’ march to digital public tribunals in geographically exploding public squares to exact long-overdue equal opportunities starting with perp-walks and claw-backs. It’s the Dickensian “Tale of Two Cities” redux and while peaceful so far, it’s how cultural revolutions are bred and born in our national DNA lifetimes with the 1960s as exhibit one.

On cue, our “inter-compensated” political and business oligarchies still elect to self-indict through various media-captured “Marie Antoinette” moments that would be humorous if not so tragically arrogant and ignorant of the real-time changes defining their tomorrow. Instead of bowing to poverty and succumbing to second class citizenship, multiple movements across the country are showing through competitive metrics that the “stakeholder economy” beats the “shareholder economy” hands down in terms of optimizing people, purpose, planet, productivity, and profit. Far beyond the shallow reactions of ideological critics who dismiss what’s unfolding as disorganized, infantile socialist redistribution impulses or material envy indicative of sore loser fringe groups, our neighbors with nowhere else to go are reaching for a moral crossroads where “Wall Street Free” signs will spring up like good harvest seeds spread across an abused and foreclosed nation.

Starting with our antiquated and unjust tax code, yesterday’s formulas are no longer meaningful, satisfactory or competitive. To every extent possible, enlightened communities are gearing up to seize a new day and position new ways to compel a serious look at an alternative America where cloud technology and freedom from want here on earth are synonymous. In this new America that Occupy Wall Streeters can perceive in their hearts and minds if not yet see with their eyes or experience in their lives, employees will expect the right to own their piece of the company store and not just work for it. Recycling profits locally will upgrade quality of life and infuse dying communities with spirit, hope and solidarity. Capital will be rightfully subordinate to labor as businesses and bankers will come to understand that their true clients are the folks who live and work next door. Working class homes will have their underwater mortgages aligned to current market levels following the Great Recession “other 99 percent” household equity holocaust which will restart labor mobility throughout the land. Citizen-driven financial engineering will begat factories at home that produce competitive goods to prove that economic patriotism can coexist with fair global trade as long as everyone plays by the same, consensual rules and standards. In this new America, the inwardly accusing “Don’t tread on me” will be replaced with the outwardly liberating “Don’t tread on us”. Soon if not already, Occupy Wall Street will be too big to fail.