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A Wall Street Fall?

The 99 per cent that will ‘occupy’ Wall Street today, October 15, will not be a global 99 per cent. They are probably the one per cent they are railing against for the outsiders. 

The call to action by the “leaderless movement” is, on the face of it, a rare protest for they are hitting out at the financial institutions in the United States and large parts of Western Europe, traditionally acquisitive and developed societies. Their status has often been gauged by their monetary prowess, best exemplified not in the standard of living of their people but in their defence expenditure, their fund management for aid, their war operations overseas. 

These are political strategies. Therefore, is the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ group really on the right track? It says: 

  • “Over the last 30 years, the 1% have created a global economic system - neoliberalism - that attacks our human rights and destroys our environment. Neoliberalism is worldwide - it is the reason you no longer have a job, it is the reason you cannot afford healthcare, education, food, your mortgage. Neoliberalism is your future stolen. Neoliberalism is everywhere, gutting labor standards, living wages, social contracts, and environmental protections. It is "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." It is a system that ravages the global south and creates global financial crisis - crisis in Spain, in Greece, in the United States. It is a system built on greed and thrives on destablizing shocks. It allows the 1% to enrich themselves by impoverishing humanity.”

Bankers and financial institutions, rightly reviled as they are worldwide, have no ideology. Neoliberalism is government policy. Funds that should have been used for healthcare, education, and jobs were earlier outsourced to defend the nations and to get cheap labour. Will these people think about the consequences of that on the recipients of such largesse? They were the ones who slammed racist slurs on those who got the jobs. Was it the financial biggies who did it? Yes, but only to an extent. It was the pushing of the Big culture, the teaching of the twang, the infiltration through the trade route – perfected by the British, imbibed by the neophytes. In a moment of comeuppance, shall we say, among the bad apples were some whiz kids from the lands of the poor who divested investments after faking the huge corporate lie of taking a one-dollar salary. 

Wall Street echoes the White House. Moreover, not too long ago, many Americans voted for the country’s honour as opposed to the country’s welfare. It was the superficial honour of keeping the forces in countries that did not need them. The consequences of such financial expenditure, besides the burden of having to keep up the façade and the spirit, snowballed and reached the doorstep of the mortgaged houses and the laid-off workers. Cutbacks were everywhere. This did not happen yesterday or even a month ago. Did this group join in when the trade unions were on strike? Has it mattered that the first ones out are usually the immigrants? 

If people are not granted the choice of lifestyle, then it does not qualify as neoliberalism. Western countries did not need to liberalise their economy, for they held the purse strings of the major international financial institutions. However, the billions given as loans were a political trade-off. 

Is this about Wall Street, then? Or the Zuccotti Park-Liberty Plaza where the silent protest will take place? The update states:

  • 'Over 3,000 people gathered at Liberty Plaza in the pre-dawn hours this morning to defend the peaceful Occupation near Wall Street. The crowd cheered at the news that multinational real estate firm Brookfield Properties will postpone its so-called “cleanup” of the park and that Mayor Bloomberg has told the NYPD to stand down on orders to remove protesters. On the eve of the October 15 global day of action against Wall Street greed, this development has emboldened the movement and sent a clear message that the power of the people has prevailed against Wall Street.“We are winning and Wall Street is afraid. This movement is gaining momentum and is too big to fail,” said one protestor.'

What sort of victory would this be? The firm was doing the cleanup on instructions by the mayor. The one per cent occupies seats of power too. Can such a movement itself be ‘moneyless’? It is said that billionaire George Soros is funding the “anti-capitalism” movement. It may or may not be true, but it is not improbable. The capitalist is the one who makes the hammer and the sickle prosperous, and pliable. Ordinary people are donating as well. For what? So that families can sit in, children can be brought there, not to forget the advice to bring in packed meals and warm clothes? Does anyone realise that there are people who wait for a meal and are huddled in torn blankets in these very same places? 

99 per cent is a hugely dispersed figure and does not constitute a uniform group. This is a vast spectrum we are speaking about, and at the lowest end Wall Street and investment bankers cannot even be spelled because they go no edjikayshun, brother. 

Yet, the voices will speak on behalf of everyone, much like bankers and politicians do. Harrison Schultz, business analyst from Brooklyn said:

  • “For too long the 99% have been ignored as our economic system has collapsed. The banks got bailouts and we’ve been sold out. Wall Street’s greed has corrupted our country and is killing our planet. But today we celebrate victory and vow to keep fighting for justice and change on Wall Street, and in over 100 cities in the US and over 950 cities globally.”

It was the global bubble that everyone wanted to be a part of, to begin with. The “vampire” survived because there was enough blood to suck. The co-opting of outsiders is disingenuous, though, because together with those suffering there are others who are fairly stable despite Wall Street. It also does not take into consideration the cultural and political dimensions of varied societies, including internecine ones. 

The word ‘occupation’ has me in a tizzy, for we know of many states outside of the West that are now occupied in more devious and violent ways. It is irony that the protestors are using the Arab Spring as an example, when those nations have been left bereft of a leadership ostensibly due to the greed of its leaders, but it is way beyond that. 

  • "We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants."

What safety do those in Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Libya have? Does putting Hosni Mubarak in a cage, much like the torture of Saddam Hussein as a televised example, bring democracy to Egypt? 

The greed of financial institutions is really the avarice of political ideology, of being the first among equals, the Big Brother. A sleepover outside the Pentagon might have been a better idea. 

It is the end of Fall, but will Wall Street Fall? With winter sneaking in, snow will cover those dry leaves and all you will see is white. Again. ‘Change’ is often circuitous.

(c) Farzana Versey