One day in 1969 a man named Abbie Hoffman and some other pranksters managed to sneak into the NYSE on one of the guided tours. To this day children and tourists get to go into the heaving bowels of capitalism and look upon the laborers of finance, but they can thank Hoffman and company for the glass walls that prevent visitors from interfering with the business of the markets. The activist “Yippies” were there to dump a lot of dollar bills on the brokers down below. It was a great joke, because quite a few of the stock exchange employees scrambled over one another like refugee campers in their haste to grab the cash. This embarrassment of riches brought about the glass walls. The joke was even better because some of the money was fake. It was all good theater—but maybe nothing more. These were just stock brokers after all, and low on the food chain of greed-based finance capitalism, which can at this point with its arcane instruments, drooling derivatives, and crafty hordes of lobbyists be distinguished from the generalized philosophy of laissez-faire economics, of “Big C” Capitalism.
What we have now prevailing over the world is a kind of War and Narcotics-based Fascist-Mercantilism, if fascism is defined as the “merger between corporations and government,” as Mussolini famously did, and if mercantilism implies an overbearing government that disregards domestic economic will. Marine General Smedley Butler had the right idea, in times when the black or “narco-economy” (the illegal, sub rosa economy which will always cooperate with and rely on the financial houses and banks to clean their money) was not even nearly as well-developed as it is now. War is simply a Racket, Butler said, one tied incestuously to Wall Street, which is also a Racket. People forget this from time to time.
In this country, people have marched on Washington before, and also on Wall Street, and they have also invaded the docked ships of occupying powers and threw overboard all their merchandise, like tea.
But one poll result shows us that only half of all Americans are aware of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Of this half, a majority supports it, despite being very often told by media and government officials that the protest is poorly organized and guilty of having vague objectives. If these numbers are true, they would belie what has seemed like a major increase in media attention: when these protests began in mid September they were undoubtedly in the blind spot of the same media establishment. Some would say intentionally in the blind spot.
So one has to wonder if that half that are aware of these protests—a protest which in fact has a General Assembly that issues statements and has an alleged $230,000 in a funding pool, of which several thousand were allocated to clean up Zuccotti Park—is the half of Americans that make less than $505 a week. Or if they are among the 74% surge in Americans who are on food stamps, since 2007, alone.
Does it take theatrics to reach Americans? Making it rain on stock brokers? (Nuns and clergymen dumped animal blood on draft board registers during the Vietnam war here in the US; those were more emphatic days.) Or perhaps it takes real politicians and not cultural celebrities and garment industry CEO’s to shows signs of support for these protests? The president has made some very mild-mannered gestures in that direction, gestures notable for having no teeth and strongly resembling the weasel words of a politician who intends to ignore the matter. He said “he’d seen it on television,” when he first deigned to remark on the occupiers and marchers across the country.
The American public has seemed for several generations now to be suffering from a constipation of political will, from a general social disregard. Maybe, in order to rouse the general public ire or consciousness, some activists are going to have to be roughed or spiced up, and the shocking images to be broadcast honestly. But America is a racket, it is being continually proven. A rigged game is hard to change from inside or out, and after the homicidal government responses to the needed activism of the 1960’s, it does appear that the public got cable television, and more than a bit scared.