Bloody rabblerousers and their ridiculous protests
Sometimes it’s all too easy to dismiss the significance of public protests.
Like so many others, I scoffed contemptuously at the truck convoy that rolled into Canberra last month, with its very clear statement of anger against… something? I know it had something vaguely to do with the carbon tax, but that message got lost somewhere amidst all the frothing at the mouth, and the placards warning us that the United Nations is secretly plotting to take over the world.
Of course, it’s easy for me, as a young, commie, pinko elitist to have a go at a bunch of hard-working truckies, so in the interests of balance it’s worth acknowledging that many of the rallies attended by people who share similar ideological dispositions to me are often no better.
The “anti-globalisation” protests that pop up at regular intervals, for example, very often appear to be nothing more than a way for a bunch of smelly, shoeless hippies to fill a few hours semi-meaningfully before another hit from the bucket bong.
Like the truckies, they might have some genuine (and many not-so-genuine) reasons to be angry, but both lack one crucial thing: A clear, logical and coherent message.
For that same reason, it would be easy to label the thousands of people currently staging a peaceful occupation of Wall Street in New York as inconsequential; as nothing more than a bunch of idealists who don’t understand how the world works.
I can’t quite work out what it is exactly they want or what would make them happy enough to go home again (in spite of trying), but they’re definitely angry at corporate America’s culture of greed.
Organised mostly online (partly by the #occupywallstreet Twitter hashtag), and possibly motivated by the prospect of free pizza, they have spent nearly two weeks protesting and, according to their website, they intend to be there for quite a while yet.
I admit I’m making this observation from afar, but I suspect they’re largely unsure how investment bankers operate (indeed, not many people actually do), but they’re smart enough to know that there’s something seriously wrong with it.
They’re angry that in America’s financial system, greed and corruption is not just swept under the carpet, but tacitly encouraged through a complete lack of regulatory oversight and will (thank god things are different here).
They’re all pissed that ludicrously large bonuses and golden handshakes are not just seen as a privilege for company directors and CEOs during good times on Wall Street, but a god-given human right, regardless of the performance of said company and the US economy as a whole.
They’re angry that the financial sector generates obscene amounts of money not out of making things, or coming up with original ideas, but out of industrial-scale, second-to-second gambling which destabilises the global financial system, and puts the hard-earned investments of people like you and me (even if only via a superannuation fund) at unnecessary risk.
They’re probably still outraged by the fact that back in September 2008, the Bush Government offered Wall Street a 700 billion dollar bailout package, and yet Congressional Republicans are now seeking to reduce the budget deficit by cutting spending on welfare and other “unecessary” social services.
They’re angry because they know they are entering a world where studying hard for a university degree and working your arse off is no longer a guarantee of financial security for one’s family. They know that to even get slightly ahead in life, they will probably have to rack up enormous levels of debt, and be shacked with those debts for much of the rest of their lives.
They’re angry that the investment bank Goldman Sachs, for example, not only helped to create the Financial Crisis that first hit us in 2008, but then made money out of it, and, to make matters worse, not a single person from that company has faced prosecution over their reckless actions.
Basically, they’re angry that the fat cats on Wall Street don’t have to play by the same rules as the kittens on main street.
I’d say most of all, however, they’re angry because the whole system was supposed to change back in 2008, but it never did. They’re still waiting for the fearless root-and-branch reform they were told that a vote for Barack Obama would help to bring about.
As David Graber so eloquently put it in The Guardian:
What we are witnessing can also be seen as a demand to finally have a conversation we were all supposed to have back in 2008. There was a moment, after the near-collapse of the world’s financial architecture, when anything seemed possible… This lasted perhaps two weeks. Then, in one of the most colossal failures of nerve in history, we all collectively clapped our hands over our ears and tried to put things back as close as possible to the way they’d been before.
In other words, they’re just another bunch of young, stupid, ignorant, rabble-rousers with nothing to complain about.
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