Tuesday, October 11, 2011

So Much Yelling and So Little Talking


They've had their fun.

They've gotten to camp out in a granite-paved park among the canyons of Lower Manhattan. They've gotten to accidentally break toilets in tiny coffee shop bathrooms when trying to bathe for free. They've gotten to yell obscenities at restaurant owners who wouldn't give away food. They've gotten to dance topless as mothers in the neighborhood tried to shield their young children from the bacchanalia.

They've generally gotten away with creating all sorts of mayhem and perpetrating social misbehavior in the world's most powerful and dynamic city. With cops arresting only a comparative few when they petulantly blocked traffic on the historic Brooklyn Bridge.

But today, they marched uptown to the high-rise luxury apartment buildings where some of the world's wealthiest people own homes.

Granted, there weren't as many protesters making the trek northward from the Financial District as have been roughing it downtown. But if any of them assume that what they've done - and what they want to do uptown - makes any difference, or even makes any sense, does that lend more folly than credibility to their cause?

After all, we're still not really sure what it is.

Because until today, we hadn't heard a clear message regarding their objectives. Unless that lack of clarity actually was their message.

If they're mad about our country's high unemployment, how does camping out in Manhattan like high-tech bums solve anything? Have you seen the photos of all the laptop computers they've scattered amongst expensive luggage next to tables lavished with freshly-cooked food from gourmet restaurants? They look more prepared for tailgating than job hunting.

If they're mad about income inequity, how does marching around in designer camping wear and outdoor gear prove they're poor, unless they're in debt up to their eyeballs after purchasing all of this chic clothing?

If they're mad about political disenfranchisement, how does taking advantage of New York's liberal right-of-assembly laws and demonstration permits - not to mention a police force obviously restraining itself - prove they don't have rights and a voice?

The longer anybody stays in New York City, the disparity between Gotham's rich and poor becomes ever more stark, and it's taken the Occupy Wall Streeters about a month to realize that targeting the homes of select economic villains could make for a rejuvenating diversion.

So today, they slapped together a "Millionaires March Tour" to visit the exclusive Upper East Side enclaves where New York's most notorious businessmen live. The protesters told the press - which considers the rowdy throngs to be ratings gold, and follows them with glee - that today's objective was to penalize big earners who have a "willingness to hoard wealth at the expense of the 99%."

Whatever that means.

I think they want it to mean that our country's economic problems would be solved if the wealthiest one percent of Americans would give their money away. As if that were possible, considering that many of their assets aren't in cash, but companies and other enterprises that employ the 90% of Americans who still have jobs.

But pragmatism was an early casualty of the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon.

Here's a listing of executives and their exclusive residences that were targeted today:

- Rupert Murdoch, 64th and 5th Avenue
- David Koch, 71st and Park Avenue
- Howard Milstein, 78th and Park Avenue
- John Paulson, 86th and Madison Avenue
- Jamie Dimon, 93rd and Park Avenue

Protesters outside the Park Avenue apartment building where Jamie Dimon, Chase CEO, lives

Aside from taunting a nanny trying to enter one of the apartment buildings, jamming sidewalks along some of Manhattan's most famous streets, and making a lot of security guards put in lots of overtime, about all that the protesters seem to have accomplished was inconveniencing ordinary people who likely had no idea they lived near, were driving by, or were walking past the homes of such titans of commerce. Who probably weren't even home, since today was a work day.

Oh yeah - I forgot.

Most of these protesters don't have jobs.

Which, actually, is a fact that the targeted One Percenters really shouldn't ignore. Sure, up to this point, the protesters and their garbled message have made for interesting press reports, as well as a surprisingly robust copy-cat movement in other cities across America. I've heard that a small group has even begun protesting the Federal Building in the mighty metropolis of Fort Worth, Texas.


Yet, still... how many revolutions have been sparked by even less organized agitators? Idle hands are the Devil's workshop, as the saying goes. Let the peons get angry enough, and all the money that the One Percenters command might not be enough to protect themselves from the proverbial 99 percent.

Conservatives fret over President Obama's policies eliciting a new class warfare in the United States, but as the Occupy Wall Streeters continue to command attention and flaunt their rights to assemble and demonstrate, we may learn how much easier - and quicker - it is to channel anger into action than smug complacency.

Sure, it's been tough deciphering what the demonstrators really stand for, but we all know they're angry and disillusioned. And not entire logical. Which can't be a good combination, particularly when mixed with real problems like high unemployment, increasingly prevalent evidence that the Wall Street bailouts have only lined the pockets of a few top bankers, a decade-long war for which no resolution can be seen, and any number of other problems that have been identified by both liberals and conservatives.

Ahh, yes! Conservatives. They've had their own protest going for over two years now called the Tea Party. And while that's been far more conventional, since it's involved actually electing new representation and re-writing legislation, it's a type of discontent that the nation's established power brokers shouldn't be ignoring, either.

Right now, it doesn't appear likely that Tea Partiers and Occupy Wall Streeters will join forces. But the sociopolitical conversation in our country is becoming increasingly bitter, sour, and contentious. Among conservatives, and now, among liberals.

I'm not crazy about the way either extreme has gone about expressing themselves.

But the same flash-in-the-pan ambivalence some Repubicans had towards the Tea Party seems to be echoed again towards Wall Street's rag-tag critics. Since the Tea Party doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon, why do the One Percenters think the folks jeering at their empty apartments are going home anytime soon, either?

Whatever happened to dialog in this country?

All anybody seems to be doing these days is yelling at walls.

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