Pissed Populist Resistance Shifts Left
“Some is rich, some is poor
That’s the way the world is
But I don’t like lying back
Sayin’ how bad your luck is
So we came to jazz it up
We never loved a shovel
Break your back to earn your pay
Ah’ don’t forget to grovel”
– Joe Strummer
There’s a place in the heart of the world of commerce called Liberty Square; lower Manhattan, NYC, deep in the money district—the trade market, slipknot wink-wink wheel-greasing machinery. It’s not far from where a few weeks ago they laid their wreaths and said their prayers for what went down on 9/11/01, when after a decade people were still not quite sure how the hell that could have happened to the richest nation on planet Earth in its biggest city. For 20 days now this tiny patch of land in the bowels of the concrete jungle has acted as an epicenter for the latest in street-theater populist outrage aimed at a fixed system that, let’s face it, has been a pretty fair whipping post for this space lo these past 14 years. Weird how the slipped veil will occasionally reveal the fragility of subsistence.
A fair number of people have jammed the cross streets and bridges, waving signs, wearing costumes, strumming tuneless guitars and brandishing cheap bullhorns while they block traffic and are summarily hauled off to prison. Some are there for the spectacle, others for the sense of purpose, others to perpetuate the illusion of filibuster, a slice of the rhetoric from the bottom up. Others are making the same point, maybe, from a different political slant, but nonetheless a very similar dissent to that of the Tea Party enthusiasts of two years ago.
There is a lot of fairly damaging shit that goes down without much democratic voice.
To the byways pour the jobless, disenfranchised and the youth, who are told there is no future, and the aging, who hear that what they banked on is going bye-bye and it ain’t comin’ back. Voting appears to be an annual joke and unless you can afford a lobbyist, there is a corned animal vibe going down now; here, there and everywhere.
The left-leaning 99 Percenters, the Occupy Wall St. movement, which began noisily enough in late September, has now reached into the thousands over three weeks and has spread to cities across the fruited plain. It’s a splintered, kind of mashed-up message of middle class civil disobedience, worker’s rights and fed-up disillusioned patriots protesting against the wealthy, influential and apparently under-taxed one percent that we’re reminded of in Washington daily; by the President, the congress, and echoed through the news cycle cable soap boxers. It is old-fashioned Have vs. Have-nots, the class warfare crowd, demanding a share and exercising a voice—real Woody Guthrie meets Emma Goldman angst.
Apparently no one is safe these days.
The Right is being pounded daily from the Tea Party that the broken government needs to stand down and out. “Taxed Enough Already” was grassroots at its finest, and although it at first appeared naïve and then patently mean spirited, it had a signature resonance. Of course, this has become a bit of a problem for those who call government a career, whether they’ve achieve their position from deriding it or not. Whatever the Grand Old Party throws its red meat subculture, it comes back chewed up and spat out. Ask its current presidential “frontrunner,” who, by the way, keeps besting all the Tea Party comers, one by one.
Now the Left, feeling rejected and hoodwinked by its centrist, Wall St. bailing president and a congress that passed the buck for two years into the gnarled teeth of a freshman class of neo-conservatives hell-bent on hacking chunks of big government at its roots, has hurled itself into the scene with a fervor not seen since the last president decided to war it up.
But unlike the anti-war movement, the Democratic party survivors don’t know what to do with these people—placate, lecture or exploit. The present administration would love for their chants to echo into the hinterland and rile up a fractured base to rekindle any sort of independent fervor against what is sure to be a dozen more months of putrid economic news. Yes, the faceless hordes of shysters you handed over your retirement funds to so they could gamble like drunken roulette addicts are the bad guys. Good, yes, please.
But that is a dream or a delusion not worth dissecting here. We’re talking about protests now, protests against this President and this congress and the elite of this nation; the oil barons and corporate masters, the huge conglomerates, who poison and pollute and rack up massive profit margins to give out big bonuses to the yacht boys at Christmas, and then have the audacity to not ease the burden of our nine percent of employed. Protesting, I guess, against the cold, hard facts: “Too fucking bad, pal. Tell it to the judge!”
My favorite sign is “Lost My Job, Found An Occupation.”
Good stuff. Very clever.
Of course, as I kindly shared with the Tea Party gathering on Tax Day 2010 in Hackensack, NJ: What are you going to do once the fist is unclenched, the cameras go away and you have miles of The System staring you in the face? Well, the Tea Party did something all right; they became part of The System. They got themselves exploited and piggybacked, which has been both a blessing and a curse. Someone legitimized and then politicized them. The power suits they sent to the Virginia swamp started yakking it up about deficits and federal debt and revisiting the legitimacy of entitlements and opened up a slimy can of worms they can’t seem to reseal.
How come we had money to bail out the big banks? The auto industry? Wall Street fat cats? How come we ran two wars over eight years off the books? How come Homeland Security was needed when we have a CIA, FBI, National Guard and supposedly the most powerful military on the planet? What the hell is that pork-addled limp-dick stimulus package doing for us now? Why all this foreign aid? Why all this tax money going to belly-up green franchises? And, while we’re at it, where are the hovercrafts we were promised? Yeah, and where are the cool laser guns?
Nobody said indignation had to be coherent, but at least in America there isn’t major rioting and looting and the burning of neighborhoods.
Well, probably not in NYC. That’s an L.A. thing. Too many interesting distractions that you can get to on foot in the Big Apple to waste time running amok. But, shit, that shouldn’t mean when this thing becomes a maudlin exercise for the righteous, all that is left us might be the reckless.
But for now, fight the good fight, people. At the very least, you’re keeping the riot control units of the NYC police department busy and there will be a host of jobs for those paid to clean up afterward.
It’s like we used to say around here…
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus and Midnight For Cinderella.