(Photo: flickr / david_shankbone)
Occupy Wall Street activists make their views known in New York City.
For the past week or so, hundreds of protesters have descended on the Wall Street area in lower Manhattan to express their anger at corporate greed and the behavior of corporate executives whom (they believe) have grounded the global economy to a halt with their parasitic ways.
The whole affair is called "Occupy Wall Street" (although, in reality, they are actually concentrated a few blocks away at Zuccotti Park).
Meanwhile, police have blocked off Broad Street (the road in front of the New York Stock Exchange) as well as various other streets in the vicinity. As a result, this has inconvenienced thousands of Wall Street-area workers (traders, brokers, statisticians, secretaries, construction workers, retail workers, administrative assistants, shopkeepers, etc.), the overwhelming majority of whom have no say whatsoever in the policies of the corporations they toil for, nor can they be remotely held culpable for the 2008 global economic meltdown that has thrown millions of people out of work and into poverty.
The police I have seen on duty typically are either bored or bemused by the protesters. Most police officers (especially in New York City) are themselves of working-class backgrounds -- that is, they are hardly the "corporate elite" that the protesters are targeting. Thus, the cops are caught in the middle of a socioeconomic, ideological battle in which they have no stake and no real authority to resolve.
I have heard that the obligatory "celebrities" – namely Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore – have made their appearances at this protest demonstration. I know who Moore is very well since he seems to always be in the news for one thing or another and I have even seen a few of his films. As for Sarandon, all I know is that she is an aging actress who was married to actor Tim Robbins and has done TV commercials for hair shampoo or something.
I’m not really sure what “qualifies” to make any statements about the economy or bankers or the stock market or much of anything else. Come to think of it, I’m not sure what qualifies Moore, either.
I also read in the paper that right after her appearance at the rally, Sarandon jetted off to Italy. (I am fairly certain she will fly first-class and likely will stay in a four-star hotel in Rome or wherever). So much for the proletariat.
According to CNBC, Sarandon said: "I came down here to educate myself. It's been really informative and I'll be back. There's a huge void between the rich and the poor in this country."
(I think we can easily guess what side of the wealth gap she is on).
She also said: "Greed is widespread all over the world. We have to start making human decisions and put people at the top of the line."
I’m not quite sure what she means by “human decisions,” but I’m going to assume her heart is in the right place.
I don’t know much about Sarandon, so I will refrain from further criticizing her, but I will say that this multi-day protest seems to have no focus, no direction and no point.
If they are protesting the nebulous, ambiguous concept of “corporate greed,” then they may as well protest such other human foibles as lust, gluttony, jealousy, anger and mendacity, as well.
But if the protesters are proposing specific reforms – like, say, cuts on bankers’ bonuses or concrete tax breaks for companies that hire American employees, then I would support them wholeheartedly and not be annoyed by the modest disruptions they are causing.
However I don’t believe the protesters have thought about it that deeply. I saw one protester carrying a homemade sign that simply said “no peace, no justice, no rights” (perhaps not in that exact order), and wondered what his objectives really are.
Another thing that annoys me about these types of protests is that in the United States such demonstrations carry almost no risk whatsoever (as long protesters behave peacefully). Try protesting in Syria or pre-revolution Egypt and see what happens – the security forces there use much deadlier tactics than pepper spray.
Apathy is bad; but unfocused, meaningless "activism" is even worse.
This article is copyrighted by International Business Times, the business news leader