People are pissed.
They call themselves the 99 percent, though some argue that only 90 percent of the American population is truly being enslaved by Corporate Greed.
Oh, Corporate Greed. I imagine you to be a fat cat in an Armani suit, perhaps a Lex Luthor or a Gordon Gekko, hell-bent on obtaining profits and conducting business in the skilled and silent way of the boa constrictor, crushing its prey and swallowing it whole. (Yum, money.)
These angry, oppressed people — the poor, innocent antelope (who are just trying to get a drink of water, dammit!), who are being stalked by Corporate Greed — have organized a protest called “Occupy Wall Street.”
If you haven’t heard about it, you’re not alone. A friend mentioned it to me, saying there was a media blackout surrounding the protest. With coverage from CNBC and The New York Times, it seems, instead, that there is a simple lack of interest from the media.
A poster advertising the event depicts a ballerina balancing gracefully atop the famous bull statue on Wall Street. It is an image that speaks to my Bohemian nature, ever faithful to freedom, beauty, truth and love. Thus I had high hopes when I began my research. (Ahem, even the oppressed know how to advertise properly.)
A friend of mine in Brooklyn said most people were considering the protest “a joke.” Comprised of a few hundred young people, whose only newsworthy accomplishments have been blocking traffic; making a sign garden; getting arrested; getting pepper-sprayed; welcoming a few celebrities (Susan Sarandon) and receiving signatures for petitions — I must say that I am fairly disappointed.
Their website is a social media log, a play-by-play of their every move. Their mission is as follows: “Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent.”
But what do these statistics mean? What do the organizers of Occupy Wall Street propose as a solution?
Without a parallel resource for educating the masses, and with no plan for change, the protesters seem like a bunch of cry-babies who want an Arab Spring so they can afford a plasma television. Claiming you just won’t stand for something is about as effective as pouting.
The truth is, these protesters are as much cry-babies as the workers of Wall Street are boa constrictors. As disorganized and naïve as they seem, it’s good to see that the younger generation has begun to flex its revolutionary muscle, and the mistakes of this first attempt will prove a sturdy foundation for the next.
The big issue of concern for the 99 percent is wealth distribution inequality. It’s the new class warfare: the mega rich versus everyone else. In Arkansas, there are six billionaires, four of whom were included in the Forbes Top 25 list for billionaires of the world in 2011.
On the other hand, Arkansas has the eighth highest poverty rate in the nation. Is it something to take to the streets about?
With our communities benefiting so greatly from Walmart and other corporations, it’s difficult to demand more from them. I would feel like a spoiled child, to say “Crystal Bridges isn’t good enough! I want you to pay my student loans and my car insurance.”
But there is something chilling in the disparity of incomes, especially comparing the increase in Arkansas billionaires’ net worth over the past three years to the recent increase of poverty in Arkansas and across the South.
Severe inequality of wealth is a trend across America, and the statistics are difficult to swallow. Consider these numbers from the book “Feudalism — Alias American Capitalism”: “The richest one percent of Americans possess more wealth than the combined wealth of the bottom ninety percent.” (A-ha, so this is what the protesters on Wall Street are so upset about.)
Here’s another statistic from a 2010 article by David DeGraw, “… the United States already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the average worker much harder than CEOs, the gap between the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent of the US population has grown to a record high. The economic top one percent of the population now owns over 70 percent of all financial assets, an all time record.”
It’s definitely food for thought. (Yum, knowledge.)
People are pissed.