I was at a public meeting earlier this week (Wednesday) and just as the meeting was breaking up I was chatting with a friend about the Occupy Wall Street protests. He had attended a planning/strategy/let’s-explore-our-feelings meeting on Amherst Common earlier that evening for a local extension of the protests, and we were talking about our shifting feelings about the protests. My own evolution w/r/t OWS could be time-lapsed into this sequence:
– bemusement at the hemp-clad participants;
– a sort of wistful, wouldn’t-it-be-nice fatalism that anything like this could ever last more than a few days and, if it did, could ever succeed in changing anything;
– more bemusement at whites males who sport dreadlocks, though they do have a point re: the naked perfidy of Wall Street;
– a paternalistic, knee-jerk urge to slough off the protestors as poorly spoken, poorly organized, and lacking in any clear goals;
– pleasant surprise that the protests not only were continuing but were growing in strength and numbers;
– profound recognition that “the other 99%” kicks serious bankster ass as a banner under which to unite what promises to be a broad, disparate group;
– shock at the MSM’s attempts to scorn and marginalize the entire movement;
– shock at the over-reactive and sometimes brutal official police reaction; shock not only at the raw brutality of the abuse but also at the blatant attempt to confine, minimize, and marginalize the protestors by any means necessary (which stands in stark contrast to the response of law enforcement to the anti-Walker protests in Madison, where the police response was seriously tempered by the fact that the police union was one of those under threat);
– based upon the previous two points, realization that these protests are deeply threatening to the monied elite (hence the reaction from their lackeys in the establishment media and law enforcement), which means that they carry the potential for deep and profound change;
Which basically brings us to Wednesday night. I hadn’t attended the organizing meeting, but I certainly plan to attend future gatherings (future future gatherings, that is, since it turns out I already missed one). As my friend and I were talking, a guy walking behind us — casual friend, very nice guy but a complete wingnut re: Obama — chimes in and says, “Oh, those guys. Did you see their demands? Forgive all debt? Everyone has a job? They would bankrupt the country in weeks.”
My response was a sort of confused “Wha?” based on a. a people-pleasing desire to keep the exchange light since this was not a political meeting and he is a friend, b. complete ignorance of the ‘demands’ he had mentioned, and c. an instantaneous shame deriving from b. and fueled by the deep-seated assumption that I must be well versed and up-to-date on any events on which I hold an opinion. Part of me was thinking, “Wait, they issued demands? Doesn’t sound like the protestors that I saw,” but I just assumed I had missed something big that day.
He explained that the Wall Street protestors had “released their demands” and they were, in his studied opinion, completely ludicrous. The one he mentioned several times was the complete forgiveness of all debt, and how that would completely bankrupt not only the US government but most foreign governments as well. The funny thing is that my immediate response was a sort of defensive crouch — whatever the protestors said, if the right wing hated it then I was all for it. Juvenile, I know, but somehow satisfying in this context.
This is the list he was talking about, and he sure was right about one thing: it’s a ridiculous, contradictory, entirely unworkable list. Societal suicide in 13 bullit points.
Here are a few of the more dubious of his demands:
Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.
Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.
Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the “Books.” World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the “Books.” And I don’t mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.
What the man at the meeting was entirely wrong about is that this list was issued by Occupy Wall Street. These are the suggestions of one person on a forum, and they’re followed by (at last count) 1,369 comments, most of them highly critical. Of course, one could just read the top of the page, where there’s a note in bold that reads:
Admin note: This is not an official list of demands. This is a forum post submitted by a single user and hyped by irresponsible news/commentary agencies like Fox News and Mises.org. This content was not published by the OccupyWallSt.org collective, nor was it ever proposed or agreed to on a consensus basis with the NYC General Assembly. There is NO official list of demands.
I discovered later that the language, tone, and message of what he said came almost word-for-word from Rush Limbaugh earlier that day.
You know, who’s gonna break the news to these college kids that are protesting Wall Street? They’re down on Wall Street for two weeks; they’re all over the country. They’re protesting, all these students. You know, I’ve got a list of the demands of these lunatics. (chuckling) It’s just amazing.
Look, we laugh. Let me tell you something, folks: They believe this. Let me tell you something. They are being taught this. There are adult college professors who teach this crap. Now, where do you think these lunkheads get this stuff? They didn’t come out of the womb thinking this. I kid you not. They are being taught this in the deep, dark crevices of academe and peer pressure and everything else. But this is so nonsensical. What does it matter how many jobs are “created” when everybody gets “a living wage regardless of employment”? Where does the money coming from to give everybody a living wage? (laughing) They don’t care. Who cares? If you just make the law that everybody gets a living wage, it’s just gonna happen!
But that’s the way it is these days. Rush says it and so it becomes gospel for millions of dittoheads. That’s it, they’re done with this issue: the protestors are dirty hippie lunatics who are out to destroy America (sound familiar?) So what’s the message here? Just this – beware of efforts to label, marginalize, and denigrate these protests. The Man (who is back big time, by the way) will use all of the means at his disposal to strangle this movement in the crib. Let’s not let that happen.