Hail a yellow NYC cab and go see Empire State building!! These were my ‘to-do’s when I’d landed in New York city six years back on my first visit. After some desperate frailing of my arms and making a spectacle of myself, I finally stood on the street like the statue of liberty holding my cell phone up in my right hand. Who knew that could work! Just as a cab arrived, I jumped right in. My cabbie was friendly, boisterous pot-bellied man who was bemused by how stoked I was to see the empire state. “My wife did the same on her first day here. She too had watched all those movies”, he’d muttered, shaking his head a little. He then wished me to have a nice trip. I did. Good times!
Earlier this year, I was in NYC again. Different times. Another cabbie and two professional work friends. I usually try to keep my cab karma good by refraining from unsavory conversation topics. But, the talks just meandered into economy then to politics and eventually to Occupy Wall Street. “So how is it affecting you?” It surprised me how much all of them had to share..
‘I can feel the frustration… You see big banks get bailed out with taxpayer money for fear of the banks going bankrupt. Then the banks show huge profits with mega-bonuses for their top executives…But small businesses can’t get loans… While most us just sat by and watched the political wrangling in disgust, OccupyWallStreet has taken to the streets in protest and maybe it’s time for that…’
“Occupy” protesters’ slogan We are the 99% is a protest that refers to income disparity in the US: We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.
Mass demonstrations are nothing new. They happen frequently in countries around the world. The recent prototypes for OWS include the British student protests of 2010, the Arab Spring protests, and, protests in Greece and Spain. But in the U.S., not so much. American protests are on talk shows, social media, letter writing campaigns and maybe a few demonstrations with a dozen others in front of a government building. But 20,000 people with tents and kitchens camped out in a public park in front of the world’s financial capital?!
Some label the protests as “anti-capitalist” and others argue that on the contrary, it highlights the need to restore basic capitalist principles like accountability. As Matt Taibbi asserts “These people aren’t protesting money. They’re not protesting banking. They’re protesting corruption on Wall Street.”
OWS is called “progressive,” on one hand and “directionless,” and “naive,” on the other. It’s interesting how Frances A. Chiu draws striking parallels here between the American Revolution and OWS, even though their aims and parameters do not align entirely.
I do not have an informed perspective on the question…what is Occupy Wall Street all about? But it clearly is a demonstration of public anger. The movement may not have yet found a voice that can clearly articulate what they’re mad about. And it isn’t going to just go away.
Read more Occupy Wall Street entries in The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind the Gap.