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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Drum’

“We Want Something Different”

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Yearning for a New Kind of Society

The ever-sharp Matt Taibbi has written incisively, in sometimes R-rated language, about Goldman Sachs, Citicorp, and other Wall Street investment banks—who can forget his description of Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” (“The Great American Bubble Machine”)? But he admits, “At first, I misunderstood Occupy Wall Street.”

Several weeks ago, after visiting the occupation at Zuccotti Park several times, he wrote in “My Advice to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters”:

“. . . the time is rapidly approaching when the movement is going to have to offer concrete solutions to the problems posed by Wall Street. . . . I’d suggest focusing on five:

(1) Break up the monopolies. (2) Pay for your own bailouts. (3) No public money for private lobbying. (4) Tax hedge-fund gamblers. (5) Change the way bankers get paid.”

The column and the explanations for each point are worth reading in full.

But first, before we head back down to Zuccotti Park for some fresh air, we want to share some excellent pieces from Taibbi’s new Rolling Stone column “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests.” What we find most valuable—besides his ever-vigilant bullshit detector—is his trenchant description of what it is that’s calling tens and hundreds of thousands and more into the streets and encampments around Wall Street and elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world. Note: This was written before the NYPD evicted the Occupiers Monday night.

“People want out of this fiendish system”

“Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It’s about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it’s flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.

“. . . modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire [for a better and more beautiful future]. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. The relentless sameness of the two-party political system is beginning to feel like a Jacob’s Ladder nightmare with no end; we’re entering another turn on the four-year merry-go-round, and the thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.

“. . . There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. . . . This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of.

“That, to me, is what Occupy Wall Street is addressing. People don’t know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.

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