When it was all over, this weekend felt like a slow-motion burn. By the time the massive Climate March ended and I got home to write this I was convinced that a distinct radicalism coursed through the core of this progressive silent majority. Not only that, but it was being absorbed subconsciously by many more in this country and around the globe. People are more than fed up.
There’s a very serious, roiling anger at the unresponsiveness of our governing bodies, that is moving directly over their heads, and aimed accurately at the global ruling elites.
For two days I had been ruminating on something that struck me like a thunderbolt in the comments section of the excellent New York Times piece by Neil Irwin "Scotland’s Independence Vote Shows A Global Crisis of the Elites". It stuck out as another level in tone and temperament than what's usually found in the comments of the Paper of Record, with a sense of exasperation and anger I hadn't quite seen before either.
"This article repeatedly refers to what transpired in the financial system as bungling. There was no bungling involved; it was very sophisticated and coordinated theft by major financial institutions.
Please bear in mind the facts of the matter. The major banks and financial institutions hire the most highly educated and talented people they can find from the top schools around the world. Harvard, Yale, London School of Economics, etcetera. They have working groups and policy papers to figure out the markets years in advance. They study everything from the price of copper to the effects of satellite launches on the communications industry. To ask people to believe that they didn't know what was going to result from the mortgages practices that they were engaged in is ludicrous. They knew exactly what they were doing and where it would lead.
Quite simply they are criminals and should be publicly executed for the damage they intentionally caused for the sake of lining their own pockets. The CEO's, board of directors, and all top officers of every major bank in the United States and the western world need to be killed, and all of their wealth and assets sold and the proceeds distributed via lottery among all taxpayers."
This comment was recommended by 91 other NY Times readers, myself included. I was floored.
For my part, let me be clear. I am not advocating killing Economic Terrorists (let’s call them what they are). Rather, I completely understand the sentiment. I think he makes a good point about the deliberate nature of the crimes, which have still gone unprosecuted. He also appropriately calls attention to the ways in which this vile and corrupt sector operates behind the scenes. When he says public execution I’m thinking of it in the figurative sense. High-profile trials and severe long-term jail sentences would certainly kill off a whole host of future prospective plunderers, by submitting these current criminals to the time-tested deterrent of being frog-marched out of their offices in their suits, into the courts, and finally out to pasture in the penitentiaries, where they belong, to keep the rest of society safe from these very dangerous men.
I have a good friend who speaks similarly often, but with more animated witticism. As a unionized construction worker who's been on and off working for a few years now, that's one thing. He's got four kids and a heavy nut to carry in suburbia, including property taxes alone that exceed 5 digits per year. He’s also one of the most stand-up people you’ll ever meet, and earns every cent he makes breaking his back.
But to read these words within the constructs of the more academic, intellectual and higher socioeconomic forums of the New York Times is a whole other thing. I don’t think it’s an outlier. The thread is full of simmering rage at the way the 1% oligarchs have overshot, with people connecting the dots of their undue negative propagandistic influence over science, the education system, the media, the electoral system, our governments at all levels, as well the disastrous housing markets, various economic bubbles, unemployment and outsourcing epidemic, the internship culture, the shredding of the social safety net and increased austerity measures.
Yesterday I still thought this was quite a significant attribution, enough to write a diary around.
By the end of tonight I’m fairly convinced it’s part of a zeitgeist that’s been forged for a few years now and is only now beginning to come out in the open.
Over the course of less than 24 hours I witnessed that same frustration, anger and exasperation in a few more places.
There was an overflowing release of rage in the crowd’s reaction last night to superlative speeches by Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges and Seattle Socialist Alternative city council member Kshama Sawant, who stole the show, at a panel discussion called “Talk Before the Walk.” All Souls church on the Upper East Side was filled to over capacity. Bill McKibben and Bernie Sanders also spoke, though the revered Senator, who brought his usual fire for the issues delivered in that unmistakable 1950's Brooklynese, come off as perfunctory and stale compared to Sawant’s carpe diem brand grassroots fire and unapologetic assailing of the decrepit two-party system beholden to the same Wall St and Big Business donors. There was a palpable sense of excitement for her platforms, including huge roars of approval for demanding renewable sustainable wind and solar energy to replace fossil fuels and to be put under public ownership.
And then there was the great Hedges, a modern day John Brown. And though he delivered a mostly greatest hits package, warning of inverted totalitarianism, etc, he pulled out some new classics. Grabbing the zeitgeist, he finished his speech thusly:
"We have to understand that the corporate state, including the Democratic elite, will react the way all calcified States react. They will use the security and surveillance apparatus. They will use military police forces and, under section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization, the military itself, to violently shut down dissent by force. We saw it in Occupy.
The legal organizational mechanisms are now in place that with a flip of a switch would put this nation instantly under martial law.
And when acts of massive civil disobedience begin on Monday, including with Flood Wall Street and later Occupy the UN, I am almost certain the face on the corporate state, as it did during the Occupy movement, will reveal itself.
If the response of the corporate state is repression rather than reform
then our strategy and our tactics must be different. We will have to cease
appealing to the system. We will have to view the state, including the Democratic establishment, as antagonistic to genuine reform and we will have to speak in the language of overthrow and revolution. " (thunderous applause)
"We will have to carry out acts of civil disobedience that seek to cripple the mechanisms of corporate power, and the corporate elites, blinded by their lust for power and foolish enough to believe they can protect themselves from climate change, will not veer from the path of ecocide unless they are forced from power. This means the beginning of a titanic clash between our corporate masters and ourselves. Thank you.”
He received a rousing standing ovation for that.
At the end of the march I saw a good friend I had been marching with but who I became separated from. He relayed an encounter he had just had. An acquaintance, a musician, he said, let loose with his own moment of exasperation, contemplating the seeming futility of it all. Although he spoke dispassionately he did so clearly. “It seems like there’s nothing else we can do, except to start killing people.”
When I got back home I had dinner with some local Occupy friends. We were all in great spirits, energized by a wonderful, colorful, peaceful and uplifting march. But something was brooding underneath, as we shared stories and observations of a long but eminently fulfilling day out with 300,000 other like-minded folks. Occupy Wall St had its 3rd anniversary this week. Had anything changed?
A photojournalist in the group asked if we had seen Ray Lewis, the former Philadelphia Police Captain and genteel, articulate salt-of-the-earth/icon of OWS. We said no. She said, “wait until you see this picture.” Lewis stood, in his ubiquitous full police uniform with white shirt and hat, holding a sign that said:
But the word "civil" was crossed out.
We may indeed be turning the corner. Bu the weather ahead looks to be hotter in the short term than ever expected by the Climate Change marchers. All our grievances are connected, we like to say. I think for the first time people truly perceive this is in a way like never before.
All the things Occupy brought into the public discourse three years ago seemed to finally be coalescing. The People, all over the world, now get it completely. The global ruling elite and their minions in government have utterly rebuffed all of our entreaties.
I certainly understand the notion being expressed by many that we may be out of options this time.
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