Before I saw for myself what was going on in New York City with the Occupy Wall Street group, I had high expectations. How could a group of protestors become national news? This had to be quite the group of people to make headlines.
What I found last Thursday when I visited the group was actually a rather small group of people in the financial district in lower Manhattan standing in the rain, holding signs and banging drums.
hippies people or so it seemed to me. 500 at the most. Hardly seemed worth getting worked up over.
(The funniest sign I saw was a rather homely girl in her mid 20’s holding a white sign with black letters, “Ronald Reagan Sucked Balls”)
If this had happened in Houston or Miami or even Chicago, it’s not a perpetual part of our 24 hour news cycle.
That was Thursday.
On Saturday, I was in Times Square trying to get tickets to a see a Broadway show. Outside of the usual Times Square madness, there was this tangible added buzz.
Within minutes, I was swallowed by a sea of
whack jobs protesters. They were still there later that night, several thousand strong, creating such havoc that in order to get to my show, I had to have a police escort to cross the street.
Solidarity with this movement has gone global, as countries around the world had protests and marches to show support for what was going on in New York.
The headline in the New York Post the next day read, “The Worst of Times.”
It’s the kind of rebellion Karl Marx characterizes when he speaks of the rebellion of the proletariat against a capitalistic society.
The working class, feeling exploited by those who control the means of production, revolt.
Overthrow the bourgeois establishment and in its place there can be this socialistic utopian society, free from social classes and actually free from a government as we think of it today.
Seriously, that’s what he thought.
The fairy tale of pure communism was a pipe dream even in Marx’s time, but in a geo-political world where companies compete across myriad government systems and political structures all over the world, no pure communistic state could ever exist in the modern world.
Authoritarian communism has and does exist in China and Russia, and has worked economically on various levels for a number of reasons (People giving up tremendous freedom being near the top of the list).
That’s why these Occupy Wall Street groups with their now global supporters are dangerous. The logical conclusion to communistic ideals is the revolt of the working class.
Marx was a believer and even supporter of bloody revolution (the great irony of Marx is he was an upper middle-class German who financed revolutionaries and his literature through a lucrative inheritance from his father).
To be sure, in order to completely re-write the way the American government and economic system works, it will take extreme actions.
Since, as of now, this group has no clear demands except that ‘the people who have stuff should have less stuff
dude‘ there is no other logical conclusion to their hoped revolutionary cycle than to extrapolate based on the ideas they espouse.
Anti-capitalism, pro-welfare state, power to the people. Socialism. Marxism.
Pissed-off, unemployed people, with time on their hands and an axe to grind could be a dangerous combination, especially if Congress, not to mention the corporations, completely ignore this demonstration (which they will do for as long as possible).
This is not meant to be alarmist or sensationalistic. A group of people who believe in what Marx believed (remember this is a group of relatively well-educated people who know well the history of their cause) and have created a movement strikingly similar to what Marx warned.
The mid 1800’s there were bloody rebellions all over Europe including the ones he help fund. There was a worker’s rights war in the United States in the middle of the 19th century too you may remember. More than half a million people died. We called it the Civil War.
Do I think that will happen again? Of course not. Are there serious concerns over the growing inequality in the haves and have nots? Absolutely.
Corporate profits are at an all-time high yet real wages for workers haven’t increased. CEO’s make record salaries, not to mention the stock packages and other benefits, yet thousands have to be laid off when demand wains and consumerism falls off.
The real problem is that these protestors see capitalism as the problem, much like blaming the government for lack of action. Capitalism, much like a democratic government, is beholden to the people.
That’s why capitalism is so closely related to democracy.
You don’t like the businesses practices of a company, don’t go there. My sister won’t buy Starbucks because she doesn’t like the morals of the company, but that doesn’t mean she won’t buy coffee.
The point is that by attacking capitalism, you deny the inherent good businesses bring to any society. Innovation, technology, convenience, even sustenance.
Recognizing the immoral business practices of certain companies is good. Aiming vitriol at the government and capitalism as systems is both misguided and dangerous.
We don’t need a revamped system, what we need is a more responsible group of consumers, voters, and citizens.
It’s not the fault of someone else, it’s just easier to blame them.
We all need to be accountable for what we do, that’s why capitalism and democracy work.
We are all accountable for ourselves.
Trading Places has a classic scene where Dan Aykroyd, and Eddie Murphy’s characters plan how to get back at the Dukes for ruining their lives.
As Aykroyd loads his shotgun, Murphy explains you can’t go around shooting people in the legs with a shotgun because you’re mad at them.
When Aykroyd’d characters responds incredulously, Murphy’s character responds, “It occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.”