NEW YORK (Frameshop) – One of the initial goals of non-violent street-level protest is to elicit from the status quo the very problem targeted by the movement. March against colonial repression: elicit repressive colonial violence. March against racism: elicit brutal racist violence. March for women’s rights: elicit misogynistic hatred. The examples are endless. Almost every protest movement achieves this same initial goal because the status quo targeted always resorts initially to the very tools that keep the status quo in place: ridicule, disdain, violence.
A good piece of reporting in the New York Times, today, captures this process unfolding like clockwork in response to Occupy Wall Street (OWS).
The piece brings together quotes from hedge fund managers and financial sector workers–reactions to OWS as being voiced behind the gilded walls of the big downtown firms. These people who, presumably, earn so much money the numbers are beyond the comprehension of most Americans, offer up nuggets like this:
Financial services are one of the last things we do in this country and do it well. Let’s embrace it. If you want to keep having jobs outsourced, keep attacking financial services. This is just disgruntled people
Nothing quite like faith in the American public that your sector has sucked dry of all their retirement, savings, and credit ratings.
Forcing this deeply entrenched Wall Street arrogance to come out from the leather-chaired lounges and be heard by the rest of us mortals is a huge accomplishment to be credited to this early phase of OWS.
What we hear in these kinds of statements is not just a general disagreement with challenging the status quo or a general disdain for people who participate in a part of our politics so fundamental that the Framers protected it in the very first section of our Constitution–all that is to be expected.
It is the arrogance that readers of the NYT piece will find so stunning.
How many Wall Street workers actually believe their industry is the only thing of value in 2011 America–the only thing Americans do well anymore? The number does not matter. The fact that this thought could even be articulated to a NYT reporter speaks to a deep psychological and cultural rot underpinning at the root of Wall Street’s cloistered world.
These are people whose worldview has been marinating in the arrogance of wealth for so long that they have stepped up to the next level of self-aggrandizement: enthronement.
The New York Times piece is just a tip of the iceberg. These kinds of comments about Wall Street being the last hope for America have polluted every aspect of our society ranging from politics to education, the arts, sports, city planning, environment and so forth. In just about every one of these sectors, a few enthroned people have come to believe that they are the last hope.
Incredibly, these people fail to grasp the most basic arguments put forth in the growing outcries about economic injustice in America: that is far better for 99% of the country to grow the economy on which we all depend, then for just 1% to do it.
But Wall Street arrogance leads its self-appointed kings to miss an even larger, more fundamental point about American character.
American ideals–from Jefferson onward–are rooted in a romantic dream of every American becoming a self-sufficient yeoman farmer, not some bankers fantasy of a nation filled with sniveling vassals.
The dethronement of deeply entrenched arrogance is never easy, and it is never painless for those with the courage to start the ball rolling. Dethronement may not come today, tomorrow or even in a year. It can be a slow process until it reaches the crucial tipping point. But it will come.
If I were sitting in my comfy chair on Wall Street right now, I would keep a keen eye on the sales figures for pitchforks.