General Ramblings: Gathering And Loitering

November 1, 2011       Paul Clolery      

I’ve been to a lot of protests in my day, supporting this or being against that. I just don’t get the end game for the Occupy Wall Street contingent.

They all have iPads and iPhone 4s or Androids but eschew major corporations – like Apple and Motorola. They chant that the poor are being stepped on and yet embrace Russell Simmons who pulled up in a Maybach, a luxury car with a base sticker price of $370,000 and who admits to paying a smaller tax percentage than the protesters (those with jobs, anyway).

It is the same Russell Simmons who sells pre-paid credit cards to less affluent communities, charging monthly fees. Isn’t that just like the banks that those folks oppose?

It’s a simple principle. When a small percentage of society has vast riches and pays little tax and consumers have to pay more, the masses rise up. In this case they happen to look as if they stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.

Untold billions of dollars – maybe a trillion or more – has been spent on secondary education in this country since 1975, the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In another failing of the educational process, despite movies, books and tall tales, today’s kids have not been taught how to properly protest. These people are not protestors. They are gatherers, maybe even loiterers.

The Occupy Wall Street gatherers took over Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in the lower Manhattan financial district. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said they are welcome to stay so long as they respect the law. It’s all nice symbolism, but why not take over Rockefeller Center, a media center home to General Electric (GE), which reported generating billons in profits while paying zero tax on it?

The middle of Manhattan is a tourist haven and profit center for the City of New York. Do you think the mayor would have been so accommodating if they weren’t in a park in an area that’s a ghost town after the markets close at 4:30 every afternoon? If protesters were within camera distance of Matt, Ann and Al while they were doing the Today show for NBC, owned by GE, the bulldozers and fire hoses would have been out in an instant. Giving tours of where the über-rich live is nice video and mildly annoying to the residents. What do you think would happen if they handcuffed themselves to Bloomberg’s front stoop?

A flash mob is a nice event but have they learned nothing from their teachers who drove politicians from office and changed the course of human rights via protest?

The social change movements wanted something – an end to war, equal rights for all, food for the hungry. What do the Occupy Wall Street gatherers want? Most of them don’t even need showers, going home to a nice warm home each night. Sure, there are many who spend the night, but it’s hardly the majority of people who show up at dawn’s early light. So, they can’t be asking for mortgages. They are getting lots of food donated so it isn’t a hunger issue.

America was built on protests. It’s one of the ways we speak truth to power. But, you have to tell the power what you want, and often how to get there. Here’s where the charitable sector can fill the vacuum. There are many causes that need immediate attention – including the disparity in wealth that the Occupy Wall Street gatherers seek. Where are Ben & Jerry when you need them on this issue? They ran their ice cream business with the rule that the top job could not pay more than seven times the lowest salary. Oh, right. Bad example. They sold out to British-Dutch conglomerate Unilever for about $326 million.

Seasoned protestors need to help these gatherers so that Occupy Wall Street and its spin-off gatherings sprouting up across the nation actually have an impact and changes something. Because right now, it’s just an opportunity to post to YouTube. NPT