Unsurprisingly, Jewschool and Jewschoolers have been all over the Occupy Wall Street movement. From organizing the widely successful Kol Nidre services to playing hacky sack and even demanding justice for the 99% or whatever they are demanding. However, this Jewschooler (admittedly the most “The Man” of any) is a bit put off by this movement.
I have had conversations about Occupy Wall Street with a number of people from across the spectrum and except for my friends on the far left, most “understand the frustration” but don’t feel like what is going on in Lower Manhattan is good. It is clear to me that this movement has no direction. Simply saying you are against greed is like saying you are for breathing. Who besides Gordon Gekko, who in fact later revised his statement, will say that greed is good?
My major complaint is that this is no “there” there in this movement. The demands are amorphous and without any sort of path to achievement. There is real anger in this country and around the world at the actions of the Financial Industry. This moment provides a huge opportunity to mobilize average, non-political folks—those soccer moms and NASCAR dads—around this issue. But sleeping in a park for a few weeks isn’t fixing anything nor is it bringing more attention to the problem. Rather it is bringing attention to the protestors and their on-the-street interactions with police and the so-called 1%.
These criticisms are being dismissed in many conversations with my friends. In discussions with friendly lefties, I have heard some form of the following which is borrowed from an offline conversation of Jewschool contributors:
I think that all this conversation about what exact language (“occupation” or not), or whose movement this is, is all beside the point. This is the movement at this moment. We can either get on board or watch it go by and wait for Godot.
However, what are we getting on board with? Are we calling for the destruction of capitalism? A distribution of wealth? Enforcement of Dodd-Frank? Expansion of the Volcker rule? A true open economy? Taxing that 1%? An end to all fee based banking? A fight against the enclosure movement? (Sorry, wrong century.)
None of this is to say that the status quo is good for anyone including those in the 1%. We have a system that has been deregulated and “opened” to the point of complete and total chaos. While watered down, there are a number of solutions on the table in Washington, Brussels and elsewhere to address the disproportionate risk that was taken by these institutions that lead us down this road to crisis and necessitated tax-payer bailouts. But that isn’t what is being discussed by the occupiers.
This morning it was reported that Vikram Pandit would, be “happy to talk to [the protestors] anytime they want.” But in that this acephalous congress can’t put together a functional leadership structure besides a show of hands, let alone a meaningful set of goals, what benefit would be found in a meeting with the CEO of Citigroup?
Pandit knows that. And so does the rest of the Street. Just look at the recent closing numbers and the Q3 earnings for further proof.
Without a strong, clear message (We could go Jewish: “There shall be no needy among you.” (Deut. 15:4)) and a delineated strategy to achieve the goals supported by the message, this movement is executing tactics without any point. Marching is great and often fun. It feels powerful. But if used for no reason, it is for not. Previous generations marched and occupied. But they were trying to get something. Here we have no clear message, no clear strategy and no clear end goal.
Now, if the point is to occupy Wall Street indefinitely, then good job. I would venture that this isn’t the point, but then again, how would I know?