In the movie, “The Wild Ones,” Marlon Brando, the motorcycle gang chief, is asked: What are you protesting?
And while offering menacing leers about the store the muscular, leather-jacketed behemoth replies: “I don’t know, whaddaya got?”
Today whats we gots is lots and lots… of protests, protests, and more protests. They’re practically a garage sale. And they are everywhere. Even in Afghanistan where they are Allah-be-Allah marching to get America and the UN troops out; In Israel where most folks, especially the ‘employed,’ are oy-veying because they can’t afford the exorbitant cost of living; In Europe where faltering banks are bailing out faltering countries with the cry of: basta! (enough)
And, of course, in America, the King of the Protests Jungle – a country where assertions brought down a President, disbanded a war, and put civil in our rights – we are clenching our fists and pitching our tents avowing: Human need not corporate greed. Jobs… Justice…and the American way – at least in textbook theory.
As one angry protester’s placard screamed in ‘Occupy Philadelphia’: “I won’t believe corporations are people (as stipulated by the Supreme Court) until Texas executes one!”
Hmm… You know, I like that.
I love this stuff! I love protests. Dissent, as Jefferson was apt to note, is the height of patriotism. It means we haven’t stopped thinking. To think is to differ. It means we still care passionately about something besides football and breasts and erectile dysfunction.
Protests transport me back to the 60s and 70s when we marched, shouted slogans, got bashed by the pigs, and sometimes even got laid along the way. (I think that’s how I met my first wife – before she became a virgin.)
Damn! Everything felt electric. We were doing something meaningful. Vietnam was foreclosed. Watergate exposed. And Nixon deposed. We were imposing. We were changing ‘business as usual.’ Brother, can you hear me?
But, of course!
Even my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy warned me: “You ain’t nothing but fashion, kid. Next year you’ll be like an old Madame in last year’s dress.”
I hate him when he’s always right. And so, even after all that victorious jubilation, I know why I still feel, all these years later, like I got shafted?
Because I did.
While I was buying into the cause to save the world, the guys from Wall Street and Washington – and even the guys marching next to me — were buying into the money. Like bankers, their only interest was interest.
What it came down to is that: Those who get you to believe their absurdities can get you to commit their atrocities.
Hell, one of the major voices of the 60s movement, Abby Hoffman, went off and made a billion dollars buying back into Wall Street. And wasn’t that part of what we were protesting?
And I thought… well, no matter what I thought… That was then.
And this is, hopefully, now. As the protesters espouse: the beginning is near. Well, now I’ll hold my cards near to my chest on that poker game. And pretend that hope really is a wakening dream.
Now we’ve got these ‘Occupy’ protests that began a few weeks back in Occupy Wall Street — the devil’s den of greed and corruption, where “we bailed out their banks while we got $old out.”
The rag tag bunch of mostly unemployed, disenfranchised college youths and numerous union organizations, such as the Federation of Teachers, are finding their way peacefully. Afterall, their boots are still new and spirits inspired.
And, of course, their hopes are bolstered by “Occupy” groups staking their claims and sprouting in places like Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, and several other cities across America. Even Trenton. Now their rally may swell even further for the big march for Jobs and Justice scheduled in Washington this weekend.
Despite my skepticism, this is grand. The 60s redux. The 60s Part II. I just hope that the admonishing words of my dear ol’ Pappy don’t still ring true: As much as things change, the bankers still get the money.
For, far above the maddening crowd the business guys in their $5,000 perfectly tailored suits in Wall Street and Washington are peering down from their 75th floor aeries and toasting one another with Cristal champagne.
These are the same venal, vapid, self-anointed Masters of the Universe who discarded the anti-War movement even when it was proven that Vietnam was a lie — much like Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
To them, there’s always money in dem dere hills. Remember, these are the same folks who all but have us convinced that we can’t get into heaven without good credit.
They are toasting us and our perceived lunacy. They’ve seen it all before. Rebellions, blood, sweat and tears have always come and gone. And after the bodies are buried, they’re still there, devouring us with welcoming smiles.
What never changes is the money. We’re shouting and insisting about human need – not human greed. We’re yapping about jobs and uncontrollable greed.
But they’re the ones always calculating. They are like Organized Crime in perpetual progress. Because they’re still banging long after the bell — when the rest of us are gathering our nuts and seeking shelter from the winter rain.
Being a disillusioned idealist I’d truly like to think that this time, this place, this protest and these people will be better, if not, at least, different. Their objectives will be met and sustained.
I admonish Doubting Thomas’s not to take such protests lightly. You can stop the invasion of an army, I say, but you cannot stop the invasion of ideas.
Remember, the Arab Spring was ignited by a completely fed-up-with-corrupt-politics Algerian fruit cart vendor. He immolated himself in the town square. And don’t forget the simple act of the Boston Tea Party that ignited our own revolution. And, of course, Rosa Parks, simply sat down on a tinder box.
Many in this young, bearded, tattooed crowd, in these ‘Occupy’ protests, are encumbered by college loans with slim job opportunities. They are condemning capitalism.
Trouble is, we haven’t really had capitalism in this country in most of their lifetimes. We have had failed policies and wars befitting special interest groups. As a protester’s placard snorted: “Forgive college loans – not CEOs.”
I am not the only one stating the obvious. Much of this is mouthed by Presidential candidate Ron Paul. He frightens a lot of people simply because he states the obvious. He’s too frank. You know: “You want to get rid of drug crime in this country? Fine, get rid of the drug laws.”
Our trouble is most of us are afraid of what we don’t know. And, we don’t know what the heck we really do want. Except we think we want what we had before.
Which begs the question: Before what? Before, when drugs were legal. Before, when alcohol was illegal? Before, when women were chattel and Dred Scott was upheld? Before, when lies embedded us into Iraq and Afghanistan? Before, when mortgage derivatives collapsed our economy and the bubble burst on our dot.com stocks?
The game is a house of cards. The game can never stop. Because if it does, we’ll all be living in tents.
We are trapped by our contradictory fear of change. Because as much as most folks seek change, what they really desire is for others to change.
Indeed, we fear what we do not understand. So, therefore, as logic goes, the more we understand, the less we should have to fear. As the protesters posters put it: “Occupy your mind.”
However, nothing’s going to change unless we are first able to change our minds. That ain’t easy for folks trying to hold onto what they’re inevitably going to lose anyways with the way Washington and Wall Street is cannibalizing us. It’s like thinking if you feed the alligator he won’t eat you until last.
We’re not part of their game. We never win. Just at times we don’t lose as much.
The disenfranchised folks in Occupy Philadelphia and New York and elsewhere, are people who have the least left to lose and the most to gain. But they are part of the ‘99% people’ without jobs; and people with jobs who can’t afford healthcare, and people who simply remain pounding on the gated community of the American dream.
And those are exactly the people we should embrace now, because sooner than later, that’s where we are all going to be. As long as we allow these wizards of Oz – little men with little winkies though they may be — to manipulate the controls of our game.
We’ve got to part their curtain, like the Red Sea, and cross over into the land that was promised to all of us.
You may recall that the slogan of the 60s was make love — not war. It is said that men only need a place, while women need a reason. Well, soon many men won’t be able to afford a place. And women won’t have much of a reason.
That only leaves war. And the first casualty of war is truth. Without facing the truth now there may not be anything to talk about later. For after truth, there is only madness.
Never forget, as my dear ol’ bourbon sipping pappy would exhale between those omnipotent puffs on his omniscient corn cob pipe: The shortest distance between two people, two nations or two incongruous thoughts is communication.
After that he’d smack me. So I’d never forget.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony.