What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached.
They broke it, we fixed it, and now they are doing their darnest to break it again – in the name of their own narrow greed (while patronizing us that we simply couldn’t understand the complexities of macroeconomics). But if there’s a silver lining it seems a light bulb seems to have gone on in the collective consciousness of the American public: The growing realization that they have been governed for the greater benefit of the wealthiest few and that “a rising tide floats all boats” line they’ve been sold for 30+ years is snake oil. And thus #OccupyWallStreet and We Are The 99% was born.
And now it’s coming to Vancouver.
But I’m not sure it’s going to have the same resonance it has down south.
We didn’t bail out the banks here. Well, we did…but stealthily. Unemployment is…well, not exceptionally high by Canadian standards. We’re not as unequal in the distribution of national wealth as other countries – though in Harper’s Canada we are catching up fast.
The beauty of the American movement is that is seems to be broadly based. It’s not just the “usual suspects” who come out to protests. Will it happen here? I have my doubts. I’ve been following the discussions, if they can be called that, between the organizers of #occupyvancouver and…well…the purer than you usual suspects. The following captures the essence of that discussion:
It’s ashame. This…
…is a lot more emotionally and intellectually compelling to the public at large than this…
So why not bend your standards a bit to attract a broader audience? Ack…who knows who’s going to show up and what’s going to happen. And perhaps I’m feeling a bit cynical at the moment, but what’s supposed to happen? What’s supposed to change and what will make Stephen Harper, Christie Clark, Gregor Robertson and Howe Street agree to it? #occupyvancouver could be 110% successful in getting out boots on the ground…but so what? What price do the aforementioned pay? As Ian Welsh depressingly puts it:
[M]odern elites are trained to think in terms of cost-benefit analyses. If the cost to them of not giving in is less than the cost of not giving in, they won’t give in.
Occupying the grounds of the Arts Gallery costs them nothing. Engaging in Black Bloc style violence turns off the general public and provides an excuse to unleash the police…and costs them nothing (you’re doing them a favour in fact).
Only nonviolent, prolonged civil disobedience would make a dent in that cost-benefit analyses. But we’re a long way, I think, from Tahrir Square.