Among Mark Twain’s many famous quips is the one about how God made idiots first, for practice, before settling down to make school boards. I’m gonna add a follow-up: Then God thought a little more and realized that he could top even the idiocy of the school board, and He started whispered in the ears of the people running Occupy Wall Street.
Their latest idiocy? Well, like most idiocy, it is a remarkable blend of a good intention coupled to a good idea and implemented terribly. In this case, OWS has achieved near-perfection. Piping gasoline into fire hydrants, possibly, could outdo the level of through-and-through stupidity and naivete required to make a bigger disaster than this fiasco, but it would be a go-to-the-replay kind of thing to figure out exactly which was the dumber idea.
Here’s the rundown. Sunday’s New York Times made mention of a website — Occupy the Boardroom — created by some of the OWSers so that people could write letters “to executives and directors of banks. The site’s developers promised to deliver them as e-mail and in person.” The site, so says the Times, got over 8,000 letters.
Now, that’s a pretty good idea. Humanize the destruction. This has been done with great success in the past in all manner of atrocities. But the OWSers made two mistakes:
1. The bankers don’t care. The bankers, who flew in their private jets to Congressional hearings (which have not resulting in prison sentences for anyone, as far I can tell), do not care if you live or die. If you starve to death, if your lifespan is shortened due to stress and lack of access to healthcare, if you get your skull cracked open by a policeman’s baton, they don’t care. How anyone can believe anything other than that is not only unbelievable, it ought to be used as prima facie evidence to have that person declared mentally incompetent. The bankers are not going to read through a bunch of e-mails, sit back, say to themselves, “Wow! My unbridled greed really ruined good, decent, hard-working people’s lives.” The bankers not only don’t care, the bankers get a kind of charge out of knowing what they got away with. “I screwed these people’s lives over completely, and they’re sending me a bunch of strongly worded letters? Ha ha ha. Let me wipe my ass with one of those letters. Throw the rest away. E-mails? Delete ’em. You think I read e-mails from anyone other than shareholders?”
2. When you go to the Occupy the Boardroom site, you find this at the bottom: “We have detailed contact information for every executive on this website. We would LOVE to share all of it with you. Sadly, there is a law called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Due to an interpretation of that law, we could be subjected to 10-20 year prison sentences for sharing the information. If you think that’s as unfair as we do, we suggest you contact every single member of a group whose addresses we CAN share, Congress.”
Do you know what the bankers are actually scared of? That the 99% will finally wake up, organize effectively, and jam a broom handle into the system so effectively that the police and government will HAVE to put the bankers on trial and freeze their assets. But a group of protesters whose big strategy consists of a bold, strident assertion of how the system is corrupt, followed by a milquetoast “interpretation” and “could be subjected” explanation of how those organizers are scared of what the system will do to them if they break the rules? No one in a position of power is afraid of that because there’s nothing to be afraid of. We’re right back in the playground where the kid who likes to punch smiles because he knows that no one will stand up to him, and those few who come close will just make mild little noises of protest that won’t change anything.
The OWS mentality reminds me of a particular piece of advice that I’ve been told phone company linemen used to get as part of their training back in the 1970s. When you’re up on a wooden phone pole, if you slip, your instinctive reaction is to try to grab hold of the pole. By the time you realize you’re falling though, you’ve already achieved too much speed to be able to stop yourself that way. Grabbing the pole in that situation would be identical to pressing your chest and arms against the world’s largest cheese grater. The splintery wood on the outside of the phone poll would simply rip through your shirt and skin, and you’d arrive at the bottom of the poll as a bloody mess with a big smear of blood and tissue marking the trail you took down. When you start to slip, so went the advice, you have to accept that you are already committed and hope that the two broken legs you’ll be getting when you hit the sidewalk will teach you to be more careful next time.
That’s the lesson the OWSers still haven’t grasped. They think there’s a painless, bloodless way out of this for them. Sure, for a very small number of the 99% there is. But for many of the 99%, they’re already in freefall but still think that, somehow, their legs aren’t going to shatter when they hit the concrete.
You can’t try to change the system while you continue to empower it by using the smart phones, the credit cards, the Facebook accounts, the Twitter posts, and all the rest. You don’t get to have so many amusements and distractions and an “oh, we’re serious, but, golly, we don’t want to give up our shiny little toys and we don’t want to suffer” mentality AND get to win.
Look at the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It took over a year. And why did the bus company cave in? Because the 1% only took 1% of the seats and only paid 1% of the fares. The blacks were the essential lifeblood of the bus line economy. If OWS wants to win, they need to start organizing and start applying economic pressure, just like was done back in the 1950s. Enough with the theatrics. Yes, a flair for the dramatic helps, but it’s window dressing. Enough with trying to shame the bankers. Either figure out what you’re doing or quit your bitching. Enough with these pointless, idiotic, quixotic tantrums.