First, there was only a handful of them: the concerned, the patriotic, the disillusioned and the angry. That was September 17 and they marched and protested in front of the New York Stock Exchange to denounce corporate greed and corruption.
Then, the numbers grew into hundreds. They were joined by the unemployed and the recently- laid off. They marched and protested daily and they pitched tents in a park near Wall Street called Zuccotti Park.
Then the students and union members joined in. The protesters got increasingly organized as their ranks swelled.
The hundreds grew into thousands and spread to other cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Washington.
Then on Oct. 4, they became zombies. Or at least that is what they portrayed themselves to be.
Their faces painted in white, blood appears to drip from their mouths. They dressed in business attire, with the difference that they appeared like somebody who has just risen straight from the grave ala-Dracula.
They clutched money, not genuine but fake dollars, lots of them and some stuffed their mouths full of it. They marched and marched and they held bizarre slogans that read something like:
“I smell money”, “Bankers brains are tasty,” Hungry? Eat the bankers.”
The sarcasm is dripping, the emotions palpable, the dramatizations eerily effective.
They were the corporate zombies and they want change from corporate greed to greater accountability and equity to the financial system.
Now, the zombies are gone. But the protests have spread like wildfire.
“Occupy Wall Street” that is the battle cry… and the “name” of the protest movement.
Time and again, arrests have been made by the police for trespassing and other flimsy reasons. But this only seemed to add fuel to the fire, so to speak.
The handful gave way to hundreds and the hundreds gave way to thousands. Now the thousands have given way to hundreds of thousands .
Some Hollywood stars have joined, mainstream academics and journalists have endorsed the movement, and strangely, some CEOs are sympathetic.
And now it is not just every major US city that is catching the protest movement. It has spread beyond US borders to Canada and Europe: Toronto, Rome, Frankfurt, Brussels, London, Madrid, Lisbon, Athens.
And then to Australia and Asia: Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong and most recently, Manila.
Latest reports say that the protest movement is spreading to 951 cities in 80 countries.
The financial giants are reported to have started freaking out; they have started putting some state police on their payroll for obvious reasons.
Let us see some of the more recent slogans and messages:
“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.”
“Greed is not good.”
“Where’s my bailout?”
“Corporate greed has got to go.”
“We are the 99%.”
What an interesting scenario that excites me no end!
The question is: What significance do these protests have for us?
The notion sounds romantic but the beauty of these protests is that they are a prime exercise in empowerment.
At least, the people have started to awaken from long slumber. At least, they are standing up and showing a very clear message to the concerned entities and governments that corporate greed and financial mismanagement should stop.
First the subprime crisis… a product of chasing of non-credit worthy customers and corruption of the credit process, all in the service of unbridled corporate greed.
Now, credit cards are fast following the path of the subprime fiasco…and the chasing of non-credit worthy customers are getting even more and more nauseating and shameless. Again, all in the perverse service of corporate greed.
I can only hope this “Occupy Wall Street” protest movement will arrest the slide and restore sanity in the financial world.
Is this Arab Spring or Vietnam War era protest movement in the making? Too early to say.
But let us close this short post with an apt line from Mahatma Ghandi:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”