Foxes Are to Hen House Security as Bankers Are to Occupy Wall Street

[photo: Daquella manera via Flickr]

Hey, it’s me, Angry Mom. Yeah, the one who spent the last nine years in political activism. I was utterly immersed in the effort, from baking cookies to persuade voters, to writing op-eds, licking envelopes, dragging my poor kids to conventions, to debating conservative candidates at local forums.

Along the way I learned a thing or two.

First, the overwhelming majority of Americans do not realize how very thin and brittle this democracy is–if we have one at all. I’ve done the math in my own state, and the numbers are probably very similar in yours based on conversations over the years with activists nationwide. A scant 4000 people who show up and do the work actually make democracy run for a state with a ballpark population of ten million.

4000/10,000,000 = roughly 0.0004 of the entire state is actively engaged.

Not even 1% of this state’s residents. Hell, the über-wealthy 1% are more numerous.

That’s it. Active members (not merely voters) of both major parties combined comprise less than 1% of the population. The other parties have so few people actively involved as to be statistically irrelevant. Go ahead, throw a tantrum about a beloved third party–the fact remains if a third party isn’t de-listed in this or other states, it may be close for lack of adequate numbers of voters.

Second, all kinds of arrogant boneheads think they know enough about politics and its process in America to tell others what what’s wrong with it. Virtually ALL of these opinionators are not a member of that less-than-1%-actively-involved, and probably never have been. I’ve seen them from my perspective as an activist, and I’ve seen them as an editor/journalist–they don’t know anything based on actual experience, but they’ll dump all kinds of opinion and call it fact.

Thirdly, based on what I’ve learned inside the trenches, it’s bloody hard to launch and sustain a movement in this country if you don’t have the right people with the right smarts. With so few Americans actually investing effort in the political process, political leaders are those who simply show up. That’s all it takes. Unfortunately, not everyone who shows up is a charismatic, well-trained genius who can coalesce an organization that can fight back successfully against corporate-funded behemoths. We have political leadership by default, not purely by merit.

These are three of the biggest truths I learned  from this school of hard knocks, tuition paid with sweat, shoe leather, long hours, lost opportunities to watch my kids’ soccer, and tepid spaghetti dinners. Keep these facts in mind and consider the loosely organized Occupy Wall Street movement, which is even smaller than any one political party in their respective state.

Given these takeaways, you’ll pardon me if I get pissed-the-fuck-right-off when somebody with a soft ass who sits behind a desk all day shuffling numbers feels they have the ready answer to why the Occupy Wall Street movement “failed.”

[screenshots via Twitter]

And by a soft ass somebody I mean someone who calls himself an investment banker.

That’s like the fox lecturing the chickens he’s poached on hen house security systems.

At this point, I have to put on Angry Mom’s pointy-toed shit-kicking shoes and break the fourth wall:

Dude, you are the problem. You and your slack craft-less hands, your cushy desk job, your go-along-to-get-ahead ethics, and your snark-redolent 1% life are the problem. You know jack about the numbers behind OWS, even though your life revolves around massaging all kinds of numbers. You’re proud of your no-nothing status.

Your only beef with OWS appears to be with their execution of tactics–you make no complaint about their raison d’être.

So why the hell are you sitting behind that desk tweeting about how jacked is OWS, instead of sitting outside with them, fixing their crippling lack of numbers and getting them past their ineffectiveness?

Why aren’t you telling the OWS folks what it is they need to know to force a fix of the debacle that is our current financial system and economic model?

What’s it going to take to force unregulated shadow banking into government scrutiny?

How does this country’s financial system extract all the fraudulent crap in the financial food chain–the toxic bits that wind up in the ugly sausage that is unregulated derivatives and swaps?

How do we unwind it in such a way that the system is fixed while the economy is stable?

And what the hell are we to do to prevent it all from happening again–lackadaisical application of regulation, subprime mortgages offered with inadequate credit, separation of mortgage from title for expediency, a system that rewards foreclosures and not refinancing, opaque off balance sheet transactions, corruption of lawmaking stemming curative legislation, and so on?

You and I both know that until all banking is better regulated and the regulatory process itself is more transparent, there’s no accountability. Without accountability, there’s no way anybody outside of the 1% will ever get a crack at participating in anything approaching a truly free market. Until the game is unrigged, the house will always win.

You know the rest of the questions; you know the rest of the answers, too, when it comes to your fucked-up industry. The OWS folks don’t have this kind of knowledge base; they’re not from inside your tight little glossy Gucci world debating over Ciroc or Chopin neat with their caviar served at the nineteenth hole. You could be educating them so they can formulate a better strategy.

But no, it’s a lot easier to pule about your right to an opinion from your not-so-cheap-but-soft seat.

Get a spine, sit up straight, and for once in your pampered entitled life do the right thing.

18 replies
  1. dakine01 says:

    Hey Rayne/Angry Mom.

    I have a pretty good idea of what it is going to take to move “Epicurean Dealmaker” off the schneid – a lost job, destroyed retirement and no hopes of ever getting anything back.

    Even then though, I doubt if he would understand just what has happened, why, and and how it might be addressed.

  2. Rayne says:

    @dakine01: Oh, if only…I suspect this guy not only has all the answers — just read his Twitter timeline and his blog! — but he’s in that special group of people whose skillset the 1% will always need.

    Even Hurricane Sandy’s powers of revelation, peeling back the pretty skin to disclose the dystopic/apocalyptic underbelly beneath, didn’t give this guy pause.

    It will take an even bigger storm (or a much more localized one) than Sandy to effect the ultimate “come to Jesus” moment.

  3. occupy occupy says:

    From my local, provincial viewpoint, I will be returning to occupy after all the bullshit fake democracy is over. The pending election triggered massive infiltration by Dem apparatchiks working to drive occupy down the party cattle chutes. This is not public participation, this is organized entryism by a parastatal organization with delegated state authority, and occupy’s touchy-feely rules of order cannot handle it. When the election is over, the party will no longer need to smother independent civil society and unathorized initiatives may be allowed to proceed without interference. So we’ll see.

  4. OrionATL says:

    as rayne argues, it is truly astonishing how few citizens are engaged politically at any level of government.

    in my experience it is equally astonishing when those engaged are clear-headed and commonweal-caring in the motives that drive their activism, rather than one-issue focused.

    caring about the commonweal and being willing to engage and work hard in politics, things which this essay of rayne’s seems to focus on, are very important.

    there are a few other factors driving lack of greater numbers of political activists that are equally important:

    – adequate family income and unpenalized time-off from work

    – a political rhetoric and belief system that supports caring about the commonweal. such rhetoric, long absent from our political system, motivates larger numbers of citizens to do what humans have a natural inclination to do – sacrifice some personal benefit in favor of benefit to the community or society.

    endless media chatter about politics in terms of personalities, money, tricks and rules of engagement, and polls will not motivate involvement.

    – adequate political activism/whistleblower laws that discourage retaliation for activism.

    particularly highly motivated citizens like rayne will not let problems with these issues stop them,

    nor will the very wealthy ever be discouraged from activism by these issues (one reason why they have become increasingly numerous in our politics),

    but substantially greater participation from ordinary citizens requires that they be addressed.

  5. person1597 says:

    The Occupy folks have schooled the elitist voyeurs on the Etiquette of the Apocalypse. The presumptive judgments of the ignorant have given way to the shocking truth of present circumstances…

    We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation.

    Famous for inaction and cowardice, GOP cronies shrink from any vestige of empathy or tolerance exemplified and amplified by the Heckuva Job Brownie “Can I quit now? Can I come home?”.

    To the Rovian Borg — The membrane separating your cause and effect grows evanescent.

    They have enlisted reason to fight against itself . . . in proportion as we have deviated from the plain rule of our nature, and turned our reason against itself, in that proportion have we increased the follies and miseries of mankind.

  6. Rayne says:

    @rosalind: Lovely to see you, as always. ;-)

    @occupy occupy: That, right there, that chatter? That’s the kind of *stuff* that set off Mr. Soft White Ass. Save your breath to cool your soup and concentrate on the fact OWS needs to do a better job of organizing the few and poor resources it has.

    As long as OWS continues to use 1960s protest methodologies to fight a 21st century monster, they’ll get the same results as a knife against a semi-automatic gun. Work on that. What does political warfare of the 21st century look like?

    Don’t like my opinion? Here, deal with this instead. There’s your war for hearts and minds. By the way, you want my support and folks like me–don’t piss us off. Try winning our hearts and minds first.

    @OrionATL: Thank you. I think one cultural problem we face is a lack of responsibility and accountability to our communities and society. Our parents/grandparents felt this obligation because of shared sacrifice and shared successes, some in the form of collective sweat and bloodshed through mandatory military service, or through greater sense of belonging within smaller social circles (i.e., immigrant families, churches, social/civic clubs). As long as we’re “bowling alone,” we feel no need to go out of our way to commit to others beyond our nuclear family.

    Had Obama and his party’s apparatchik made a concerted effort to engage supporters immediately after the 2008 election in a sustained community building exercise, we’d probably see a much wider gap in polling between the two major candidates along with improved sense of empowerment to make real change happen. Even a simple call to public service and engagement might have helped. But no–still waiting for that.

    @person1597: “Schooled”? Really? What long-term change in government accountability and transparency has OWS effected directly through their efforts? We need more than talk. We need measurable, concrete results. In the mean time, the elitist voyeurs — AKA Mr. Soft White Ass, with his Gucci loafers propped up on his walnut credenza — are going to continue to snark at the “schooling” they’re receiving.

    [LOL — I’m in moderation. I guess I better inspect my comment for spam.]

  7. liberalrob says:

    Don’t waste your time getting stressed out over people like this Epicurean Realwanker. He’s opining into the ether for attention, attention you have given him (albeit negative). He’s a willing stooge to the 1% (if not a card-carrying member) so all your questions are easily answered:

    So why the hell are you sitting behind that desk tweeting about how jacked is OWS, instead of sitting outside with them, fixing their crippling lack of numbers and getting them past their ineffectiveness?

    Because he’s not a supporter of OWS, nor does he want to be. He’s happy that they lack numbers and are ineffective; that suits him just fine, because he’s got his sinecure and an effective mass movement would mess that up for him. By pointing out their shortcomings, he’s asserting the futility of even trying something like OWS; he thinks he’s got the pulse of the “mainstream polity” and that ordinary “mainstream” folks like himself saw OWS as “ridiculous and puerile,” and therefore predestined to failure (at best) or just another special interest group “making a statement.”

    He’s the enemy.

  8. person1597 says:

    I like my Rayne unmoderated! Lessons I’ve learned about “getting along”, such as I can, come from longsuffering visionaries.

    There’s plenty of longsuffering going around now anyway. It’s ironic that the bastions of finger waving critics who mocked the meek are now arm in arm with survival.

  9. Rayne says:

    @liberalrob: Unless somebody points to people like Mr. Soft White Ass and highlights their inconsistencies, they’re able to sustain the marginalization of the OWS movement. Personally, I’m not going to ignore foxes who mow down chickens while mocking them.

    Frankly, OWS should have a small skunkworks team doing that every single day, hunting down banksters and their 1% enablers who undermine the validity of their protests, and then picking apart every single piece of hypocrisy in a manner that the media can grasp easily.

    And the media, too, deserves flogging; what they’ve done to climate change reporting is nearly identical to what they’ve done on the financial crisis, ignored it until too late. OWS should have developed a means by which they could derail this feedback loop. They’ve had ample time to do it.

    There is an element of the truth in what Mr. Soft White Ass says about OWS’ “theater of protest”–the real problem is that OWS folks don’t realize their efforts will be marginalized as theater if they don’t actually make things happen. It may start with something as easy clearly identifying the enemy.

  10. OrionATL says:


    rayne wrote:

    “…Had Obama and his party’s apparatchik made a concerted effort to engage supporters immediately after the 2008 election in a sustained community building exercise, we’d probably see a much wider gap in polling between the two major candidates along with improved sense of empowerment to make real change happen. Even a simple call to public service and engagement might have helped…”

    i am a strong believer in this analysis.

    there was so much caring, so much energy, so much goodwill in the citizenry in jan 2009.

    president obama virtually ignored this deep wellspring of energy in favor, i would argue, of proving himself worthy of the support of bankers, generals, senators and journalists – the serious people.

    how different our economic and political world might be today if the president had asked us for support as he

    – redid the banking system and punished those who set off the crisis of 2007;

    – publicly recognized and acted on the deep injustice in many home foreclosures;

    – insisted on winding down, and paying for, our endless, deeply harmful region-wide war in the muslim world.

    – insisted on increased public spending on education and infrastructure

    – called the republican party on every major obfuscation, obstruction, or lie they engaged in.

    but here we are in nov 2012 nearly as confused and as poor in spirit as we were in nov 2004 when i first started expressing my deep anger at our dysfunctional political system in the brand new weblog world.

  11. person1597 says:

    @OrionATL: Thank you for your continuing energetic awareness.

    As observers, we constrain our world view in an attempt to produce the outcome we desire… until the effort is seen to be unproductive.

    Ideologues, however, refuse to abandon their cherished beliefs. Eventually, over time a reordering of sensibilities is advanced by circumstances. How those adaptations are managed speaks to cultural resilience.

    Principled government can emerge but it is ultimately a pilot-able vehicle for the application of power. Why else would it exist?

    So, what kind of system works?

    Making it work a.k.a. “top down”, is too Führerprinzip. How much more or less chaos does that approach accommodate? Not much unless it is mandated! It is always offered as the antidote to anarchy but is instead its progenitor, when the unintended consequences of the tyranny it commands arrive unannounced.

    The more accommodating approach — OK, “touchy-feeley” — featuring a larger role for empathy, thrives on chaos but chafes under anarchy. Is this robust? Is it worth emulating? Time and time again… politics is local. Empathy is local. Solutions that “just work” where people can get along, are the ones that are maintained even in the harshest climates… political or otherwise. As with any interdependent system, outages are expected.

    Given that the self-organizing properties of the internet allow for spontaneous affinity development, so too should networks of people who share a common intractable condition, give way to an outpouring of empathy such as we have seen with Sandy. Are we not all Occupiers now?

    Well, the proof will be seen in how folks treat their fellows when polite society no longer has a monopoly on the power to compel and destroy. Loogout! Somebody pissed of Ma Nature! Heah come Hur’ken Boom Boom!

  12. pdaly says:

    Thanks, Rayne. I didn’t realize the participation numbers were so low.

    I think the OWS movement had some successes: changed the news cycle from the term “belt tightening” to focus on questions about how we provide relief/legal free rides for “the 1%.”

    The Occupy Movement was a prominent enough physical presence last year that it took several governors across the country (albeit mostly Democratic mayors/governors) to convene to figure out how to stamp out the nascent democracy. Those politicians did so, to their discredit, in the name of “public safety and sanitation” and due to the “cost overruns for security” policing the occupy tent cities.

    The younger crowd in OWS got a taste of participatory government. That lesson will be lifelong.

  13. Rayne says:

    @person1597: Have you read Jared Diamond’s Collapse? Highly instructive. The best, fastest solutions for this country would be both top-down and bottom-up at the same time. Top-down would ensure validity of effort to marginal members of society who might otherwise buck change. Bottom-up would ensure broad buy-in for the effort.

    But both directions requires talent, intellect, and consciousness at both ends.

    @pdaly: I’m not certain OWS deserves all the credit, though a single activist did set We Are The 99% meme in motion with a Tumblr blog. Johnson&Johnson heir Jamie Johnson actually stimulated awareness of the 1% with a documentary released in 2006 — The One Percent. This is a solid example of challenges such a loosely organized group faces–little institutional knowledge inside and out that can be built on in order to create the critical mass required to effect substantive change.

    As for the presence–Minnesota’s government also cracked down on vegans in advance of the RNC 2008 convention. Was it really that the vegans were a legitimate source of protest being fomented, or that MN/GOP didn’t want them to disrupt activities? The crackdown doesn’t necessarily assure legitimacy or effectiveness; it only identifies with certainty some fear on the part of government. May also be seen as wasteful activity since tax dollars went toward policing protests instead policing the 1%; this needs to be turned around.

    I’ll disagree about the “taste of participatory government.” They’ve not learned anything truly effective yet. In some cases it’s a kind of contact high they’re experiencing; I’ve been told by college kids that tear gassing is a rite of passage they want to experience. That’s not learning effective change management and true democratic governance.

    I’ve been waiting years now–since the antiwar demonstrations pre-Iraq and the immigration marches–for groups to realize what needs to be occupied is media. Until they develop both a coherent, succinct problem statement with clear demands AND get this message across to all of the 99%, welcome to the status quo.

  14. person1597 says:

    Good call!

    Further agreement…
    Diamond’s distinction between social and biological survival is a critical one, because too often we blur the two, or assume that biological survival is contingent on the strength of our civilizational values… The fact is, though, that we can be law-abiding and peace-loving and tolerant and inventive and committed to freedom and true to our own values and still behave in ways that are biologically suicidal.

  15. freeman says:

    I think there are many surprises left in store from the occupy movement . My first glimpse of it , on the third or fourth day in NYC prompted me to say it seemed to be going nowhere, there being barely 200 people present and most of those very young and seemingly very uninformed as to the issues . I wrote as much on FDL,

    Within a few days of my departure from the East Coast it had grown exponentially and spread across the globe and the US .

    Where have those numbers gone ? No where they are still there waiting to be reignited as spontaneously as they were the first time around .In fact quite likely better organized then they ever were .

    It was exhilarating and very humbling to see how wrong I was in my initial appraisal.

  16. Bill Michtom says:

    “What long-term change in government accountability and
    transparency has OWS effected directly through their efforts? We need more than talk. We need measurable, concrete results.”

    I agree with pdaly & disagree with you about OWS’s ability to change the conversation–even in Congress, although not successfully enough to create or pass useful legislation. But that is part of the case OWS makes: the government is completely in the hands of the 1%. To me that awareness was a huge success.

    A huge change comes in steps. OWS has successfully taken two steps: the awareness of the problem and the continuing local, ongoing activism against evictions.

    The list of things Obama coulda/shoulda done, while accurate seems based on the premise that he ever had ANY interest in improving conditions for the 99%. That he didn’t was confirmed before the election–by his unwillingness to propose universal healthcare and his support for the FISA Amendments Act, compounded by his choice of advisors.

    Finally, as a life-long activist, now 65 years old, and a history major who spent time studying the Russian revolution, I see that people get to a point of systemic change slowly, through trial and error. While I loved–and agreed with–most of your rant, I feel you miss what Jefferson said in the Declaration: all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

  17. thatvisionthing says:

    Hi Rayne! Lots to read here, just surfing now, I’ll have to come back, don’t know if anyone else will to read this. But OrionATL @5 uses a word that catches me: commonweal. Or commonwealth. Since I think OWS is or should be about restoring our commons. Made me wonder about what the word actually means. Wikipedia says “Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically, it has sometimes been synonymous with ‘republic’.” I don’t know if Epicurean cares.

    I have been grieving the Bounty this week. The one just lost and, upon wandering, the first one. I watched the 1962 movie and got caught there on dialog that its breadfruit mission was for the West India Company. “The West India Company plans to feed it to slaves in Jamaica, no matter what it tastes like.” Was that a mistake? Wikipedia lists four West India Companies and they were all non-British. The slave-based economy in general, I guess. The British had the East India Company, and Thom Hartmann says that America was founded by it…as a commonwealth:

    The East India Company’s influence had always been pervasive in the colonies. Indeed, it was not the Puritans but the East India Company that founded America. The Puritans traveled to America on ships owned by the East India Company, which had already established the first colony in North America, at Jamestown, in the Company-owned Commonwealth of Virginia, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi. The commonwealth was named after the “Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth, who had chartered the corporation.

    Did we always owe our soul to the company store?

    In the movie, after the mutiny, Fletcher Christian elevates four of the crew to officer status, and you watch them start to become what they had just detested in Bligh. And in real life, when Pitcairn Island was chanced upon 20 years after the mutiny, all but one of the mutineers and all of the Tahitian men they had taken with them (and treated as slaves?) were dead. Mostly they killed each other over the years. The epilogue says Bligh had infected them all.

    Just sad.

    RIP Bounty:

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