In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Herman Cain informed the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters that they should not blame the banks and Wall Street, they should blame themselves if they are unemployed and in need. This reeks of Marie Antoinette’s suggestion to the impoverished citizens of France that, if they were short of bread, they should eat cake, displaying a complete disconnect with the reality of life for the ordinary person, and recent history.
The blame game lives on
It is no surprise that Cain’s polling numbers have surged with the GOP base in the wake of this and other statements indicating a thing in this life and we should return to a “survival of the fittest” style of life. Examples of this thought process can be seen in George Bush allowing New Orleans to drown while he went around patting cronies on the back and proclaiming what a great job they were doing.
In the wake of the economic meltdown fueled by risky loans that enriched mortgage writers at the expense of middle and lower middle class people who ended up losing their homes, conservatives declared that the fault lay with the victims, who should never have believed that the opportunity to own their own homes was real in the first place.
This blame the victim mentality even carries over into the classic case of blaming the victims of rape for being raped – even when the victim is an 11 year-old girl who was gang-raped. When VP Joe Biden made this analogy, he was decried by the GOP for “stooping to that level.”
The belief system the GOP credits for their “survival of the fittest” philosophy is that of author Ayn Rand. She has been quoted by Alan Greenspan, both of the Pauls, Rush Limbaugh, and Paul Ryan, all of whom have heaped mounds of praise on her. Everyone’s favorite fictional character, Gordon Gecko of the movie “Wall Street” could have been quoting Rand directly when he said that “greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” Rand’s philosophy listed all wealthy people as “producers” and the rest of humanity as “moochers.” This notion turned on its head the idea that people who work with their hands are the producers and those who lie in the lap of luxury drinking wine on expensive yachts and living behind huge gates in expansive mansions are an idle class that produces nothing.
Rand’s thoughts on what is admirable were first expressed early in her life through admiration for a murderer who killed and raped a teen girl. The logic was that he was “strong” and not “held back by convention.” Mental health professionals refer to this mentality as being psychopathic. In a famous interview with Mike Wallace, Rand stated that altruism was evil, and selfishness was the height of virtue, and those who starve to death are unworthy of love.
This is the philosophy of the right-wing of the GOP, which thinks that the best solution is to cut public services wherever and whenever possible, while cutting the few remaining restraints on the wealthiest and most powerful of society so that they can accumulate even more.
Fighting back by Occupy-ing
The American Autumn currently beginning via “Occupy Wall Street,” “Occupy Saint Louis,” and associated movements across the country, is a direct reaction to attempts to enrich the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. The abuses of Wall Street are just the tip of the iceberg that concerns the Occupy movements. We are already seeing politicians on the right referring to the protesters as “mobs” who are being “inflamed,” when the truth is that the police have been far more inflamed than the protesters. This reflects the concern of the corporate masters who influence the actions of the administrations involved. Although the protesters are peaceful, they have caused some property damage; the wealthy and powerful are soiling their $200 silk shorts at the thought of what might happen when the movement continues to spread. Think of all those beautiful Brooks Brothers suits being spoiled by huge sweat stains.
The growing power of the protests is directly influenced by the amount and strength of the oppression they have faced. Unfortunately for the powers that be, it is an inverse relationship, with every attempt to strong-arm it out of existence, instead strengthening the movement. The protests were nearly completely ignored until New York police maced young women participants, which immediately led to reporting of the protests, strengthening and spreading the movement. Mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge had much the same effect, again calling attention to the perfidy of officialdom and the peaceful reactions of protesters, which again raised awareness. As long as the protesters remain peaceful, they are likely to be able to continue to benefit from official efforts to push them around.
Call to action
So, what should we do? If you have not already done so – participate in the protests. If you are unable to directly participate, provide support materially, bring food and drink to the protesters in your area to enable them to continue. This movement has no corporate sponsors. If you are unable to do either of those things, write letters to the editor, write to your local politicians expressing your support and demanding reform of how Wall Street operates. Demand that money be removed from the political process: This would do more than anything to cut the corporate strings which cause our politicians to dance to the tune played by the wealthy. If not now, when?
Mike Davis is a local community organizer for groups such as the Coffee Party and Moveon.org and works with Veterans for Peace on a regular basis.