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Why the Elites Are in Trouble

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Posted on Oct 9, 2011
Illustration by Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges

Ketchup, a petite 22-year-old from Chicago with wavy red hair and glasses with bright red frames, arrived in Zuccotti Park in New York on Sept. 17. She had a tent, a rolling suitcase, 40 dollars’ worth of food, the graphic version of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” and a sleeping bag. She had no return ticket, no idea what she was undertaking, and no acquaintances among the stragglers who joined her that afternoon to begin the Wall Street occupation. She decided to go to New York after reading the Canadian magazine Adbusters, which called for the occupation, although she noted that when she got to the park Adbusters had no discernable presence. 

The lords of finance in the looming towers surrounding the park, who toy with money and lives, who make the political class, the press and the judiciary jump at their demands, who destroy the ecosystem for profit and drain the U.S. Treasury to gamble and speculate, took little notice of Ketchup or any of the other scruffy activists on the street below them. The elites consider everyone outside their sphere marginal or invisible. And what significance could an artist who paid her bills by working as a waitress have for the powerful? What could she and the others in Zuccotti Park do to them? What threat can the weak pose to the strong? Those who worship money believe their buckets of cash, like the $4.6 million JPMorgan Chase gave* to the New York City Police Foundation, can buy them perpetual power and security. Masters all, kneeling before the idols of the marketplace, blinded by their self-importance, impervious to human suffering, bloated from unchecked greed and privilege, they were about to be taught a lesson in the folly of hubris. 

Even now, three weeks later, elites, and their mouthpieces in the press, continue to puzzle over what people like Ketchup want. Where is the list of demands? Why don’t they present us with specific goals? Why can’t they articulate an agenda? 

The goal to people like Ketchup is very, very clear. It can be articulated in one word—REBELLION. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the oligarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back.

This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening. They are deaf, dumb and blind. 

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“The world can’t continue on its current path and survive,” Ketchup told me. “That idea is selfish and blind. It’s not sustainable. People all over the globe are suffering needlessly at our hands.”

The occupation of Wall Street has formed an alternative community that defies the profit-driven hierarchical structures of corporate capitalism. If the police shut down the encampment in New York tonight, the power elite will still lose, for this vision and structure have been imprinted into the thousands of people who have passed through park, renamed Liberty Plaza by the protesters. The greatest gift the occupation has given us is a blueprint for how to fight back. And this blueprint is being transferred to cities and parks across the country.

“We get to the park,” Ketchup says of the first day. “There’s madness for a little while. There were a lot of people. They were using megaphones at first. Nobody could hear. Then someone says we should get into circles and talk about what needed to happen, what we thought we could accomplish. And so that’s what we did. There was a note-taker in each circle. I don’t know what happened with those notes, probably nothing, but it was a good start. One person at a time, airing your ideas. There was one person saying that he wasn’t very hopeful about what we could accomplish here, that he wasn’t very optimistic. And then my response was that, well, we have to be optimistic, because if anybody’s going to get anything done, it’s going be us here. People said different things about what our priorities should be. People were talking about the one-demand idea. Someone called for AIG executives to be prosecuted. There was someone who had come from Spain to be there, saying that she was here to help us avoid the mistakes that were made in Spain. It was a wide spectrum. Some had come because of their own personal suffering or what they saw in the world.”

* Correction: An earlier version of this column said JPMorgan Chase gave a donation “a few days ago.” JPMorgan’s website says its gifts to the New York City Police Foundation, which together add up to “the largest [gift] in the history of the foundation,” began arriving last year.


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entropy2's avatar

By entropy2, October 10, 2011 at 5:45 am Link to this comment

@Inherit The Wind—your LOTR comparisons are apt. However, Gandalf (while tempted) also refused the Ring himself.

Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good.”

As obviously destructive as is the concentration of power in the hands of the corporate plutocracy, I, for one, am just as wary of ultimate power residing in the hands of the state.

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By David Reese, October 10, 2011 at 5:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great post!  Please keep devoting your blog to this movement.

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, October 10, 2011 at 5:05 am Link to this comment

Something tells me there will soon be a boycott of BK because they wouldn’t let the protestors use the bathrooms. What a moronic idea some manager had ... they will pay for their shortsightedness many times over.

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By exploitedtimes, October 10, 2011 at 4:51 am Link to this comment

So the occupation is depending on McDonald’s for sanitation? So I guess that means McDonald’s is one of the good guys in this Dead Show in the city?

The revolution will not be televised. There will be blood.

And yes, there will be feces.

And which union-busting corporation is sponsoring the internet for this so-called revolution?

We’ve got a ways to go before that word can be applied.

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By bpawk, October 10, 2011 at 4:31 am Link to this comment

Please remember that Washington enables wall street to bask in their greed by letting them have numerous tax breaks for the wealthy at taxpayers’ expense, bailouts at taxpayers’ expense and deregulation at taxpayers’ expense. The government (and by not directly criticizing the government - you too) are complicit in this.

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By GradyLeeHoward, October 10, 2011 at 4:04 am Link to this comment

What a wonderful gestalt explanation through the
eyes of a young woman, Ketchup. Chris has
illustrated what social empathy means. I hope he
will not neglect to return with a sleeping bag for
his informant, and all the gear he can carry for
others.

I write from a hospital bed where I am being
treated for an embolism and antibiotic resistant
infection, but I feel part of Occupy anyway. When I
became delirious Saturday the nurses say I preached
against the Oligarchy. I was so proud of what was
in my heart and subconscious, not hate and not
sexual aggression. You may be glad to know that
medical staff people remain at their jobs not
because they are frightened, but because of
responsibility toward patients like me. When I am
discharged I plan to rejoin te Occupation of
Washington, D.C.- a city where I was long a part of
the procedural democracy problem. I owe many
reparations.

The American immune system is massing its power to rid the body politic of a life threatening disease: corporate capitalism.

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By DarthMiffy, October 10, 2011 at 4:03 am Link to this comment

Inherit TW: a brilliant post.

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By Inherit The Wind, October 10, 2011 at 3:49 am Link to this comment

CH is usually a turgid writer but in one paragraph he articulates the whole of what the OWS is all about and why the “elites” and idiots like Herman Cain are baffled:

“This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening. They are deaf, dumb and blind.”

I’m reminded of two things in “Lord of the Rings”

1) Gandalf saying that Sauron’s biggest weakness is that he cannot CONCEIVE of anyone wanting to destroy the Ring of Power.
2) Smeagol saying to his Gollum-half “Leave now and NEVER RETURN!”

I am also reminded of Ayn Rand’s character in Atlas Shrugged saying to the parasitic dictator (whom she totally mistook as a “liberal” rather than a modern Republican) “What do we need YOU for?”

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By Should have seen it coming, October 10, 2011 at 2:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“There’s a stack keeper,” Ketchup said. “The stack keeper writes down your name or some signifier for you. A lot of white men are the people raising their hands. So, anyone who is not apparently a white man gets to jump stack. The stack keeper will make note of the fact that the person who put their hand up was not a white man and will arrange the list so that it’s not dominated by white men. People don’t get called up in the same order as they raise their hand.” 

And with that, and a long slow sigh, the hope of anything good coming of this movement left.  Your racism is not O.K. just because you are racist against people that you think it is O.K. to be racist against.  We are done…

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