Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
July 26, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Truthdig Bazaar
All the Sad Young Literary Men

All the Sad Young Literary Men

By Keith Gessen

more items

Email this item Print this item

Take Our Children, Please! A Modest Proposal for Occupy Wall Street

Posted on Nov 30, 2011
jonny2love (CC-BY)

By Steve Fraser

(Page 2)

Give back your votes; they do you no good, but might placate The Street.  If you’re not too shy, donate your medical records, X-rays, CAT scans and IV drips; you won’t need them anymore since the odds are you won’t be able to afford health care, and Wall Street can use them.  After all, who is more endlessly ingenious when it comes to turning misery into money?

Here’s a really big January 16th gesture if you’re up for it: securitize your body parts.  What, for example, is a leg- or ear- or brainpan-derivative really worth on the open market?  You don’t know, but Wall Street will.  And you can think of it as your contribution to solving the deficit dilemma, which keeps the 1% awake at night.

My poor imagination is hardly up to the task of imagining all the ways in which we might express our fealty to Wall Street’s financiers.  But we, the partisans of OWS, are if nothing else a remarkably creative bunch.  I’m confident that, when we get together on the 16th of January, the world will marvel at our inventiveness.

An Archipelago of Isolation Chambers


Square, Site wide, Desktop


Square, Site wide, Mobile
However “Swiftian” our mood, signage, and costumes, however much we retain the vital capacity to laugh at our own predicament and make fun of our tormentors, what I’m proposing is, in the end, serious business.  A massive “Collateralize Us” day is doable—and through its wit could embolden us and shame those in charge of the care and feeding of the 1%.  More important, it could put in the most graphic terms, where everyone could see it, a core indictment of a system in ruins and perhaps even hint at what might replace it.

Why pick a single day and a single place to symbolically immolate our own children (and their children to come)?  Why not continue to occupy as many places as we can on all days?  We should!

However, the simple epiphany that OWS allowed millions to experience was its blunt discovery that Wall Street, the world of financial mis-engineers and predatory speculators, was the taproot of our multiple dilemmas.  For people around the globe, that street remains, at least symbolically, the site where our misbegotten Age of Austerity was born.  So it makes continuing sense to persevere in pressing that singular insight, in pursuing a determination to confront a dysfunctional system where it originates.

So, too, local governments around the country have consistently used their police forces to cage, disperse, or otherwise fragment local occupations and may even have coordinated their police “occupations” with one another.  “Our streets” are ever less “ours” in any meaningful sense.  The geography of democracy is being transformed into an archipelago of isolation chambers.

But that won’t be the case if untold numbers assemble in New York on the 16th.  If every movement and organization that has had anything to do with OWS over these last months were to collaborate in mobilizing, even on the bitterest of January days, the streets will again be “ours.”

Martin Luther King and Jubilee Day

Then, of course, there is the resonant significance of the day itself.  Martin Luther King was a lawbreaker for justice.  So, too, were all those who defied “legitimate authority” alongside him. I’m not suggesting we break the law. I do suggest we exercise rights that are growing weak, and will grow weaker, if allowed to atrophy further.  And I do suggest as well that we, like King, become the midwives of new law.

If credit-default swaps and structured investment vehicles are legal, as they are, and if marching in the streets is becoming ever less so, as it is, then on January 16th we should begin to turn that kind of preposterous world upside down.  What was lawful shall become criminal and what was denied to the people shall be taken by them and made good law.

When we gather on the 16th of January at the corner of Broad and Wall streets—don’t worry, you’ll find it!—in an act of unprecedented symbolic self-sacrifice, we might also make one modest request. With Martin Luther King in mind, let us propose that January 16th also become Jubilee Day. 

Such days were a more or less regular part of the calendar in biblical times and long after.  It was the moment when common people were relieved of their crushing debts and the world was allowed to start over again.  Our own version of such a “day of forgiveness” would focus on all the debts with which the 1% have burdened so many working people.

On that day, we might resume a conversation about how to start the world anew.  It would undoubtedly be a conversation about all the vital resources that everyone depends on to enjoy life, be healthy, and have a future worthy of bequeathing to our children.  It would certainly be about how these must never again be allowed to congeal in the hands of an infinitesimal elite organized in a tiny number of private institutions indifferent to the commonweal and immune from censure.

See you on the 16th.  Bring your children.

Steve Fraser is editor-at-large of New Labor Forum, a TomDispatch regular and co-founder of the American Empire Project (Metropolitan Books).  He is a labor and economic historian whose most recent book is “Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace.”

© 2011 Steve Fraser

1   2
Banner, End of Story, Desktop
Banner, End of Story, Mobile

Watch a selection of Wibbitz videos based on Truthdig stories:

Get a book from one of our contributors in the Truthdig Bazaar.

Related Entries

Get truth delivered to
your inbox every day.

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments
IMax's avatar

By IMax, December 2, 2011 at 4:08 am Link to this comment


How many working families do you estimate will be harmed financially by closing every shipping port on the West Coast? Ten Million? Twenty-five million? More?

Please try to answer the question and not change the subject, OldG.

Report this

By lane08, December 2, 2011 at 12:41 am Link to this comment

Gerard—I do get it. My comment was shorthand for the current situation of
constant violent evictions, neighborhood people (members of the 99) being
afraid of them, the winter coming, the story falling off the front pages except
for the police riots to get rid of them. The support for these urban tent
occupations, as they are now constituted, is falling.

After only 2 months, they have been immensely effective and its time to face
the winter with new tactics and events.

Alternatively, it may be time to change venues—perhaps focusing on only DC
itself. K street, the Capital etc. And clearly the occupations of colleges is
continuing to work at a high level.

The goal is deep systemic change, and an economic revolution. Our tactics have
to constantly change to meet the forces trying to keep the status quo. It seems
counterproductive for us to do the same thing over and over if it is not being as
effective as it once was.

Report this

By YoungGringos, December 1, 2011 at 4:26 pm Link to this comment

Your deep concern for the working stiff is noted.

Let me guess, you’re more worried about a few public lawns being smothered under Occupy tents than the global environment being obliterated for the benefit of the 1%.

Occupy isn’t here to entertain.  This isn’t a flash mob or a passion play.

And the only thing young about me is my name, son.

Report this

By Carol DW, December 1, 2011 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A bad idea. The irony will be lost along with the message. If you want change, this isn’t the way to do it. You must move the ideas you stand behind forward.
Defiance is the appropriate tool for rejecting corporate dominance. The 1% fear it and refusal is what is required.

Report this

By gerard, December 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment

lane08:  If you seriously thing that OWS has just been"arguing over real estate” you are missing the essence of the movement.  Look at articles on and for much more.

Report this
Sandy Berman's avatar

By Sandy Berman, December 1, 2011 at 7:35 am Link to this comment

I wouldn’t put it past the banksters to accept the offer.. but ONLY if the kids were
made into a paté first.

Report this
IMax's avatar

By IMax, December 1, 2011 at 6:46 am Link to this comment

YoungGringos, - I have a better idea. How about we shut down every port on the West coast on December 12th?


I have to wonder if YoungG holds any concern, any concern at all, for the massive suffering this “better” idea will cause to working families. Or is forcing large numbers of people to suffer for a cause the point entire?

Perhaps this young person has no real notion of just how horrific his idea is?

Report this

By Marian Griffith, December 1, 2011 at 1:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


While it is true that the new governments of Greece and Italy have not been directly elected, calling them answerable only to the financial institutions and the ECB is really REALLY not correct.

The Greek government is one of national unity. That is, it contains all (major) parties in its members.
The Italian government attempted to do the same but Italy’s political parties could not bring themselves to cooperate even when faced with a crisis that threatened to bankrupt the country. So the new prime minister, who was appointed to that post by the president same as any other prime minister in that country, opted for unaffiliated specialists in their respective fields to try and cut through the political obstruction. This is why the Italians find they are still paying a high interest rate on the refinancing of their national debt (their debtors have strong doubts the Italian politicians are serious about doing something about the deplorable state of the economy).

However, BOTH governments are subject to democratic oversight through their parliaments. They do not have the power to dictate. Every law and regulation they propose will still have to be approved by the democratically elected representatives of the population.

Report this

By YoungGringos, December 1, 2011 at 1:17 am Link to this comment

I have a better idea.
How about we shut down every port on the West coast on December 12th?

Mark your calendars.

Report this

By lane08, November 30, 2011 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment

This is like an idea I’ve been thinking of for some time, because I believe OWS
has to move on from just arguing over real estate and start doing one time
events that are highly theatrical and very educational.

The idea is to have a national Economic Prisoner of War Exchange. On this day
we trade 1000 Nurses for one Lobbyist. 5000 teachers for one Goldman Sachs
exec. 1000 children for one Congressman who blocked health care. Well, I
don’t have the details all worked out and the names of the Oligarchs we’re
trading for would have to be researched and voted on in a General Assembly.
But you get the idea. There woudl be an “exchange” in cities across the country
all at the same time.

It’s based on Eisenhower’s Humanity Hung on a Cross of Iron Speech in which
he talked about how many schools each bomber would pay for, how many
hospitals each weapon prevents from being built etc.

This POW exchange would teach many Americans a lot of facts they aren’t now
getting from network news and make the cost of income inequality very

Report this

By Textynn, November 30, 2011 at 10:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hey you could own everything if you could print all the money you needed to buy everything and put everyone else in debt.  The answer is ...end the FEd… and end a select few having the ability to print themselves all the money they will ever need to buy the rest of us out. 

This article bows to this fraudulent system and acts like these people are deserving of their wealth. The are no more deserving than any counterfeiters.

How about us ending the Fed and quit letting inbred families who have been doing this for centuries rule our lives.

Here’s an awesome video on FED RESERVE topic.  Amazing

foresight BY Aaron Russo .

SEe DEnnis Kucinich HR 2990
End the FED

Report this

By gerard, November 30, 2011 at 8:11 pm Link to this comment

Now here’s a guy with some fire in his belly! Maybe things are coming together, what with OWS spreading the 99 to 1 message in the streets, and a few intellectually qualified and experienced men like Frazer spreading information in a language people can understand.
  How much longer can these elite cowards hide under their desks? And how much longer can Congress be bought with what, in an age with more “spunk”, was called “filthy lucre”? 
  You have to live 100 years and go through two major “economic meltdowns” and see four or five major wars used as attempts to “stimulate growth”  at the cost of millions of lives to really appreciate capitalism!

Report this
Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide