Occupy Wall Street: too little too late stunt

The simple fact that many people find this cartoon of Mr Burns holding up a placard with the words “I am the 1%. Smithers, release the hounds” amusing is because Mr Burns is a well-known character of the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons where he embodies what the “Occupy Wall Street” protestors consider to be the “enemy”. In The Simpsons, Mr Burns is the shrewd and ruthless industrialist who owns the nuclear power plant that is the pillar of the economy of Springfield, the fictitious small working class town that is the setting of the show. Whenever Mr Burns suspects that the “little people” (most often among whom can be counted the sitcom’s main character, Homer) are encroaching into his personal interests and that of his vast enterprise, he gives the order to his loyal personal assistant Smithers: “Release the hounds” — literally.

In finding the humour behind this simple image, we reveal the irony of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. We’ve long been aware of the reality of people like Mr Burns and we’ve long known how we’ve all played a part in creating people like him. We were just too busy enjoying the good times to really see him as the bad guy these protesters now make him out to be.

People like Mr Burns became rich and powerful simply by responding to what we want:

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We want things that we haven’t earned yet, and we want them now.

Simple, isn’t it?

It is this simple want that created the economic order we lament today where wars are fought over energy-dense minerals, work is broken down to meaningless tasks and parceled out to lesser and lesser skilled workers, and people (many of whom are children) in Third World countries are conscripted into the be-all-end-all effort to keep prices of goods and services down. Meanwhile, a big chunk of the capital accumulated from the immense profits generated by this approach to “progress” is re-channeled back to us in the form of credit.

The formula is, indeed, simple when seen this way. Make a lot of cheap stuff by employing resources in an extractive and exploitative manner and use part of the profits to lend money to those who want to buy them.

So I’m not really sure what it is exactly that makes “Occupy Wall Street” such an “in” thing today. To me, it is just a quaint too-little-too-late response to a problem we all had a part in creating; a half-baked attempt to demonise a sector of a society that is a creation of our own addiction to instant gratification.

9 Replies to “Occupy Wall Street: too little too late stunt”

  1. Going back to one of Ilda’s more prominent articles, and from someone that has actually taken part in that sort of thing recently, I would say it is more of an outlet of frustration that the ordinary person lived his life following the rules, but the so-called “1%” not only profited but also got away with breaking them at the expense of the victims.

    The European parallel would be the traditionally procedural and rule-loving Germans being frustrated because they have to bail out corrupt Greece. Meanwhile countries like Singapore managed to stay afloat because everyone profited from following their albeit-famously-strict rules.

    While the Filipino “leftists” have obviously found the opportunity to seize on it, they do have one point – what good is liberalization if it will mean more profit from rules already broken?

    1. Perhaps then Filipinos will not be able to relate with these protests from any perspective, because we are neither (1) rules-based in our actions nor (2) are able to profit in a sustainable way given most situations.

      It’s similar to all the street “revolutions” that were the fad in Manila in the mid-00’s. There was really no basis for any of the “frustrations” or feelings of “indignation” aired in those rallies to begin with because the very politicians we were protesting against were themselves creations of the deep-rooted dysfunction of our own society.

  2. I don’t think these protests were there cause it’s ‘in’ to do so. Unemployment rate hasn’t been that greater a scale in the US since the 1930s depression. People there are greatly affected and I even know friends there whose fathers got laid off work and are still among the millions who are unemployed. No subsidies, no free healthcare, no strong unions (luckily i live in OZ cause our leaders have adopted a bit of socialism to their policies).

    The biggest problem lies with the greed of these industrialists (or capitalist cause I am a bit of a Marxist), who have been controlling the markets and screwing the citizens working under their control big time. The other thing is the government.

    The state’s responsibility should have been restraining these greedy pigs. However, the state has been their a**kisser (think about the bull Reagan did in the 80s). I don’t know how effective these demonstrations are but it still has its impact. And i believe these are as important as the events that have unfolded the 60s revolution.

    Fortunately, here in the Aus, we have very strong vocal unions, and if they haven’t been out there calling out on the wrongs then may be this land could still have been so barren that it once was years ago.

    As of Phils, well, the problem lies with the generations of people who have been deprived of true education. Our leaders years ago could have prevented the catastrophe of large scale of ignorance if they had stopped being puppets of America. Public school education should have been the standard (look at countries in Europe where state education is prioritised).

    But then you have these elites (and indeed they’re that spineless cause they keep prostituting themselves to American govt)who just think like they’re in feudalist times and now we have the idiot majority. It doesn’t matter who’s govt caused the failed experiment that is this nation (be it magsaysay marcos aquino arroyo). the illustrados have always been screwy to the people (and if I have the DeLorean I could have exiled them all and have formed a green party movement).

    Sorry for long post and I know you’re all smarter than i am on this, but i just like to voice out my concerns cause i am for equality and true freedom. I still hope for a better Phils, and am aiming to go back there someday to teach kids the right education.

  3. In my opinion, both the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party Movement in the United States fail miserably to see the bigger picture.

    The Tea Party wants small government, which is all well and good. However, the Tea Party could not deny that a large part of its so-called “grass-roots initiative” (which is a flat-out lie, by the way; Google “Koch Brothers”) is social conservatism, a form of antiquarianism that puts emphasis on many things such as expanding the second amendment on guns, banning gay marriage, merging Church and State, increasing military spending, strategic planning for a full-scale invasion of Iran, and implementing full racial profiling on Muslims and other “suspicious” nationalities. None of this does not translate to the “smaller government” initiative they claim to desire.

    The #Occupy Wall Street Movement wants smaller corporations; again, something that looks good in principle. However, many people in this movement believe in a skewed culture of entitlement, which basically goes: “I deserve what I want.” They chant “Down with Capitalism,” yet at the same time do it with the most mind-blowingly expensive gadgets they can get their hands on. And the Guy Fawkes masks? Please. OWS doesn’t realize that Guy Fawkes wanted to destroy the English monarchy to replace it with a Catholic theocracy.

    To incite true change, both these sad movements need to reassess their goals and their motives, and simply do their research. Imagine what positive change they could wreak not just on the United States but also to the world. Unfortunately, their small-minded ideological principles are keeping them apart and at constant odds with each other.

    1. The trouble with ideologies is that to get them communicated to a mass audience, they need to be dumbed down and turned into artifacts that serve as emotional hooks (taglines and catchphrases, symbols, logos, catchy speeches and soundbytes, etc.) for the lazy thinkers that make up the majority of the population. It is in that process and when the emotional appeal in the comms take over that the deeper meanings and substance where real debate can be had is usually lost.

      1. good insight concerning the issue of the OWS and also the analysis of both the OWS and Tea Party… Though I will give my vote as more inclined to the OWS, but I believe that issues should be discussed one by one rather than putting basis on ideologies. Ideologies are easily misconstrued. I do hope GRP can give a suggestion on what would be the best means to get good governance back… It is a relative factor that can affect every sector of our society.

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