Trivializing Occupy Wall Street? Nah, just making a buck
With endless admiration for New York’s Wall St. inhabitants, what I admire most are tycoon skins. So thick are Wall St. skins that, in comparison, a rhinoceros hide is as diaphanous as the wings of a Raphael cherub.
Three weeks after the Occupy Wall Street rallies began, I walked to their encampment for pictures and talk. Joining me was one of my many billionaire Wall St. friends, Mortimer (Mort) Gager. I fully expected him to sneer, scorn and throw up … er, throw up his hands when he saw the thousands upon thousands of young and old people with their banners, posters, lectures and antipathy for people of his financial status.
Quite the contrary. After strolling, with hordes of journalists, tourists, even a few cranky Republicans, Mort took out his diamond-studded red crayon, wrote words and figures, and triumphantly looked at me.
“Okay,” he grinned (only a tycoon can simultaneously say “Okay” and grin like a shark). “You say you’re here for the housing issue of The Senior Times? Fantastic! We can make a mint in the housing market right now.”
“C’mon, Mort. Zuccotti Park is your enemy. Young and old meet because they’re angry at the system, because they can’t take it any more, because …”
Mort laughed and flashed his titanium-framed colouring book. “Take a look at this,” he said. “See if I’m not on their side.”
In scarlet red, he showed me his opening circular:
Deluxe Housing: 3,100 square metres Prime Downtown Park Land. Community living with convivial Neighbours. Free Restaurant, library, daily and nightly Entertainment. Total rental: $0.00 per month. Amenities included.
“Mort, actually that sounds like you’re honestly embracing the ideals of these idealists.”
“Honest?” he asked. “Don’t give me your high-falutin’ words. Wall St. doesn’t know the meaning of the word honest. Anyhow, I’m not finished.” He jotted down more words.
Vast Array of Accommodations: Single sleeping-bag (For Earnest Protesters); Double Sleeping-Bag (For partners, including, “Don’t Bask, Don’t Tell”); Blanket/Double Blanket (Economical, Comfy); Organic (Nothing between you and the Good Earth).
“That word ‘organic’ always gets them,” Mort said. “Personally, I don’t like eating things which grow with worms and grasshoppers.”
“Still,” I said, “you seem to be embracing that this is the People’s Protest, that everyone is involved.”
“Uh, not everybody. We have some small print as well:
Accommodations not recommended for those hyper-sensitive to wind, rain, snow, beatings, incarcerations, clubbings or pepper spray.
I glared at him. “And how will the Chosen Ones spend their time in your deluxe housing?”
Mort flipped me another circular.:
Daily Activities for Residents of Occupy Wall Street: Exercise: Poster-lifting, marching, banner-waving, dodging New York cops; Education: Acquire knowledge with Nobel Prize winners, directors, actors, writers; Geography: Field trips to Washington Square, Times Square, Lower and Upper East Side, Police Headquarters, etc.; Art: Draw pictures of Robber Barons, Economic Malefactors, Uncle Sam in drag, Statues of Liberty with dollar signs on the torch, American flags with corporate logo-stars; Hygiene: Mops, brushes, soaps, sponges available each morning to clean your bedstead. Learn to differentiate between “vermin” (rodents, mice) and “communist vermin” (names given you by right-wing radio commentators); Syntax: How to react when self-same radio commentators accuse you of wishing for the most insidious policy in the Western hemisphere: Canadian Socialist Medicine.
“Mort, I appreciate the hygiene part ...”
“Democracy is a dirty business.”
“But you’re trivializing thousands upon thousands of well-meaning, sometimes Utopian but always well-intentioned people.”
Mort balanced his ruby-encrusted box of Bic ballpoints.
“Trivializing? Not at all! We’re teaching them the New American judicial system.”
The Bill of Rights: How To Pay it, and What to Leave As a Gratuity:
A. Freedom of Speech: Insulting police when they come to pick you up.
B. Freedom of Movement: Relaxing on the ground when they try to put handcuffs on you.
C. Freedom of Religion: Offering prayers to the G-dd---ed Pigs (or, should you be kosher, the G-dd---ed brisket of beef).
D. The Pursuit of Happiness: Running as fast as you can.
“Mort, whether you like it or not, you sound like an idealist yourself. But you said you were going to make a bundle, cash on the line, shekels.”
“Ah, me boy, never underestimate the 99 per cent. Remember when banks were naive enough to take your money for free? Now you pay them to keep it. Remember when you could fly by buying an airline ticket? Now you pay extra for aisle seats, bags, blankets, young stewardesses.”
So now the Uptown compassionate folks pay big. Books for the library? Pay by the page! Food for the free kitchens? A kitchen fee costs big dough. Music at night? Each guitar note is worth a C-note! Each bongo hit is more bucks for the bang.
“And franchises! We’ll make McDonald’s look like the Little House on the Prairie. Copyright the name ‘Occupy Wall Street’ now, and we’ll be rolling in shekels, baht, drachma, rupees, lek, even Canadian dollars.”
We’d reached the exit from Zuccotti Park, but Mort kept talking, writing and adding figures. Before we said goodbye—me to walk back to dog and home, he to the Wall St. canyons and his computers, I shouted:
“Mort, have you ever thought that this protest isn’t about money? It’s about freedom.”
He ran back and sidled up to me, then whispered the Wall St. mantra, which I reveal to Senior Times readers right now.
“Don’t get me wrong. It’s a free country.
“But only if you can afford it.”