The thing I can’t work out today is “Why aren’t more Americans more visibly angry?”
I have just watched the BBC, CNN’s, MSNBC’s and the Guardian’s coverage of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Yes it’s spreading to other cities, but look at the numbers involved: 4,000 in New York, and figures ranging from a few hundred to a couple of thousand elsewhere.
Why am I perplexed?
In the early years of the war on Iraq, after the world knew that the justification for the war had been sexed-up and fabricated, I waited for the protest to begin. The death toll in Afghanistan and Iraq grew steadily. But no 1960s –style antiwar movement seemed to develop. I read a book by one deserter
who fled to Canada, as many did in the 60s to dodge the Vietnam draft. There
may have been others. But I didn’t hear of any mass movement. I figured that when the death toll in Iraq passed the toll of 9/11 something would trigger a mass revolt against the war. But no. The silence was deafening.
It’s now 4 years since the Wall Street banks’ behaviour pushed the American economy into a crisis from which it is still hurting badly. Houses have been foreclosed on, unemployment is 9 per cent, and Zuccotti Park has what? 4,000 people in it. Commentators on the internet are assuring their audience that the Tea Party people were angry at bailouts when they first began. But I don’t hear their anger at the claim that the richest 400 people in the US have as much wealth as the bottom 150 million.
I’ve had the good luck to live in a country that’s still growing economically, thanks to the fact that China and India, to which we export, are still growing. And by sheer dumb luck, Australian banks didn’t get involved in the American sub-prime derivates and mortgage bundles.
So why do I care?
I’ve often been fascinated by American politics.
The first political saga I ever took an interest in was Watergate. As an 18-19 year old in Australia in 1973-74, I watched in morbid fascination as the efforts of a President to cover up illegal conduct by his staff brought him undone. My education on abuse of power here in Australia had to wait for the stacking of the Senate against Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1974-75.
More of America’s political processes take place in public. They have the primary elections process starting in New Hampshire in February, but effectively already underway 6 months early. You can watch the jockeying taking place in public. Right now, you can watch republicans consider electing a man who believes in magic underwear to the office of President. (And if you don’t know what that means, Google ‘Mormon garmies.’) In Australia, when Julia Gillard knifed Prime Minister Kevin and the party dumped him as leader, the deal was done in back rooms and became public after it was an established fact.
The US is still 20 per cent or so of the world’s economy. It is the only country that can afford eleven aircraft carrier strike groups.
The US still produces a lot of
the ideas and popular culture that influences the rest of the world. And you
can’t escape that America has 312 million people in it, compared to 22.7 back
here. The means the bell curve is 14 times bigger and the tails of the curve are 14 times thicker, and extend left and right further than here. So when it comes to extreme opinions, well, 22 times as many people means… you guessed it. And as Regan and Thatcher showed, and later Bush and Blair, if an American President can get even one other world leader onside, they can do things that effect millions of people in other countries. I still regard America as a source of noble aspirations and ideals, even if it’s health-care system and it’s limited unemployment insurance causes one of my female friends to say the thing she dreads most over there is the idea of getting seriously ill. I like the separation of powers that the framers of its constitution came up with.
I’ve been to the US eight times, tacking on trips to Canada, Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Argentina as I went. I’ve been to California, Arizona, Las Vegas, the Grand
Canyon, New Orleans, New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Boston. I have friends there, some of whose political opinions strike a chord with me. With others, I have learned to shut up. Of my facebook friends in the States, only one is persistently angry in her facebook posts.
So coming back to my first question: why aren’t more Americans more visibly angry? Is it a sense of futility? Do they believe that they could protest all they like, but it wouldn’t make any difference? Are they too focussed on keeping the job they have, and not making waves? Or is it the belief that they’ll get thru, one way or another. That somehow they will survive. Or that complaining is unseemly when so many others are in the same boat?
Meanwhile, Manhattan has 1.6 million people, and only 4,000 are in Zuccotti Park.
Any readers out there want to make a suggestion?
6 thoughts on “Why aren’t more Americans more visibly angry?”
As you know, I am not politically motivated. I tend to think those in Washington know what their job is and how to accomplish it much more than I do. Why aren’t I more angry? I’m totally pissed at where our country is right now, I just don’t know if demonstrations and marches are the right way to change things. My problem is that I believe in our democracy – the people in office that we have elected – and I desperately want to believe they have our (the people’s) best interests in mind when making decisions. I know this is naive and I’m trying to figure out how we got here and how we can get out of this mess. I’m a writer, not a politician. I write fantasy for a reason – to escape. I wouldn’t presume to know the president’s job or that I know enough about economics to dictate to Washington how to run the country.
In essence, I’m pissed, but feel impotent to change anything.
What would you suggest we do?
Funny, I don’t remember anyone on Wall Street or the banks putting a gun to my head to get a mortgage I can’t afford. Or forcing me to refinance- getting all the equity out of my home so I can buy a boat or some other expensive play thing.
So many people did this or when the housing market started crashing and they were upside down on their mortgages would walk away from their homes pack up their boats and go off and buy an even bigger house for so much less leaving the bank with the loss. And it lowers the value on the rest of the houses in the neighborhood.
Where is the outrage for their part in crashing our economy?
Unfortunately your experience with whether or not Americans are visibly angry is based on what you see in the liberal media. There was nearly a media blackout when the “tea party” descended on Washington DC 2 years ago. In fact the National Park Service turned off their cameras, that would have shown clearly the massees who had assembled. Most of the media reported a few thousand people, when there were 10-20,000 people who traveled across the country at their own expense to protest (I was there). It was mostly against bailouts, socialized medicine, and the path towards socialism that the current administration is attempted to lead us down. When in my local area the first tea party groups protested in April 2009, none of the local TV stations covered it and the two regional papers relegated it to a paragraph or two on an inside page. Yet when 20 or 30 minorities have a protest it makes the 6 o’clock news and front page coverage.
I believe quite the opposite of Tameri about our elected officials. I don’t believe most of the politicians have our best interests at heart. I believe they have their own self-interest in mind with the decisions they make. Without term limits we have career politicians who aren’t really held accountable for their actions because, for the most part, if you have enough money behind, you can spend your way into office. That tends to make them susceptible to influence by rich lobbyists. Combine that with the fact that the majority of our elected officials have zero business experience and are, by and large, overextended financially themselves, and you have a recipe for disaster.
As far as the “occupy” protests currently underway… since they were initially organized by Obama’s major supporters: the SEIU and Acorn, I think they are just a way to divert attention away from the failure of the administration and congress to do anything to improve the economic situation here. Having protesters in NY complaining about the banks (almost 3 years too late, IMO)??? To what end? Do they think the banks should be shut down? I think the fact that the institutions that had to be bailed out ended up paying huge bonuses was appalling, but I certainly don’t fault the banks for wanting to maximize their profits. Thus far there is no proof that they did anything illegal. Stupid and risky, yes, but not illegal. Making money, after all, is the purpose of being in business. The legal obligation of the board of directors of any institution is to make that institution as profitable as possible.
I find it fascinating that nobody is protesting in Hollywood outside the studios where top actors make tens of millions of dollars for a few months of work. Or protesting outside stadiums where athletes are paid millions of dollars for playing games.
I think your answer lies in the media. Both sides (politically) have their pet media outlets and both sides are dismissing the Wall Street occupiers as not having a defined cause. The people who are showing their anger are the ones who don’t watch mainstream television news. Since the protesters are standing up against the very corporations who have bought and paid for both sides of the government, through lobbying and political donations, they’re not likely to find much sympathy with the politically motivated media.
America’s political system is broken and will remain so until lobbyists and corporate funding of politicians are outlawed. That is unlikely to happen while people like Rupert Murdoch throw out propaganda under the guise of news and scare people into swallowing the political Kool-Aid.
“I don’t hear their anger at the claim that the richest 400 people in the US have as much wealth as the bottom 150 million”
Why should I care? If you redistribute that wealth, what do we get… like $1000 each, per-person? Its hardly going to make a difference. That’s not really worth a week’s vacation to protest outside my local city hall. There are bigger problems to be concerned about.