If you read only one article this year, it needs to be Matt Taibbi’s “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests.”
Thousands of miles removed from the US and all its bullshit, I have had little interest in reading about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. It’s not that I bought the “dirty, jobless hippies” line that interested parties eagerly attempt to apply to any protest of any sort.
It’s just that I didn’t care.
I’ve escaped the US, in part because I am strongly opposed to the direction of the country. My resentment starts at the (non-representative) government level, but, unfortunately, it casts its cloud as far as the average citizen.
I’m generally disgusted by the decisions and rationale of most Americans.
As I read Taibbi’s post, it all started to make sense…
We’re all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. The relentless sameness of the two-party political system is beginning to feel like a Jacob’s Ladder nightmare with no end; we’re entering another turn on the four-year merry-go-round, and the thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.
If you think of it this way, Occupy Wall Street takes on another meaning. There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. Or maybe you wake up one morning and your car is gone, legally repossessed by Vulture Inc., the debt-buying firm that bought your loan on the Internet from Chase for two cents on the dollar. This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of.
That, to me, is what Occupy Wall Street is addressing. People don’t know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.
The banking system puts you in the corner early in life and never lets you out. It’s got you right where it wants you.
Which reminded me of something I wanted to post about under the “Pros of Taiwan”– no late fees.
No. Late. Fees.
I miss the deadline to pay for my cell phone, or my electric, or my rent? No fee.
The only inconvenience is that I can no longer pay at a 7-11 or any other convenient store. I have to hit the actual Taiwan Power Bureau, which I have done probably a dozen times. And even then, it’s walk in, walk out. No hassle.
I remember one time while in college back home, my banking account dipped below $250. It was something unimaginably marginal, like $249.47. Unbeknownst to me, I started getting hit with daily “insufficient funds” charges of $30, until the end of the month, when I received a bill stating I actually owed the bank $350. Amazingly, the entire time, my joint savings account was still flush with cash. But if it wasn’t for the fact that I personally knew the president of one of the bank branches, I would have been shit out of luck.
So, yeah. I might not know what I would build in place of the modern banking system. But I know enough that I am sick and tired of being bullied and treated like shit, all to add a few zeroes to some corporate asshole’s quarterly bonus.
I’m sick and tired of just the whole fucking culture of things.
OWS, here’s hoping you cats make some progress. And maybe, I’ll actually have an interest in returning to my motherland one of these years.