Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Epistle to The Ninety-Nine Percent

I am a member of the 99%. But in truth, I am much closer, in terms of raw dollars, to the One Percent than are 99% of those who eagerly refer to themselves as "the Ninety-Nine Percent." In real, big-picture statistical terms, I'm definitely not in the top 1%, but I'm probably in the top 15%, maybe 10%. This relative proximity to the One Percent has given me the opportunity to realize that, much as a diehard liberal like me might hate to admit it (and even after saying there was only "precisely one" respect in which I sympathize with the One Percent), it turns out there's another one.

I sympathize with the One Percent because, at bottom, they all value efficacy; and so do I. The One Percent and I like shit that works.

And unfortunately, this preference affords them a perspective from which they can look at you, the Ninety-Nine Percent, and point and laugh and joke about how effective the Occupy movement won't be. The fact that you have good, well-thought out points to make, and reasonable, demonstrable grievances to air, doesn't change the fact that, to the One Percent, your points and your grievances don't need to actually be heard in order to dismiss you. All they have to do is say "Occupy Wall Street is just a bunch of bored college kids who can't seem to score pot or level in World of Warcraft anymore. Get a job and a haircut, you hippie jackasses."

I find myself in a strange position because, while I cast my lot with the Ninety-Nine Percent in terms of philosophy (i.e. I agree with most if not all of the points you make, and most if not all of the grievances you air), I still have to side with the One Percent in terms of efficacy. The One Percent are absolutely right that you guys come across as a bunch of bumbling hippie jackasses who make up in earnestness and passion what you lack in pragmatism and efficacy.

But, while I reach the same conclusion about your efficacy that the One Percent do, I arrive at it through different reasoning. And that reasoning is this: Occupy is an urban movement, because the Ninety-Nine Percent are young, creative, idealistic, and educated people who live in cities. To your demographic, cities are awesome; cities are the place to be; why would anyone tolerate rural or suburban life? If it's a given there's gonna be some badass worldwide meritocratic revolution, of course all the action will be in cities!

The One Percent may work in cities, and a handful of them might reside in cities (between jaunts to Bermuda and Zurich), but the majority of them live in the suburbs and commute to the cities only for work. It is therefore easy for them to ignore you, because the only contact they have with you is through the window of their corporate limos and/or taxicabs and/or Escalades, tooling past whatever frozen park the NYPD hasn't managed to evict you from yet. And the only contact their loved ones have with your ideas is filtered through the breathless, schoolmarmish, seventh-grade-educated media. So nothing gets through.

The answer is simple: the Occupy movement needs to target the suburbs. This is where the One Percent actually live. Suburbia is where the policymakers actually live. Suburbia is where the bankers and insurance executives actually live. Suburbia is where, even as we speak, life burbles along tranquilly, blissfully oblivious to the possibility (and necessity) of change.

Disrupt that tranquility -- PEACEABLY -- and the One Percent will finally start to get it. Once the bylines stop reading NEW YORK NY and start reading YORKTOWN HEIGHTS NY, or DERBY CT, or CHERRY HILL NJ, or OSSINING NY, or KENT CT, or MT KISCO NY, or BROOKFIELD CT, or SOUTHBURY CT, only then will the seventh-grade-educated media finally start to get it. Metaphorically hit them where they literally live, and they will get it.

You will still get arrested, definitely. Asshole townie cops will still manhandle you and perhaps even continue to shoot rubber bullets at you. But only if those things occur in the suburbs will there be a chance that actual members of the One Percent will be forced to deal with you face-to-face, in the raw, not predigested by the seventh-grade-educated media. You will get to meet that rare species of primate who belongs to the One Percent without really knowing it or thinking of themselves in that way. And it will be a shocking experience for you both.

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