Alan Grayson is a former US congressman known for being outspoken, but this had all the makings of a fit-up. He was the only 'left-leaning' (for an American politician) member of a heavily right-wing panel discussing the Occupy Wall Street protests. He'd barely said a word until PJ O'Rourke started to take the piss out of him. Once Grayson had finished, O'Rourke was left gasping and reeling like a playground bully who'd just been kicked shitless by the weedy kid in glasses. And to think I used to like PJ. These days he just looks more and more like a ... dick. If this is the quality of political debate on US TV, no wonder people are getting antsy.
Grayson neatly articulates in less than a minute exactly why people are so angry. He cites the main political parties being in the pockets of Wall Street, the lack of universal health care, unemployment, the destruction of America's wealth reserves by reckless bankers and the rising number of people stuck in negative equity. Sadly, what he didn't do was articulate what people want done about it, so his bravura performance did little to advance the OWS cause beyond its current 'passionate but pointless' phase.
He also inadvertently put his finger on why I find some aspects of the OWS protests so irritating. It's the 'they got us into this mess' angle. No they didn't. We got us into this mess. They just facilitated. We were the ones glutting ourselves on cheap credit and taking out mortgages we knew we couldn't afford. We had our snouts in the trough up to and beyond the moment where the entire house of cards came down. And it was our elected representatives, not least Bill Clinton and chums, who deregulated mortgage lending to the extent that the subprime crisis was not only likely, but historically inevitable.
Sure there was fraud - lots if it - and as Grayson says, it's a crime in itself that no-one has been prosecuted. But to single out a nebulous 1% as 'the guilty' while exonerating ourselves is basically dishonest.
And I hate the 1% idea too. It's an invidious mix of scapegoating and the politics of envy. It allows the unthinking vilification of a group of people, which is never a good idea, especially when that group is so poorly defined. "Those Jews are a bad bunch" doesn't have quite the same harmless ring to it, does it?
Consider that the 1% in many cases represents the brightest and the best we have to offer. It includes some of the greatest charitable benefactors in history. It includes the people who build and run the nasty corporations who make the cameras, clothes, social media, phones, luggage, transportation and food that make something like OWS possible. It even, until recently, included Steve Jobs.
So while we're taking about nuance and inclusiveness as the reasons for a lack of an agenda on the protest side, why are the same protesters indulging a total lack of nuance and inclusiveness when it comes to the people they're protesting against?
Confused? Not as much as they are.
Taking a slash
3 days ago