I think I’m gonna lay low tomorrow, sneak into the library, lock the study door and draw the blinds. In the US, public demonstrations and rallies are nothing out of ordinary. However, this particular one is different – tomorrow, on April 11, there are rallies scheduled to take place all over the United States against… the bankers. That’s right, the bankers. And take a look at the rhetoric: “We must break up the banks and never again let them get so big that they distort our politics and take down the economy.” Or: “Dismantle the power of the financial elite and make policies that keep a new crop from springing up. We want our economy and politics restored for the public.” For someone who grew up in the USSR this thing has déjà vu written all over it.
This used to be the country of Gordon “The Greed is Good” Gekko. This used to be the country that celebrated a person’s right to strike it rich and then enjoy it without having to excuse himself. Of course, America has a long tradition of individual crucifications of former star bankers such as Michael Milken or Nick Leeson, but those were considered simply bad apples in an otherwise good, if not entirely moral, lot. Not this time.
The US has a long history of rallies and popular dissent against racial oppression, but the differences of class (which have always been an important part of public consciousness in Europe, particularly in France) have been viewed as something quite natural and, above all, justified. After all your success is up to you in America and the traditional wisdom has always been that if you ended up on top then you’ve apparently earned it.
It will be interesting to see how many people will actually show up tomorrow. I’m sure that for most of the people who do it will be more of an occasion for venting their anger “against those who got us into this mess yadda-yadda” rather than asking for a genuine change in society – so one shouldn’t really read too much into it. But the mere fact that this thing is taking place is already telling. James Kwak finished his post on baselinescenario.com with a line “And don’t forget your pitchfork. (Just kidding.)”. I wonder how long will it remain just a joke, as many people seem to be kidding along the similar lines recently: