Monday, March 23, 2009

Main Street Anger

"It’s amazing how much emotion a little mental concept like 'my' can generate." — Eckhart Tolle
I've been contemplating why last week's showdown between Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer was so damn satisfying to so many people, and I've concluded it's all about the anger. Stewart didn't suppress his emotion, sugarcoat his words, or mollify his charges. "I understand you want to make finance entertaining," he said, "but it's not a fucking game."

So alright. That was cathartic. But we know there is nothing unique about Jim Cramer, and although I can also dish out equal doses of hostility towards politicians, the media, and a complicated financial bureaucracy that I'll never understand, what really aggravates me (and 59% of the public) are the arrogant bailout recipients. Greed is the one aspect of this crisis that is so pure and simple. But it's not just greed of money. It's also greed of power. Rolling Stone explains The Big Takeover and draws this conclusion:
The most galling thing about this financial crisis is that so many Wall Street types think they actually deserve not only their huge bonuses and lavish lifestyles but the awesome political power their own mistakes have left them in possession of. When challenged, they talk about how hard they work, the 90-hour weeks, the stress, the failed marriages, the hemorrhoids and gallstones they all get before they hit 40.

"But wait a minute," you say to them. "No one ever asked you to stay up all night eight days a week trying to get filthy rich shorting what's left of the American auto industry or selling $600 billion in toxic, irredeemable mortgages to ex-strippers on work release and Taco Bell clerks. Actually, come to think of it, why are we even giving taxpayer money to you people? Why are we not throwing your ass in jail instead?"

But before you even finish saying that, they're rolling their eyes, because You Don't Get It. These people were never about anything except turning money into money, in order to get more money; valueswise they're on par with crack addicts, or obsessive sexual deviants who burgle homes to steal panties. Yet these are the people in whose hands our entire political future now rests.
Do you ever get the feeling that we'd all be better off if these Wall Street guys had gone into the pizza delivery career instead?

Anyway, anger isn't for nothing. This isn't a manufactured outrage or a distraction. Glenn Greenwald believes there needs to be more public anger: "The public rage we're finally seeing is long, long overdue, and appears to be the only force with both the ability and will to impose meaningful checks on continued kleptocratic pillaging and deep-seated corruption in virtually every branch of our establishment institutions. "

Of course no sane person yearns for social unrest. I only hope our voiced anger sobers our elected officials so they start fearing for their own jobs and remembering that it's the public that they're supposed to be serving.

1 comment:

Loz said...

I've met some politicians who genuinely try to do the right thing by their constituents and become true advocates for them. Most, however, bow to political expediency.