A few months back I was in my big bank, cashing a check and moving around funds between accounts. When the teller stopped me.
"My manager would like to speak with you," she said, after staring at the screen a little too long.
Now there was a time when a teller would do that, and I'd know it was time to get the fuck out of that bank. Those times are long gone.
"Mr. Clifford," the manager said, walking up. "It looks like you have been pre-approved a line of credit."
"I didn't apply for one," I said.
He smiled. "It's for your being...a valued customer."
"That's correct." He smiled big.
I got it.
"If you'd like you come over here," the manager said, "we can have you sign the paperwork--"
"Because I have money now," I said.
The branch manager stared at me. "Pardon?"
"I needed your credit couple years ago. When I didn't have money. I don't need it now."
Couple years ago, I was down to a few hundred bucks, and my big bank pretty much bent me over a barrel and fucked me raw. I was a week, maybe two, from having to crawl back to Connecticut and live in a car port.
"But you don't understand," the manager said. "Why don't you sit down, at least listen to what we're offering?"
"Because," I said, "I don't need your help now. I needed it a couple years ago. When I was broke, and nobody was extending me a line of credit. Not that I have some money, you want to give me credit?"
"Well, yes," the manager said.
"And what I'm telling you is, I don't need your help now."
I walked out.
And, fuck, that felt good.
So I've been trying to figure out why these Occupy-whatever types piss me off so much. Part of it is overexposure/media saturation, and a natural reaction of any rebel to, well, rebel.
Even if you're rebelling against the rebels. Plus, I'm leery of any mass movement, from left or right, because there is idiocy in numbers.
Yes, we may be the 99%, but in that 99% remember: 17% think Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.
I hate a lot of movements, including, but limited to, environmentalism, consumerism, commercialism, tea partyism, yogaism, and most symphonies (I've said it before, I'll say it again. No one really likes classical music any more than they actually like jazz. They like the idea of it. Like foreign films about boys with red balloons, and David Foster Wallace).
No, this Occupy shit has been getting to me for another reason. It's not the cause itself. I mean, is there anyone out there reading this blog who isn't pissed off about economic inequality? You'd have to be fucking blind not to notice a wee disparity between the haves and the you, a little pissed that while you are busting your ass, someone else is whacking your dreams into their Olympic-sized swimming pool with a polo mallet, having a good laugh at your expense. Even the most staunch defender of free enterprise and a competitive market has to concede that there is something just a little amiss when the average CEO (who's tanking company has earned him a fat bonus with your taxes) is making anywhere from 280x to 450x that of the average worker. But it's not just the distribution, is it?
It's the gaudiness of the excess in the face of pronounced deprivation. Or to quote Lou Reed:
We who have so much / to you who have so little
to you who don't have anything at all.
We who have so much / more than any one man does need
and you who don't have anything at all.
Does anybody need another million dollar movie?
Does anybody need another million dollar star?
Does anybody need to be told over and over
spitting in the wind comes back at you twice as hard?
There's more. It goes on and on, filling up the Hudson... But you get the point. You're going straight to the devil, Strawman.
So what are we arguing about, really? We're all on the same page. Unless you're a CEO or somehow rich enough to be considered in that upper eschelon. And you're not. The rich are getting richer, we're staying put. Here's a bone. Good dog.
And yet these Occupy times give me such a terrific pain in the ass. I mean, they really bug the shit out of me.
After the General Strike last Wednesday, which my wife attended, and at which, it had been suggested, my son should also appear, bad stuff happened.
What started like this
as expected, ended like this
Which was followed by this
Justine was incensed the next day, wringing her hands over police reaction. I was like, What do you expect? People were breaking windows, trying to "claim" buildings, and, in general, acting like jackasses. Because there are always jackasses. I know the mass majority who attended the General Strike did so peacefully. But the very nature of this sort of thing invites the jackasses who only want to break shit. How else do you explain inciting the same police who just last week unleashed tear gas and were shooting unarmed vets? (http://tinyurl.com/43osg22
). Don't poke the fucking bear. Idiots. I have no love loss for the police, having seen them beat the shit out of more than a few friends of mine, but what did they expect? They were just waiting for the excuse. And the dipshits gave it to them by throwing rocks through bank windows.
And that's why this thing is getting to me. Because I would love nothing more than to believe there is actually a groundswell that could bring about real change. I talk to friends, on both sides of the political spectrum, and everyone is pissed. You fight to get ahead, fretting over how to pay medical bills (something Justine and I got to enjoy first hand, when we lost our health insurance when she was pregnant), hoping to get to a day where you can breath a little, relax... And you're still waiting. I saw this handwriting on that fissured wall when I was 16. I remember saying to my old man, Take away the car now. I ain't working. And of course he lost his shit, because hard work and gainful employment was his life. I was lazy, true. But I also saw an inherent flaw in the wage system. And my father? He worked his whole life for nothing the pain. Now he walks these empty rooms looking for something to break...? No, Bruce, sorry. He don't. He's dead. Killed by toxic slop from the same company store he sold his soul to. He worked a contaminated site when they knew full well the danger. They just did the math. Worth more to pay out the million(s) dollar settlement to my stepmother (whom I haven't seen since. Strange, eh?), than it was to clean up the mess. Oh, the sweet irony.
And that's why I hate these Occupiers. They remind me of me. And I hate me. And there's no me I hate more than the 20-year-old me. The fucking railing against the system and the man, the let's take to the streets, rah rah bullshit. Shut up, 20-year-old Joe.
All it meant was finding a way to circumvent the laws and rules that govern the rest of polite society. So I could get high. It's pointless. Like writing poetry.
Nothing's perfect. Never will be be. Life is unfair. Shut up and find a way to survive, take care your shit, and stop blaming others. No big mystery. I don't want to be reminded of my misguided notions. Even the ones I was right about. Especially the ones I was right about. I once believed this was my fight. It's not. I'm not sure it's anybody's. But it sure as fuck ain't mine anymore. And I don't want to go back there.
Because I am a fucking family man now, mutherfucker.
Maybe it's the old anarchist in me. Not "anarchist" as in "look at my cool punk rock T-shirt." I mean, the genuine article, the one that's part dreamer, and who still wants to believe in a better place, where you can work hard at something you love and have everything you dream of, instead of slaving away for the company store, at some piece-of-shit job you hate, with your balls in hock to the bank. I hold out hope. I still clench my fist, hold it up high... These days, I just do it privately, cautiously, from a safe distance, like DeNiro watching Freddy after he chastises him for coming up short when he had the chance to do something when it mattered.
Maybe it's not too late to make something good happen. For everyone's sake.
I ain't banking on it.
But I'm paying attention.
Labels: capitalism, Copland, economic inequality, Hall and Oates, Occupy Oakland, police brutality, wage system