The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2012

All Issues
SEPT 2012 Issue


WTF, America.


The whole loan and interest game is rigged the world over, we discover. Then, the corporate media does its best to blackout the story, you know, the one about the biggest fraud case in history.

JPMorgan Chase. MF Global. Standard Chartered. HSBC. Goldman Sachs. Terrorist funding, drug cartel money laundering, investor-swindling banksters-gone-wild. Who’s in jail? Bradley Manning. Who’s on the run from authorities? Julian Assange.

Disneyland. Anaheim. Cops gunning down and unleashing dogs on unarmed citizens, then responding to protests with cops geared-up like soldiers in Iraq. WTF.

The biggest protests in history, all over the world, all summer long. Others, it seems like a new one every day, springing up like Whack-A-Moles, everywhere. Mexico. Spain. Canada. Italy. Syria. Greece. Russia. South Africa. Nepal. If you relied on the New York Times for your one-stop news, how would you know? WTF.

How about the Republican presidential ticket? Romney apparently is a serial tax evader, and accidentally remained C.E.O. of Bain Capital for years after he wasn’t C.E.O. anymore. Ryan is accused of using his office for insider trading during the crash. Those stories? Meh.

News Corp. executives on trial for bribing cops, for wiretaps—and no Department of Justice prosecution. Walmart, paying bribes in Mexico. The Facebook/Wall Street fiasco. Revelations of surveillance networks in Manhattan, the new Jim Crow laws, stop-and-frisk. Chalking artists, like heroic burning banks painter Alex Schaefer, tossed in the slammer. Same deal. WTF.

And on and on.

Who even wants to get into the complete irresponsibility of Congress? It’s a disgrace. The cruelty of politicians preaching proven-failed austerity while they protect corporate profits and 1% tax boondoggles is astonishing. To make matters worse, we have drought, the likes of which has not occurred since the Dust Bowl. The statistics on American “quality of life” standards, labor conditions, student prospects, medical care and such are depressing. The 2012 Summer Olympics, sponsored by McDonalds, B.P. and other destructive enterprises, barely put a dent in the malaise. WTF.

I was talking to my friend Don—a Vietnam combat veteran, a retired doorman, a grandfather, a widower—what he thinks about America, right now. His answer was surprisingly optimistic, if qualified. Don thoughtfully asserted that America is going to be alright. He went on to say that he didn’t think we need a president anymore. He voted for Obama, believed him to be a good man. Don had reached the conclusion, having studied the lives of many U.S. Presidents, that the job might be too big now for one guy, and anyway, that we as a people could get along without a president and vice president. He wasn’t impressed, to say the least, with Romney and Ryan. Congress? Forget about it.

Myself, I’m going to cast a ballot for Bernie Sanders and Alan Grayson.

Can art fix this ginormous mess? Oh, sure (ROTFL)—but that won’t stop us artists from suggesting helpful alternatives, right? The proverbial field, however, may not be receptive to seeding, especially given how Romney would love to put arts funding to the thresher. WTF.

So, on the home front, Occupy with Art is morphing into the Occupational Art School. We concluded the spring’s programs like “Wall Street to Main Street” and “Low Lives: Occupy!” and are moving on to “CO-OP/Occufest” and the Occupational Art School. For a variety of reasons, tactical and ideological, across the arts and protest topology, our efforts have been marginalized. With a few exceptions, the art world, as such, is busy folding Occupy Art into its 1%-oriented status quo. No surprise there.

OWS focused its waning organizational juice and its budget on May Day, 2012. The protest was a humdinger, and the posters were great, as was Guitarmy. Since that largely peaceful party, Tax Dodgers got into the Baseball Hall of Fame with their hilarious and poignant antics. Some terrific videos have emerged, and a healthy, robust theoretical discourse, which percolates into mainstream threads and vehicles periodically, especially in the Guardian. The Soul of Occupy has been examined and great thinkers, including Žižek, Hedges, Wolf, Graeber, and Chomsky, have proffered prognoses. I’ve thrown in my two cents.

People approach me to ask, “What’s going on with OWS?” It happens a lot. I’m supposed to have an inside story, and sometimes I do. What I tell them, though, is, “You are Occupy. This is not a spectator sport. Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Scanning galleries of photos and archives of videos from the occupation regularly, I come across reminders of the directness of the Occupy message, which was plentiful and dimensional. One of the grannies who protested in the park early on wore a sandwich-board sign with the “spectator sport” message. WTF, America, you still don’t get it.

Occupy wasn’t Jesus come to rescue you from the sins and sinners of Capitalism. It doesn’t work that way. OWS was never something you could get by following on Facebook. The occupation wasn’t and isn’t a struggle, mission, and task your fractional proxy could accomplish by volunteering in your stead. Most importantly, the problems OWS erupted to confront have not improved. They’ve gotten worse, and for almost anyone who might be reading this text, much worse.

WTF, America? What are you going to do? What are we going to do?

This is your historical moment. The problem is, it doesn’t look, taste, smell, or feel anything like what you might have expected. It never does. It doesn’t read like a book. It doesn’t look like a program on the History Channel. It’s not the ’60s, the Big War, or the Great Depression. It’s different.

The enemy is not going to appear in a uniform that says “ENEMY” on it. Your enemy is a successful C.E.O., a banker, and a wealthy industrialist or heir. The cops are not what hundreds and thousands of T.V. shows convinced you they are. You aren’t safer, now that your civil liberties have been dissolved with pen strokes and normalized lawlessness. The goals of the megalomaniacal enemy are, however, the same as they ever were. Evil psychopaths want to rule the world. They want you to acquiesce. They will insist you accept lives enslaved to their will, to their mad visions. They possess the means and desire to destroy your world, your society, your family, in order to create a new order that situates them at its pinnacle. In that new order the best you can be is a manager, a collaborator, a guard, a lackey, a technocrat, a shill, or an entertainer. In their universal scheme, they are the stars, and you are nothing more than dark matter, expendable, a human resource and human capital—an adjective-laden euphemistic human.

What options do we have “on the table?” The very public OWS “diversity of tactics” discussion in Occupy is a good start at rationally answering this unavoidable question. Eventually, the conclusion will have to evolve into the range of “by any means necessary.” From an arts perspective, the response conjecture would suggest consideration of the Dalai Lama’s definition of art as “skillful means.” This is because the enemy, who is dimensional in nature and practice, has settled on that course. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, World War III has begun. The enemy is now a global, syndicated plutocracy, which in one form and scale or another, has been a bane on humanity for thousands of years. Compared to these guys, the Taliban are the Three Stooges. Your enemies, dear 99%, have the long view. They are willing to do, say, pay for anything to attain, maintain, and sustain power, prestige, and a dominant position over you and your valuable lives. They don’t care about you, your dreams, art, truth, beauty, your soul, your kids, your water, your church, your love, your humanity. Their greatest achievement, creatively, is the modern multinational corporation, an artificial infinite personhood, focused solely on the bottom line, equipped with armies (literally, now), the best lawyers, accountants, politicians money can buy, and millions of indentured servants, even straight-up slaves! You don’t even want to know what they do for pleasure (or maybe you do).

The iteration of the corporation they fashioned is Caesar. Its name is on the Coliseum. Everything in Heaven and Earth has been monetized under its rule. Birth, death, food, weather, sex, youth, sickness, conflict, breath. It foments its own art and political movements. It educates the people. It secures them in their (ha!) property and possessions (ROTFL). It explains why, how, and who is necessary for good life, all life, to function effectively. What it doesn’t know, it will, eventually. It owns the demos, the democracy. It can read your thoughts, which it databases forever in secret archives. It has the power of life and death, of silence. It is bigger than Nature. Bigger than God. It has destroyed demons, created new ones to terrorize you, and supplanted those even with itself. It is its own cosmology. It will send itself into space. It will solve the mysteries of everything, and it will do so because it is the great owner of TIME.

And it is a LIE.

WTF, America. How long are you going to be willing to put up with this? You’ve been robbed blind, swindled, hoodwinked. The goon and grifter who took you didn’t look like a cinema wise guy. Who cares? Your kids are being wasted in the deserts, of the Mideast, of the Midwest, of their own addictions, in a land increasingly devoid of meaningful opportunity, in the corporatized prisons of America for profit. Your people, the real ones—their loss is the enemy’s gain!

What’s keeping you in your cave? Is it that there has been no resounding call to arms? Forget about those permissions and summonses. They are not coming. The enemy figured out you might be waiting for a calling and has made sure it won’t be happening. Are you waiting for your neighborhood to mobilize? Have you walked in your neighborhood recently? Are you expecting it to form teams and get on the job? I had that thought for a minute a few months ago, before I woke up.

Are you waiting to get ahead on your debts? Hah! Are you holding out for a good job, with benefits, a pension? Just look at Wisconsin, and think of the men, women, and children gunned down by cops with machine guns in South Africa. Remember that battle has been raging for 500 years (see Cerro Rico) in every “New World” that the extractors and exploiters discover and see an opportunity to “order.”

WTF. America, if you could beat the Nazis, the Imperial Japanese, and the Fascists of Italy in four years, all at once, don’t you think you can defeat these scumbags? Are you smart enough? Strong enough? Tough enough? Do you have the endurance? Do you have the will? Is God—whatever your conception of God is, because that’s America—on your side, or theirs? By the way, they don’t care about God. The enemy believes they are gods, more or less.

America, if you could turn the tide of Russian and Chinese Communism and/or Socialism, and set it upon itself, don’t you think you can do the same for the Pimps of Davos? Like Jesus cleaning the money-lenders out of the temple, right? As they say in Bushwick, (preceded by a fist-bump) “Boom goes the Dynamite!” Get the bums out of Washington! Don’t quit until the job is done! Rally under the flag of your fathers!

Or sit on your couch and get high. Go to your therapist. Buy a new CD. Rent a movie. Go to church on Sunday. Get in your 60 hours at the office to keep your job. Take the meds for your anxiety and heart condition. Stop at the bar, go on vacation, get some fishing in, head to the mall, take a drive. Jerk off to porn. Hook up with a co-worker. Play with the kids. Sue somebody. Whatever.

This is your moment in history. You idolize the Greatest Generation. Fair enough. You pine for the hippie free love of yore. Fine. You celebrate emancipations, one after another, in our country’s troubled but great history. Compared to the tremendous struggles we’ve faced in the past—I’m sorry to be the bearer of the news—ours today is of the gravest consequence. The fact is, though, I think that’s always the case.

The objective is to reclaim time. I know. That notion seems awfully abstract, even conceptual. It’s real.

Time, your time, has been stolen from you, or you’ve willingly surrendered it, with or without much of a fight, if any. Maybe you grumble about it. Until you and we realize how precious time is, what a gift it is, no one will have an idea of what we’re actually fighting for.

The Bomb in the ’50s was the most fearsome weapon on Earth. Today, it is and it isn’t. The greatest threat to civilization, to freedom, today is the derivatives market. If you’re not willing to figure out why that is, you won’t understand the 2007 – 08 Crash, LIBOR, the London Whale, or much of the international news that is, whether you accept it or not, gravely affecting your past, present and future.

The prime players in the world game called “You Bet Your Ass (or his, or theirs)” have faces, names, countries of origin, personal histories, and dramas. Some of these players you may be familiar with (like Bloomberg and Jamie Dimon) and others you may not. It’s more possible than ever to uncover the invisible hand of greed, which is lodged so far up your ass, it’s waving “Howdy” out your kisser. Occupy has and continues to do a lot of that discovery work for you, which is why the movement has incurred such persistent and brutal repression. If you needed verifications of N.Y.P.D.’s policy of tyranny against OWS, the report by the law clinics of N.Y.U., Fordham, Harvard, and Stanford catalogued them for you. Or you could just search YouTube for “OWS” and “Police Brutality.” WTF.

One thing I’ve learned over the past year of occupation is that Revolution isn’t what you expect. It doesn’t always evolve in directions you personally might advocate. Revolution may not ask or want your opinion. It may not respect your gifts, and you can’t own it. Sometimes, it will whip around and bite your ass. Ask the French. They had a lot of good ideas and intentions. They perfected execution by guillotine. Robespierre is a case study in revolutionary dynamics.

A lot of sane people are very cautious about pushing revolution for that very reason. Many more people will justify apathy or fearful self-removal from conflict for the very same reason. Hitler and Germany—and all their enablers—demonstrated forever why accepting the unacceptable is, finally, unacceptable. At some point down the line, people usually will have to explain what they were doing, while evil was growing and then consuming their society.

WTF, America—what have you been up to, while the treasure of your nation, both material and immaterial, was taken from you by wicked people through subterfuge or direct action? More to the point, what are you going to do about it, now that the cards are on the table, the jig is up, and you’ve been called?

We still have time to pull ourselves together and put down the Hun, but not much. Time will go on, regardless. The same cannot be said for American democracy. America will sustain, as a bottom-up proposition of freedom—not to be conflated with a free market, which has been shown unequivocally to be a lie—only if we individually and collectively commit to protect and preserve it. Obviously, there are millions, even billions of people around the world, who are ready, willing, and able to join us in that task, who want essentially the same for themselves. Democracy, like the granny said, is not a spectator sport. It has to be chosen. Many Americans have bled and died to defend this democracy—not for the Rockefellers, Gateses, Broads, and Fricks—but for themselves, their families, their buddies, their towns, their futures, their freedoms, which they believed democracy could best, if not perfectly, insure.

If we succeed, we’ll enter a new dimension. If we fail, the future appears apocalyptic, right? WTF, America. Do it: do it one more time. It won’t be easy, but you’re worth it. Don’t choose slavery.

After that, you can recede into the dusk of history happy, sleeping comfortably in your own bed, cancer-free. The 1% and their derivatives are a cancer. Cut them out, burn them, poison them, like modern medicine prescribes for most cancers. Then, if you survive, try the 99% new agers modus operandi, with their wellness and preventative measures, their homeopathics, whole natural foods, massages and meditation, and such. Choose to be indigenous, a native. Choose to be happy, joyous, and 100 percent free. Sure, that sounds fantastical. But if you finally manage to remove the vampire squid from your face, you might just look upon the world with new eyes, and realize all along you were living on a spaceship called Paradise, and each one of us is a captain, or whatever we want to play today.

WTF, America. Think Rip Van Winkle and wake up, now. For all we know, correcting the 1% problem may take a thousand years, but people will come around. We at least have to try. Perhaps the first step would be stop idolizing 1 percent robber barons. They are, as a class, as a syndicate, as a substantially criminal enterprise, inflicting terrible harm on everything and everyone they touch, like Midas in reverse.

If we win World War III—the one against the global 1%, the one they started and have waged for as long as people can recall—like we did the first two Big Ones, we can take more road trips, eat more terrific meals (that don’t contain GMOs), make more great art, and more babies, in peace.


  1. *Disclaimer No. 1: This literary usage of colloquial exclamation is in no way intended as an incitement of you, dear reader, by the author or any agent of the Brooklyn Rail, to apply explosive devices to the current upheaval, as a civic solution. For the author’s actual desired exclamatory effect, in a pop art referent, think Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings, like “POW! Sweet Dreams Baby!
  2. **Disclaimer No. 2: Again, please dear reader, do not infer from the metaphor, linking the 1% and their derivatives to cancerous disease and its general treatment, as advocacy by the author or any agent of the Brooklyn Rail, for you to commence a literal program of cutting out, burning or poisoning any actual persons, personhoods, artificial or real, or their derivatives (markets).

The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2012

All Issues