The issues of home foreclosures and homes in jeopardy as well as the co-location of charter schools into “underused” public school buildings, are both rooted in the business models of hedge funds earning hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars a year. The bundling, leveraging and profit-taking from a base of home mortgages, has sucked the wealth out of the community.
Then we see them again in our community, lobbying for charter schools. Journalist Juan Gonzalez explained why in 2010 on Democracy Now! (See page 3). As it turns out, the interest in hedge funds in local political races isn’t because they want to develop African-American children with a Pan-African understanding of the world and their place in it. No. Their robust campaign contributions and enthusiastic lobbying efforts, corporate-speak for bribes and coercion, have only one goal, financial reward. Using the tax code with the familiarity of a carpenter using a hammer, financiers get to double their money in seven years by investing in charter schools. This doubling of money is ultimately from our pockets, and could have been better spent on approaching so-called underused school space with the vision and intent to enhance the student experience of all of those who are already there.
Instead, funds are invisibly diverted to hedge funds in the form of tax benefits which they can enjoy on their yachts and private jets between their gated communities. When President Obama spoke at the dedication of the memorial to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, he said: “Dr. King would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing those who work there,” but if Jesus could throw the money lenders out of the temple, then we must have a license to at least call them names.
It is true that the charter schools themselves have dedicated and passionate people working directly with the students, and committed parents, wanting to improve their child’s life. But the majority of city’s students who are not a part of the money-making machine, are pushed aside and onto the street and they find they are not alone out there. Because it is the “Street” that is making itself heard in mass demonstrations in 150 cities across the country and around the world.
The internet has connected people as never before, and the current automatic language translation technology is Star Trek’s “Universal Translator” in its infancy, breaking down language barriers, not to build a Tower of Babel, but to arm themselves with each other. In that world the meek, acting together, can inherit the earth.
“You know something is happening but you don’t know what it is do you, Mr. Jones?” is the question Bob Dylan asks in Ballad of a Thin Man. The something that was happening that Mr. Jones did not know but could feel, was the sinister hand of greed that was shaping his destiny and is what the Occupy Wall Street protests are all about.
The financial industry keeps taking with no regard to human consequences and it is those consequences we see at Occupy Wall Street in comments such as these: “I’m here because I lost everything in my life. I’m here for everybody else. I lost my job and my apartment and three days after that I found out about this place and I’ve been here ever since.” And another. “I’m a registered nurse in New York and I joined the movement to stand up with the people here who are standing against bailing out Wall Street and bailing out banks instead of bailing out teachers and hospitals and schools and working class Americans who are suffering economically.”
Once again President Barack Obama has spoken plainly about what is needed to effect change. At the dedication of the King monument he again he reminded those who wanted change to take the action needed to make it happen and that is where the chants of “We are the 99%” are coming from. And it must be impossible to stand at a monument to Martin Luther King, Jr. and not know he would be standing with the 99%.
With winter coming, the 99% may find it difficult to maintain a physical presence outdoors, but those who are new to the struggle will find they still need that freedom fix when the cold wind blows and they’re stuck in doors. The adrenaline rush of engagement against the financial/political complex will still have to be satisfied and that will come from organizing and meeting up on the Web and maybe a once-a-week get-together in Times Square. Come spring, however, you ain’t seen nothing yet.