The Voices of Discontent

“There’s something happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

Bob Dylan, one of my favorite poets, sang those words in his 1965 album, “Highway 61 Revisited.” Dylan’s Mr. Jones is too big for his own boots. This song has always captured my more imaginative side, particularly the references to Fitzgerald and the circus-like imagery. What if Mr. Jones and the Dow Jones were friends? What if I told you this thing that is happening is the new protest of brewed anger against Wall Street? Something is happening, but do we know what it is, and for that matter, does Mr. Jones?

All revolutions begin by raising consciousness. Think Emmett Till, 1955. He was an African-American child who was murdered in the South after reportedly flirting with a white woman. A small and tragic event like this motivated a movement. Pictures of his young and mutilated body in the press kindled huge amounts of rage that led to the awareness that there was something happening, and that it was wrong.

The “Occupy Wall Street” protest that began September 17 has little in common with Emmett Till’s tragic death save one critical aspect: it could be the seed of something greater, much greater. It already is, according to “How Occupy Wall Street has Evolved,” by Julianne Pepitone in CNN. “Now, almost three weeks later, the once-haphazard movement is growing larger and more coordinated. Hundreds of people have been arrested,” Pepitone reports.

A revolution’s first success is like a blind fall: the first ones to take to the streets are the first to drop if nothing catches. This is the great chance taken when any movement or revolution is attempted. The first ones to take to the streets are those who are willing to take the risks. It’s unfair to criticize a young movement.

So there is something happening, but I feel as though you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones? Protesters are on your lawn because of your own impulsive doings, for if they had jobs, they would have had somewhere to be. But maybe we should be sympathetic. After all, it must be difficult having to squeeze through more and more homeless people on your way to work each day.

Are “too big to fail” banks too big to consider public interest? In recent years, the banking industry has looked liked the spoiled child of America, bailed out big time by mommy and daddy government.

Ours is a time of severe unfairness and socioeconomic stratification. Why is it that the wealthiest one percent of Americans possesses a net worth that is greater than the bottom 90 percent? This statistic can be found across the net, but G. William Domhoff, Sociology Department, University of California Santa Cruz offers particularly clear graphs detailing financial inequality.

The protests from the past weeks tapped into a murky composite of brewing anger over the nation’s economic status. The discontent rose from a collective repulsion toward corporate greed, the role of the big banks in the economic crisis and unemployment. Our economy is so unhealthy that its effects become more personal.

The recent protests on Wall Street have potential to do a lot of good, similar in a way to those that took place only months ago in Tahrir Square. Granted there were no gunshots fired in New York’s financial district nor was there a Mubarak-like regime being booted out over on Broadway. The similarities between the two demonstrations lie in their savvy use of social networking and their similar youthful current.

Dismissing the protests on Wall Street is a way for the elite and right-wing media to defend their political ideology and personal interests. Overlooking the new movement because its early lack of organization is like writing off a newly born baby because he can’t walk. Almost no revolutions begin with a detailed blueprint. Revolutions are often spontaneous and improvised in the early stages. They aren’t rehearsed but gain strength over time.

As the protest mounts in fervor, a higher level of organization is precisely what it needs. The movement must focus a common anger to articulate and outline a list of demands. Included in demands should be the liberation of the United States from Wall Street rule. The huge divide between Wall Street and Main Street is the result of our financial system. People shouldn’t be secondary to profits; profits should be secondary to people.

When the wealthiest one percent of Americans possesses a combined net worth that is greater than the bottom 90 percent, something has gone deeply wrong. The concerns of the protesters on Wall Street are legitimate and do not deserve to be written off because of their haphazardness. There is no blueprint for a movement, only the voices of discontent.

Michael Levy is a three-year Upper from Warwick, RI.