It was a beautiful day in Kansas City, an October day when the temperature reached the eighties. Under the cloudless, blue sky I concluded that October is Kansas City’s finest month. I work from my home now; thus I was free to watch Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC at noon. She was interviewing campers at Occupy Wall Street. I heard about Occupy Wall Street in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere. I wondered when it might happen in Kansas City. Indeed, it has already started, I picked up from the Internet. Twenty-four people have been showing up near Liberty Memorial and its neighbor, the Federal Reserve Bank.
This is the way it starts then. Next I went to Facebook, just to see what I might discover in the nature of an “Arab spring,” so to speak. Sure enough, a leaderless throng develops right here in Kansas City. Of course and how appropriate — Liberty Memorial next to the Fed! The throng grows.
I was in the Navy when the Free Speech Movement started in Berkeley. In May of 1968 when French students rioted, I had just left the Navy, my heart and mind full of feelings and doubts about the war I had just participated in. The student rebellion in France almost brought down the Fifth Republic and President DeGaulle with it. The times, the conditions, the rhetoric of now and then are eerily similar and full of admonition. The major difference I see is the makeup of the throng. Now the assembly redressing its grievances is young, old and middle-aged, full of students, surely, but a genuine cross section of the American middle class. Nothing, when it finally takes hold, can be more powerful than angry, unemployed people from across the socio-economic spectrum. And they have nothing but time on their hands. This time they are “leaderless” — at least for the moment. The resemblance to Lybia cannot be missed.
The epithets are there: fascist-Leninist, anarchists, spoiled kids, Commies, radicals, et cetera. More likely they lean toward being anxious human beings. For sure they have witnessed job loss in their fifties and no jobs in their twenties. Many have been foreclosed. Others have health costs out the ying yang. They probably have friends, brothers and sisters who have already headed West to Asia where, at least for awhile, there was a boom. There’s not enough boom in North Dakota natural gas to give everyone a job. Some have a kid in the service who won’t find a job after doing his/her duty. The great promise of the service industry that was going to replace manufacturing has died. This is the way it starts then. As the poet Yeats said, “the center cannot hold” and the “falcon cannot hear the falconer.” Will “mere anarchy be losed upon the world?” The global dimension is there — what with Europe slumping.
And it will not matter whether or not we speed up deregulation in order to free entrepreneurship — besides the normal capitalistic process pours out like molasses in a Kansas winter. We have fiddled too long. If Congress doesn’t act now, and it may be too late already, somebody is going to act. Something will happen, because it must happen. This is the way it starts.