Lost in America and half Naked Communists

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Maybe you’ve noticed our close to obsessive coverage of the Occupy Wall Street folk. It is on purpose.

I was sitting with a friend yesterday, who believes that we Americans have become increasingly distanced from the maze of institutions with which we are associated. We often do not understand how they work or how they can be influenced, and because of that we cannot effectively ask or demand that they stop doing the things that are harmful to us and to our neighbors.

Then this morning I was listening to a story on the radio about a family that got itself lost while apple picking in an orchard, and called 911. This follows a story a few weeks ago where a family got lost in a corn maze and also called 911.

What the heck is going on here?

One commentator says that such incidents are the result of an increasingly GPS-dependent society—we have allowed the bit of our brains that figures out how to get around to lie fallow for so long that it eventually atrophies from lack of use. So it may be with our capacity to discern what we want the mega-institutions of our lives to do in our name, with our support. We have disempowered ourselves, and there is no official 911 to call.

So some have simply decided that since there are no 911 respondents answering the phone when we call to say that we are lost in the dark forest of an unaccountable economic/political system, we have to get up a volunteer emergency crew to call for accountability. And so, OWS set up their tents to begin amplifying the call for “crony capitalism” to come to task.

But this is a scary new departure for many who find themselves comfortable with the motivations but suspicious of the form of protest. Who wants to side with a bunch of folk making such an “exhibition” of themselves—even if it is in one of America’s proudest traditions? And this cultural conundrum leads me to quote from a Nicholas D. Kristof New York Times column titled “Crony Capitalism Comes Home”.

Whenever I write about Occupy Wall Street, some readers ask me if the protesters really are half-naked Communists aiming to bring down the American economic system when they’re not doing drugs or having sex in public.

The answer is no. That alarmist view of the movement is a credit to the (prurient) imagination of its critics, and voyeurs of Occupy Wall Street will be disappointed. More important, while alarmists seem to think that the movement is a “mob” trying to overthrow capitalism, one can make a case that, on the contrary, it highlights the need to restore basic capitalist principles like accountability.”

The fact is that the tangled web of interconnections between lawmakers and moneymakers is almost impossible to negotiate at this point, and we have almost stopped trying to make sense of it. But that has allowed a lot of hardworking families in this country to find themselves slipping into a dark economic hole that only seems to be deepening by the month.

So as Kristof writes . . .

. . . Yes, we face a threat to our capitalist system. But it’s not coming from half-naked anarchists manning the barricades at Occupy Wall Street protests. Rather, it comes from pinstriped apologists for a financial system that glides along without enough of the discipline of failure and that produces soaring inequality, socialist bank bailouts and unaccountable executives.

Time to get out the old moral compass and help the country to redirect itself, in my opinion.  So lend a little support to your local occupiers and your own voice to the call for economic equity. Publish an op ed in your local paper. Make a noise so we all can locate one another.