Many empires have fallen over the centuries. One of the greatest ever, of course, was the Roman empire, where – in the dying days of the Julio-Claudian dynasty – Nero was believed to have been responsible for the Great Fire of Rome so that land could be cleared for his planned Domus Aurea villas.
While it’s considered a myth that Nero played the fiddle as Rome burned to the ground, the accusations against him that compelled him to commit suicide before trial were based on his motivation for expanding his extravagant ways even if it meant destroying his own communities. That was the beginning of the end of a Roman collapse. Now comes the American fall.
The comparison of George W. Bush Jr to Nero, in Paula Cole’s protest song, “My Hero, Mr President,” may seem at first like another melodramatic slant as embellished as the fiddling story itself, but there are certainly parallels.
George W. Bush Jr, who came to power in extremely dubious circumstances, was the first president in recent history of the United States to break from the tradition of walking the last block to the White House after being sworn in, faced with protesters on the verge of rioting, raging against his party’s theft of their democracy. Son of George H.W. Bush Sr, he was often referred to as “King George the Second” due to the undemocratic manner in which he seized power.
Like his father – in conflict with their “small state” Reaganomics rhetoric – Bush Jr cut taxes for the elite while at the same time spending massively, in his case to fund aggressive and legally suspect military campaigns in the resource-rich Middle East, gifting obscene uncontested contracts to cabinet darlings like Halliburton to “rebuild” Iraq with taxpayers’ dollars.
As if this wasn’t dangerous enough for the American economy, then came the 2008 financial crisis where Bush’s other friends, Goldman Sachs, essentially held the nation to ransom as economist Max Keiser succinctly puts it, and were gifted $700 billion without the consent of American taxpayers (who were dead against it).
The damage this has done to the United States is incredible, and yet the corporate right-wing mainstream media never held many people to account, and instead denounced Barack Obama and his healthcare plans for the poor as “socialism.” The elite interests were hoping the distraction was enough for them to slip away with the loot.
The anger of the American people has been growing since they were first ignored, and so was a movement. Now, Wall Street itself is being occupied by thousands who have simply had enough. So called because of the seventeenth century wall built to keep out the poorer Native Americans who also saw many of their resources stolen, Wall Street today represents the greed Gordon Gecko declared “good” in Reagan and Thatcher years of mass financial deregulation so the bankers could run amok and Social Darwinism could take effect.
Students, shopkeepers, even pilots have all been marching onto Wall Street to demonstrate their intolerance of this reverse-socialist transfer of wealth from the many into the deep pockets of the few. After the Arab Spring and the union actions in Wisconsin, many wondered when, or if, the U.S. would have it in it to show some people power there too. It took its time – it wasn’t in the spring, or even the summer – but now we are witnessing not an autumn, because they don’t call it that, but an American Fall.
However, something strange has been happening. Unless you’re there, you’re unlikely to be aware of it. The media have only given the attention the Wall Street protests warranted when there were arrests by police – a tried and tested media method of movement marginalisation, by discrediting; by disconnecting apathy from the consumer at home and the citizen on the street.
Fortunately, social media is increasing and despite reports of Facebook removing imagery of the Wall Street demonstrations, word is spreading. It is up to each and every one of the aware to awaken others, too.