It started this morning with the subhead– left-hand column, above the fold– in the WSJ: World-Wide Distress Rises as Investors See Futility of Governments, Central Banks. Which was just very hard to read as anything other than “Major organ of global capitalism notes its failure.” The internal pull-quote, from investor Bob Worthington, was “The Fed is out of bullets.”
So that was interesting. But it was after work, when we were all squeezing through the narrow walkway the cops have left along the uptown side of Wall Street, that I started feeling really apocalyptic. It was darker than it should’ve been at 6:05, because of the drizzle. I was right in front of where the checkpoint is that’s been set up in front of the Stock Exchange, and a fleshy, grey-blond guy in his early forties was walking east towards the river, talking with a woman, as I was heading west towards Liberty Plaza and, eventually, the E train.
He looked like the absolute stereotype of an investor. Maybe he was. Maybe, though, he was one of the analysts who, three years ago, had a permanent job somewhere– with benefits– but who since 2008 has been working a series of temp jobs (they’re called contract, which sounds nicer) at a high hourly rate but with a murky future and no 401K. But I feel like analysts wear gray ties, while traders and investors wear red ties, and I think he was a red-tie guy. Which may mean that he’s rich, or that he’s bankrupt, but probably means he doesn’t work for an hourly wage.
Anyway, what he said to his thirty-something pencil-skirted interlocutor was this: “These kids– they’re saying ‘End capitalism.’ They don’t know it’s over.”
We were all so crowded together, and damp, and (it is my assumption that) 90% of the people on the sidewalk were severely disoriented from watching the price of gold and silver tank over the course of the day, and listening to the protesters’ chanting and yelling from the street outside, while making themselves many cups of single-serving coffee and pretending not to notice. It all felt very punchy-noir. Which is why I think I felt like it was socially acceptable to turn around and ask him, as we walked away from each other, “They don’t realize it’s over?”
Primarily I wanted to make sure I’d heard him right. It was such an astonishing thing to hear, from a red-tie. So my question was actually, “Did you say, they don’t realize it’s over?” But he answered as though I was asking a question actually about the protesters themselves. He said, back over his shoulder, “No! They don’t!” with a tone of voice that said, “Can you believe it? They don’t realize!”
So I’m gonna hit publish and then tweet this to all those damp people in Liberty Plaza. So that they’ll know what at least one red-tie can’t believe they don’t realize.
NB the gorgeous photo is not mine, or from today. It’s from Flickr, by someone called Delaney Turner.