The Culture of Meanness

The other day I went down town to give my support to the protests known as “Occupy LA”. The first thing that caught my eye from the distance was a huge banner with the words: “Emperor Has No Clothes”. When I approached the colorful, lively tents that had bravely sprung between the huge, ominous, grey and deadly serious banks surrounding them, there were other words that spoke to me, including a quote by Mussolini: “Fascism should more appropriately be called capitalism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

Finally, I said to myself. Finally people woke up and said: “Enough.” Finally the threshold has been reached.

It’s not only about corporate greed and stealing from the people. It’s not only about creating havoc throughout the whole world for “a fistful of (millions of) dollars”. It’s about creating the culture of meanness, the culture of total disregard for the weak and total awe for the strong (weren’t those fascist ideas?). This spirit of contempt for the weak, the poor and the unfortunate is permeating into all the aspects of society. Inequality is being celebrated on all fronts. Fairness is being regarded as an antiquated concept that has no place in today’s “brave new world” where the Darwinian principle of the survival of the fittest translates as the survival of the most unscrupulous, the greediest and the most selfish.

I am so relieved that there are other people who feel the sickness of today’s world and are ready to rebel against it. Living in America, it’s easy to be labeled as “negative”. Any criticism is interpreted as “negativity”. Personal integrity is interpreted as acrimony. Anger about injustice is viewed as envy. Realistic thinking about life is labeled as depression. The Buddhist idea of acceptance and gratitude is being sold to the unhappy masses in a simplified, kitschy version in order to create total compliance. We are constantly reminded that we should be eternally grateful for the little crumbs from the big table. We should keep our mouths shut, our eyes closed and our smiles on.

That’s why “Occupy LA” meant so much to me. I felt I was not alone and not completely crazy. That’s why I felt happy when I read one of my favorite author Barbara Ehrenreich’s exquisite book “Bright – Sided” with the dedication that reads: “To complainers everywhere: Turn up the volume!”. That’s why reading the books by the wonderful Barbara Kingsolver meant so much to me. In her new book “Lacuna” she says: “Since when is sadness considered un-American?”

It’s impossible to know whether this movement for justice and fairness will succeed or whether it will be crushed by the mighty and arrogant 1%. The thing that is certain is that the gate had been opened. And the people are coming in.