IT’S JUST A FACT: Last year, only five out of every hundred trades made on the New York Stock Exchange actually happened in downtown New York City, on the floor of the NYSE, right on the corner of Wall Street near State. Gone are the days when the NYSE necessitated brokerages “clustered around” Wall Street in order to hand-deliver paper copies of stocks every week. Most of the action now takes place not just outside of the exchange but often nowhere near the Financial District. Could be in Midtown Manhattan, or Midtown Dhaka, but location really isn’t the factor it used to be in making money move.
Yet, with its cobbled, narrow streets, suited workers bustling around and Gilded Age architecture, Wall Street looks like more of an old studio backlot take on New York City than what the city actually looks like these days. In other words, Wall Street is a perfect set, for anyone looking to make a scene. Which might have something to do with why the recent protesters chose it.
Occupy Wall Street has—against many odds—gained quite a bit of momentum over the last three weeks, even if the “they” who organized it are still as loosely defined as the “demands” they have. We know that they’re indignantly pissed off at a financial system that failed to hold anybody in a position of power accountable for some of the current economic problems its titans helped to create, and then, profit from. And we know that “Wall Street” is, yes, a location, but moreover, meant to symbolize the entire financial system…even if its most reviled villains are, say, closer to the Staten Island Ferry or up on Park Avenue near 47th (“OCCUPY TWO BLOCKS FROM THE WALDORF” just doesn’t have the same ring to it).
What we don’t know is what they plan on doing to further their cause, beyond raising awareness and ire for an issue most of the world is already well-aware of and irate about. Or how long they’ll last. Or what the long-term effects of any of this might actually be. The protests’ effectiveness as anything other than a Liberal Arts-educated encampment that’s provided NYPD with overtime hours and many lower-to-mid-level workers serious transit consternation is, well, debatable.
We do know, though, that there are ways of making a difference in the day-in/day-out of that nebulous entity known as Wall Street that take a little more chutzpah than sitting around a drum circle and earning your cuff marks to share on Twitter. If Occupy Wall Street really has ambitions of changing the way our world deals with commerce, trade and free markets, well, we have a few propositions for them, to see if they’ll leave their urban encampment-cum-Shakedown Street, get off of their Carhart-covered asses, and show the world what a real disruptor is. And they don’t even involve violence!
That said, we obviously don’t endorse doing any of these ourselves. They are, after all, just ideas, but ones worth considering. After all, change requires more than a few days in the park, no?