What Do the Occupiers Want? An Op-Ed Column by Christopher Bernard

[Article by Christopher Bernard]

What Do the Occupiers Want?

The news media seem confused about what the Occupiers of Wall Street, San Francisco and other cities around America, and now the world, have been demanding. The Occupiers are mad – they’re mad at Wall Street, and mad at the rich, and mad at Republicans and Democrats who have coddled the rich for decades. The pundits and reporters say the protests are all wonderful and signs of a vital and energized democracy – but what in the heck do these people really want?

Jeffery Sachs recently published a new book called “The Price of Civilization.”

Well, the answer is simple: They want the top 1% to pay their fair share of the price of civilization.

For the last thirty years the richest Americans, whether individuals or corporations, have taken for themselves everything they can get their hands on. They have not shared the spectacular gains our economy has made either with the people who work for them, or to pay for the collective actions that make up government, the services we all use, including police protection, transportation systems and the military.

This has resulted from the hyper-individualistic Reaganism that has dominated our national life since the 1980s. But Americans are not merely a collection of individuals seeking to maximize their returns. America is a society, not just an economy, and a society functions well only when everyone pitches in to make it work. The middle class has been doing its part from the very beginning, and over the last few decades has borne the brunt of the costs of our deepening economic and political dysfunctions.

Christopher Bernard is a novelist, poet, and co-founder Caveat Lector magazine. He is an active supporter of Occupy San Francisco.

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Poetry by Christopher Bernard

Bike Angel

I fly down the hill on my black bike.
I know what I love, I know what I like.
I conquer the slopes on my bike’s back
like a wild black angel, the way I like.

She’s a Raleigh ten-speed, phat and sleek,
titanium light and chrome with slick,
quick to the touch and smooth on the road,
hot and fast and rad and black.

We cut close capers, free and all,
skid on concrete and never fall,
we weave a spell as I ride tall.
The girls smile deeply, all the girls, all.

With her, I’m my own man, we weave and spin
between the traffic, and always win.
Trucks and us, we’re real close kin:
they win with big, we win with spin.

I know all the looks, I know all the moves
as I race my own shadow, the way it grooves
just ahead like a ghost, the way it proves
it’s always beyond me, like storming horse hooves.

I dream as I ride of Larissa and me,
She rode me and rode me like a demon of love.
Then one day . . . the silence went dead like the wind.
Bike and me are now steel heart in a chrome glove.

I learned how to fly the other night.
I put on my shades against the light,
and rode my angel so out of sight
I didn’t need love, I didn’t need light.

I’ve been riding for days now, for months, for years
it feels like; nobody sees me, the tears
in my eyes are like spirits, I remember the day
I left for a long ride – to forget, let’s say.

The sun in my eyes, the wind in my face,
the shadows beside me kept pace, kept pace,
till the turn at hill’s bottom and I came face to face
with a dark car. That was the end of my race.

I conquer the hill on my bike’s back
like a wild black angel, the way I like.
I know what I lost, I know what I like.
I fly down the hill on my black bike.

Christopher Bernard is a widely published writer, critic, playwright and poet, co-founder of the literary and arts magazine, Caveat Lector (www.caveat-lector.org), and author of the novel, A Spy in the Ruins. Contact Bernard at christopherwb@msn.com.

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Poetry by Christopher Bernard

Rag Elite

Ah, it’s hard to be an elitist,
and not be a defeatist,
in this populist purgato-ry.

You’ve got to feel swell
even as you go to hell,
and remember most of literary
his-to-ry:

there was Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky,
Flaubert, Balzac, Chernychevsky,
Baudelaire and Mallarmé,
frenzied, tragic, or blasé;

there was Thackeray, there was Dickens,
Eliot, George, and no slim pickin’s,
all those Brontes and Jane Austen,
witty, goth, and little costin’,

Lord Tennyson paired with Browning,
Lord Byron and Grace Abounding,
and, not taking up the rear,
the one and only Will Shakespeare,

raving Homer about that roamer
and the burning of Ilium,
Virgil, Dante, Poe, Cervantes,
Aeschylus and Sophocles,
and that ancient Grecian tease
we all know as Euripides,

there was Faulkner, there was Joyce,
there was Hemingway and Stein,
and no writer worth his voice
could refuse the heady wine

of Spencer, Milton, Shelley, Keats,
young Rimbaud and old man Yeats,
and even though the fates
were or-ne-ry,

they’re now Famous and Admired
by librarians and graduate students and professors and junior high school English
teachers and the lame and the retired,
and will be for Eter-ni-ty.

Christopher Bernard is a widely published writer, critic, playwright and poet, co-founder of the literary and arts magazine, Caveat Lector (www.caveat-lector.org), and author of the novel, A Spy in the Ruins. Contact Bernard at christopherwb@msn.com.