Take a Wall Street Occupier to Lunch:
A Fable in Two Acts
"SAY, BOY, WHY DON'T YOU
PUT DOWN THAT PICKET SIGN
AND COME HAVE A BITE
OF LUNCH WITH ME?"
It's always helpful to see
The Enemy up real close
By GERALD NACHMAN
I was stunned while holding up a sign on Wall Street to protest moneyed special interests, the banking industry and the entire capitalist system, when a Morgan Stanley trader suddenly strolled over and asked me to lunch.
I told him to get lost, spat on him and said I wasnt buying his brand of slick, money-grubbing BS.
He looked crestfallen and pleaded with me to understand how terrible he personally felt about the collapsed economy, so I took pity on the guy and reluctantly joined him for lunch at the Yale Club. I figured it helps to know the enemy and stalk him in his lair. I was granted a one-day leave from the protest to help overthrow corporate greed.
P. Madison James IV (or Jimbo as he said to call him) offered to bail me out of my crippling credit crunch with a loan of $25,000 at 8% interest. When I said I couldnt be bought quite so cheaply, he offered me a job at his office as an apprentice day trader, with a $500,000 annual bonus if I showed up every day.
I told him I felt I could do more good out on the streets by calling attention to the inequality between the wealthy and the working class. He said he admired my principles but felt that a little money in the bank and a job might make me realize there is no future in protesting the free-market system, fragile though it is, which needed people like me.
I said that giving me a job to assuage his conscience wouldnt fix a broken economy or its built-in inequities. After a four-course lunch, we wandered into the library to continue our chat about the free-market system and Keynesian economics.
Over brandy and a cigar, I told Jimbo I would be willing to consider his offer and maybe try a week as a Wall Street trader just so I could see up close how corrupt capitalism really is. After discussing it with my wife, I felt I might be more effective working within the system than in the streets, especially with winter approaching and my parka wearing a bit thin. I tendered my resignation from Occupy Wall Street.
At the end of the week I left Morgan Stanley for a better opportunity over at Goldman Sachs, where I was given a corner window office and various perks, including a lovely secretary, Madeleine. I proved remarkably adept at the job, learning the ins and outs of day trading and two-hour lunching in only a few weeks. Outside my window, meanwhile, the Wall Street protesters were still chanting to bring down the banks, brokers and big business conglomerates.
I wandered outside in my three-piece pinstripe suit and struck up a conversation with a guy named Joe holding a bullhorn who screamed in my ear how people like me were wrecking the country. I listened politely and suggested we discuss it over lunch at the Four Seasons. Joe said he needed a break, so we headed uptown for a bite to eat.
©2011 by Gerald Nachman. The illustration is the work of John Darkow and is courtesy of The Columbia Daily Tribune. This column first posted Oct. 31, 2011.
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