10/19/2011 02:54 EDT | Updated 12/19/2011 05:12 EST

Not Just Hippies Occupying Wall Street


At least two more things need to be said about the mainly peaceful global Occupy Wall Street citizens uprising that broke out in the Twitterverse and the Huffington Post long before the mainstream media woke up to an important new political reality. Firstly, it is supported by titans of commerce and industry, not just a bunch of latter-day hippies, street people and other idealistic, but woefully misguided, young people. Secondly, those pundits, prognosticators and politicians, including all the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, who whine it has no clear goal, are themselves hypocrites because their "solutions" are, at the very best, pipe dreams, or paper tigers.

In listing those who endorse the OWS, it may be appropriate to begin with quite the most surprising: The erudite Conrad Black, who still professes to be totally innocent of being a white collar criminal. In his widely-read National Post column, Lord Black of Crossharbour proclaims that the "anger and frustration" of the OWS crowd is nothing less than justified From a nascent entrepreneur who, while at college, damned me for my sympathetic coverage of the '60s anti-war protests from the White House, this is high praise indeed. The good Lord has indeed been able to adjust, albeit somewhat belatedly, to changing times

Mark Carney, the cerebral but street-smart head of the Bank of Canada, who is the top candidate to run the international Financial Stability Board (which just may rescue the global economy on his watch), fully endorses the "constructive" protests against corporate greed and corruption. His counterpart at the central bank of he United States, the Republican appointed Ben Bernake, shares this very charitable (for a banker, that is!) view.

The chief executive officer of the Bank of Montreal, Bill Downe, is broadly onside. So, more importantly, perhaps, is the CEO of gargantuan Citigroup, Vikram Pandit. Mr.Pandit, who offered to meet with demonstrators, said their concerns were "completely understandable." Indeed, trust has been broken by Wall Street with Main Street, and it is now nothing less than the solemn duty of Wall Street to reach out to Main Street to rebuild that trust. In what can be seen as a Monty Python-esque twist, Mr. Pandit was rewarded for his candour by hackers who broke into his personal data and shared it it cyberspace.

Then, too, the government of the People's Republic of China, which, despite its sterling Communist antecedents, is perhaps the most successful exponent of 21st century free-market capitalism, has also endorsed the ideas, if not the methods, of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Given that China holds America's almost incalculable debt in its (relatively) strong grasp, there is perhaps no better judge of Wall Street avarice and corruption than the nameless bureaucrats in Beijing.

In a long, fact and figure-laced editorial on Oct. 8, the august New York Times, answered the chattering classes who keep complaining -- whining is a better word in my lexicon -- that the marchers lack a clear message and specific public policy solutions.

"The message -- and the solutions -- should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention since the economy went into a recession that continues to sock the middle class while the rich have recovered and prospered. The problem is that no one in Washington has been listening," the Times opined.

After explaining why Americans have lost their belief in redress and recovery, the Times listed some policy goals available to politicians and bankers to address the legitimate gripes of the protesters. They include lasting foreclosure relief, a financial transactions tax, greater legal protection for workers' rights, and more progressive taxation.

Anyway, the editorial concluded, it was not the job of protesters to draft legislation. That was the job of America's leaders and they have neglected at America's peril.

The Financial Times of London, whose apposite slogan is "These are Financial Times," deserves the last word. Its Oct. 18 editorial has a tabloid-like title America wakes to the din of inequity.

The editorial warns that "only the foolhardy will dismiss a movement," supported in a poll by 54 per cent of the American people that "reflects the anger and frustration of ordinary citizens from all walks of life across the world." What is now at stake is nothing less than the future of the American dream -- that all those who work hard should have the opportunity for prosperity -- because of a crisis caused by financial excess and political cynicism. After all, the Republicans had callously obstructed Democratic initiatives to cure the rot, while President Obama -- perhaps unlike FDR, I would add -- had exhibited "naïve neglect of the need for muscular leadership."

Stay tuned. This cry for change has legs, though its destination remains obscure, reminding me on these (paraphrased) lines from Jack Kerouac's On the Road:

Where we goin ,man?

Dunno, but we gotta go!

Raymond Heard was Managing Editor of the Montreal Star and Head of Global News