From Tahrir Square to Wall Street

Tahrir Square was a leaderless revolution fuelled by angry young Arabs. Songs of liberty were loud enough to reach another audience thousands of miles away, in New York. Wall Street protestors are sending shock waves around the world plunging the indexes of “greed” into a frenzied panic of downward spiral. Young protestors claim similarities between Tahrir Square and Wall Street. Why? Who is the Mubarak here and what injustices has he caused?

Of all the sacred monuments on Wall Street most important is the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). In March, 1792, twenty-four of New York City’s leading merchants met secretly at Corre’s Hotel to discuss ways to bring order to the securities business and to wrest it from their competitors, the auctioneers. Two months later, on May 17, 1792, these merchants signed a document named the Buttonwood Agreement, named after their traditional meeting place, a buttonwood tree. The agreement called for the signers to trade securities only among themselves, to set trading fees, and not to participate in other auctions of securities. These twenty-four men had founded what was to become the New York Stock Exchange. The Exchange would later be located at 11 Wall Street.

A century before, Dutch settlers had built a wall to protect themselves from Indians, pirates, and other dangers. The path had become a bustling commercial thoroughfare because it joined the banks of the East River with those of the Hudson River on the west. The path was named Wall Street. Early merchants built their warehouses and shops on this path, along with a city hall and a church. New York was the U.S. national capitol from 1785 until 1790 and Federal Hall was built on Wall Street. The first stock exchange in America was actually founded in Philadelphia in 1790. The New York merchant group, realizing that their stock exchange was now in decline after the early tumult of revolutionary war bonds and stock in the Bank of the United States, sent an observer to Philadelphia in early 1817. Upon his return, bearing news of the thriving Philadelphia exchange, the New York Stock and Exchange Board was formally organized on March 8, 1817. The early 1900s saw the rise of huge fortunes made on Wall Street. In 1901 J.P. Morgan astounded Wall Street by creating a billion dollar merger resulting in the U.S. Steel Corporation.

In 1907 a wave of panic hit Wall Street. Eight hundred million dollars in securities were unloaded within a few months. Stock prices plummeted and runs on banks became a daily occurrence. When the Knickerbocker Trust Company was forced to close its doors a panic swept banks throughout the country. Morgan pressured the leading New York bankers to forestall a total financial collapse of the country. They set up a single banking trust, with most large banks across the U.S. contributing to its financing. Morgan’s own group had controlling interest. The first of the two largest Wall Street panics occurred in 1929. The Wall Street game, had convinced millions that the country was riding on an upward spiraling wave of financial glory. Both rich and poor put their money into stocks and bonds. The Wall Street myth, broadcast by the Insiders’ newspapers and magazines, spotlighted stories of shopkeepers and workers making fortunes in the stock market overnight. Stock prices were pushed up beyond any relationship with the actual worth of the companies. In 1929 stock prices were 400% higher than they had been in 1924. The Insiders had made their fortunes and could no longer sustain the con, so on October 23, 1929, the market fell 31 points. Stock prices fell an additional 49 points on October 28 and on the 29th the entire market fell apart. Some brokers and investors jumped out of their office windows.

The 1929 crash hit the U.S. even harder than the one that was to come in 1987. The fallout from the ’29 crash devastated the US, leading to a long-time economic collapse and depression that was to continue until the start of the Second World War in 1941. The Wall Street crash of 1987 – “Black Monday” – occurred on October 19th. The Dow Jones fell an astounding 508 points, largest one-day loss in the stock market’s history. The Insiders running the con game landed on their feet and quickly misdirected the public’s attention, laying the blame on computerized (program) trading. Though the cascade of sell orders from large institutions had clogged the system, leaving many individual investors stranded while prices fell.

In 2008, investment bankers brought down the global economy. In search of new investments to spur growth, bankers offered home loans to less eligible borrowers who carried high default risks. As insurance, risks were hedged through credit swaps in the largely unregulated credit derivatives markets. Soon enough our House of Cards collapsed. But investment bankers and fund managers came up with another toxic theory which went against the creed of open market capitalist system. They forced a bail out by citizens’ (tax payers’) money, because “they were too big to fail”. “Tax payers” refers to those hard working people running the real economy and who had nothing to do with the speculative toxic investments. A penalty had been imposed upon the innocent by the guilty!

He was a dictator, an unjust ruler, financially corrupt, morally bankrupt and not qualified to head a mighty nation, considered to be the cradle of world civilization, proud of its past and its brilliant contributions to humanity. So he had to go. Angry Arabs revolted against the tyrant Mubarak and energized a domino effect known as the Arab Spring. Gaddafi fled from his home in a dictators’ characteristic cowardness. Syrians have shown their love for martyrs’ blood. Yemen got rid of its garbage at least for a while.

The tyrant of New York is more than the combined evils of Mubarak, Assad, Ben Ali, Ghaddafi, and other petty rulers. This tyrant is an invisible thing. It will not be possible to physically chase it out of an upper-east-side flat. It does not sleep in tents or in presidential palaces. But it will have its dominance in them all. There is no Republican Army defending it, neither does it boast of WMDs. But it is more powerful than all of these and has the capability to summon any amount of weaponry at its call. This monster is Greed. New York’s angry protestors have identified this evil as the root cause of their financial, political and social problems. Following is an excerpt from the website of “Occupy Wall Street”:

Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants. We the 99% will not be silent and we will not be intimidated. This Saturday thousands more of us will march together as one to show that it is time that the 99% are heard. Join us on the 2nd week anniversary of your new movement. This is a call for individuals, families and community and advocacy groups to march in solidarity with the #occupywallstreet movement on Saturday, October 1st at 3 p.m. We are unions, students, teachers, veterans, first responders, families, the unemployed and underemployed. We are all races, sexes and creeds. We are the majority. We are the 99 percent. And we will no longer be silent. As members of the 99 percent, we occupy Wall Street as a symbolic gesture of our discontent with the current economic and political climate and as an example of a better world to come.

Therefore we invite the public, our fellow 99 percent, to join us in a march on SATURDAY AT THREE, starting from LIBERTY PLAZA (ZUCCOTTI PARK) at LIBERTY & BROADWAY.

As with Tahrir Square, people from around the world are showing support for such bravery. Arabs who love freedom, and Americans who love to live in a better world, today stand united – rising above what separates them, and joining hands on values that honor them. This spring has many surprises. We can wait a little longer for the winter chills.

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