W.B. Diary: A Moment in the New Williamsburg

2013 October 5
by Ando Arike

So I was sitting in a local neighborhood cafe/bar during Friday happy hour, the South 4th Street Bar and Cafe, to be exact, enjoying a glass of wine and the ambiance of these last days of the warm season in Brooklyn. It’s a fine place to have an afternoon drink — a clientele with very few pretenses, no annoying hipsters, just local working people wanting to unwind from their jobs. And, let me add,  good music — the bartenders are renown for their sophisticated taste. Plus there’s the free Wi-Fi that brings in the many freelancers in the IT industry. In some ways the epitome of what Williamsburg has become, the good parts, anyway.

But I was not prepared for the new wrinkle, the new conversation that I heard, as three twenty-somethings sat down with drinks at the table next to me. It only took a minute to understand the scenario — a young couple meeting their stockbroker for happy hour drinks to discuss the performance of their investments.

Now, as a lifelong proletarian, a proud carpenter-philosopher, my hackles were immediately raised. Class resentment, class rage, class loathing, bubbled up uncontrollably as I overheard the discussion of how their stock and bond portfolios were doing — apparently, the couple was planning a trip around the world, and wanted to be assured that they could do so without financial worry. Yes, who could blame them?

But listening to this, I couldn’t help asking myself: How much of their stock is in military contracting, one of the most profitable investments in the U.S.? How much is in Big Pharma, the anaesthetization of America? How much in Big Oil, and global warming? All of these industries are driving our civilization into a cul-de-sac of self-destruction — but, no doubt, it’s nice if the dividends are good! We can take an around the world vacation. War pays! Exploitation pays! Malfeasance pays! Always has.

So you have an attractive and well-heeled young couple, trying to plan their round-the-world voyage… How nice! They’ve always been privileged, and know nothing else. They probably have nice intentions and perhaps voted for Obama thinking that this proved that they were not racist, and probably consider themselves enlightened “progressives,” if they think of politics at all . I’m sure this couple has really liberal social values, and would like to consider themselves tolerant and generous. Indeed, they were kinda cute.

The upshot, however, is that they are living off of the blood of Empire. Now, I don’t know exactly what their “investments” are, but I can almost guarantee that they are not innocent, not nice — capitalism does not work that way. No matter what people’s fantasies are about capitalism, the fact is that it functions as a gangster economy; extortion, violence, monopoly control, bribery, swindling, environmental destruction, bad faith — these are the modus operandi. Is this even arguable anymore? — post 2008, christ, haven’t we seen more than enough examples of criminality in Wall Street?

But our squeaky clean young people in Williamsburg can meet with their stockbrokers over drinks at happy hour to discuss the performance of the investments — no qualms, no guilt, no nothing — nothing except accounting. And I remember when people considered this neighborhood “bohemian.”

One Response leave one →
  1. 2013 October 9
    reneelucia permalink

    Well there is such a thing as socially conscious investing. Some firms specialize in this…..putting your money in environmental good stuff. Not like I ever had the money to do this…
    The place I worked had a 401K plan and when I asked about investing in the environment they looked at me like I was crazy and so I didn’t have a choice.
    Doesn’t sound like your neighbors are in this place anyway….if I had lots of money, I would skip wall street and buy real estate….but such are the dreams of a poverty lawyer.

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