As the American economy inched closer to collapse on Monday morning, 50 people took to the streets of Lower Manhattan, stripped naked and pantomimed life on Wall Street. One yelled about stock prices like a trader on the floor. Another swept the streets. A third pretended to sell hot dogs.
“This is a commentary on the absurdity of the situation,” said the artist behind the project, Zefrey Throwell. “It’s totally a Freudian nightmare to have people show up and work naked on Wall Street. This absurd statement I consider parallel to the lack of transparency on our financial structures.”
Mr. Throwell said that he chose Monday because it was “supposedly the meltdown date”—i.e, the day when the federal government would run out of money. By the morning, it became clear that an agreement was going to be reached, but virtually no one was happy about it. Yes, collapse had been avoided, but the whole thing felt like a resolution to a phony crisis, like bungee jumping from a railroad bridge, knowing all along you will never hit the water.
Across the political spectrum, the city seemed sunk in a midsummer malaise. There was anger, but about what exactly, no one seemed quite able to say.
“Our founding fathers in a million years would never have allowed this to happen,” said Dan Halloran, a city councilman and sometime Fox News contributor.
“The whole notion of the Revolution was to prevent an oppressively taxing government from being on top of us, and look at what we have. An oppressively taxing government that has its hand in every aspect of life. It’s like living under the crown.”
At midday, Joni Golijov, dressed in a Bugs Bunny T-shirt, made his way toward Times Square, using thick, black, electrical tape to post signs for a protest scheduled for the next day at the Charging Bull in Bowling Green.
“The ruling class in the United States is the most powerful ruling class in the world. And they have just done a really good job of making people feel isolated, of making people feel powerless,” he said. He is 21, a writing major at Columbia. “So, yeah, I am also a part of the ruling class.
“I am hoping we can have a big protest. People know their votes don’t matter, so not only are we going to not vote, we are going to put our bodies on the street.”
He said they hoped a 100 people would show up.
Protests of all sorts were planned all over the region. MoveOn (yes, it still exists) planned demonstrations at the offices of Republican members of Congress, even though the deal was ultimately endorsed by a Democratic president.
Brooke McGowen, a self-described 50-something resident of Peekskill and a laid-off census worker, was preparing a rally in front of the offices of Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, a Hudson Valley Republican. She said there would be signs and songs, and expressed hope that “the Grannies,” i.e., the Granny Peace Brigade, would show up.
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