The twin stars in the firmament of Seattle are the Space Needle, which hovers over the downtown skyline like some abandoned probe left by interstellar tourists, and Mount Rainier, a majestic snow-capped magnet with its head in the clouds most of the time.
These two iconic sights provide a kind of branding device for many who hope to make a buck in Seattle. And because these images are about as much in the public domain as it’s possible to be, anyone with a T-shirt or a toothbrush to sell can use them and set up shop, or at least launch a start-up table on the sidewalk. This is both the beauty of capitalism and its Achilles heel.
Anyone can play, if they can get a foothold in the marketplace. But when the physical market space is limited, or over-priced, breaking in becomes almost impossible. And when opportunities shrink, while population keeps growing, there’s trouble ahead.
The continuing spread and evolving character of the Occupy Wall Street movement reflects the great disconnect between the haves and the have-nots, not only in this country, but around the world. While we in the United States like to pride ourselves on our democratic principles, the current playing field is warped and hobbled by a labyrinthian legal system and the fundamentally flawed nature of humanity.
We are not a perfect species. Greed, fear and laziness hold us back. We could be so much better.
In the District of Columbia, the other Washington, the tall pointy pillar which lures tourists is named for the nation’s first president, a man who didn’t particularly want the job, who didn’t have to spend a gazillion dollars to win it, and who never could have imagined the reality show aspect of our modern electoral system. The Washington monument itself is kind of a ho-hum structure, though it works well enough as a backdrop for fireworks, mass demonstrations and political hay-making.
Occupying it might be a challenge. But if we really want to change things for the better it might be a good iea to put the message where it will get the most bang for the buck.