The protest movement all began with the image of a ballerina on top of Wall Street’s bull.
Kalle Lasn and his colleagues at Adbusters came up with the startling image, the question, “What is Our One Demand?” and the hashtag, #OccupyWallStreet, as in “#OccupyWall Street, September 17th, Bring Tent.”
As Lasn told Sam Eifling in The Tyee, “To me it was a sublime symbol of total clarity. Here’s a body poised in this beautiful position and it spoke of this crystal-clear sublime idea behind this messy business. On top of the head it said, ‘What is our one demand?’ To me it was almost like an invitation, like if we get our act together then we can launch a revolution. It had this magical revolutionary feel to it, which you couldn’t have with the usual lefty poster which is nasty and visceral and in your face. The magic came from the fact this ballerina is so sublimely tender.”
Lasn is no stranger to inspiring cultural movements. His first “culture jam” began in a supermarket parking lot. Lasn was angry that he needed to rent a shopping cart, so instead of dropping the quarter into the machine, he jammed it so that the machine would not work.
He co-founded Adbusters in 1989 to create responses to an advertising campaign for British Columbia’s forestry industry. Other Lasn social marketing campaigns have included “Buy Nothing Day” and “TV Turnoff Week”. He continues to campaign against “arguably the most destructive product we humans have ever produced”: the car. (Want more? Read Lasn’s book: Culture Jam: How To Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge — And Why We Must.)
From his home in Vancouver, the art of Lasn has inspired a global movement.
#OccupyWallStreet is now about more than one park in downtown Manhattan. As Lasn sees it, “It has grown beyond anything I thought was possible in the early days. The mood changes every day, and this realization that all of a sudden it’s a nationwide movement in the United States and now it’s even creeping into Canada. That’s — what can I say? It’s beyond anything I imagined early on. I’ve been sort of running with it day by day, and now it feels like anything is possible. It’s a good lesson for me. I’ve always been reticent and careful and doing a lot of planning and stuff. For me personally it’s told me, don’t hold back. Just go for it. You never know what’ll happen.”
Who could have predicted a ballerina would change our view of global finance? No wonder so many are dancing in the streets for a cause.
- Bill Reichblum