Years ago, I had walked that walk and framed a picture posing with the Wall Street Bull.
Today, we posed before the same strapping old bull and a new bronze, nimble statue of a kid-girl, defying the Bull and trespassing over his domain. I had heard about the neighbourhood Trinity Church where the Great Depression losers at the Wall Street, prayed for a miracle.
No 9/11 stops the thronging visitors. Wall Street, its station and nearby landmarks will never die away. I spent years on a similar street in Mumbai, the Dalal Street, which was also a target and scene of bombing.
Every country boasts of a Money Street; rituals matter more, now that technology, an aggressive human creation, has made life easier and inclusive but paradoxically less involved. The Bhatt Tea with sugared toast and occasional pakoras must still be there but not with their dominant noisiness. Not to miss, the gossip corners, insider dealings and doomsday calls that used to be the usual-normal and are now camouflaged but regularly show their true colours in the regular “Milken, Gupta, Bear stern” type blow-ups.
More on financialization. Its fun-game for all. Market swings a drug for the riders; addictive gambling – a virtue and the “winner-take-all” a much sought after goal. There were the bears & bulls and the occasional insolvencies and suicides, but it was contained within those trading streets with a bit of spill-over. Now, its threateningly subtle, organised, all-pervasive and alarmingly nuclear.
As we walked the tourist-filled Wall Street, went and prayed in the Trinity Church and lingered at the curio shop and the American Stock exchange building, we wondered how all these streets now talk to each other every second. The gambling Streets in Las Vegas never sleeps. Like the Spartans, Ottoman Jannisaries and the Nazi Hitler Youth, the Business Schools today take pride in offering courses in financial engineering and the likes that breed the gamblers.
A lot has been said about value at these Money Streets; its creation process and its stakeholders; its personal and public angles; its economic and social dimensions. My favourite wish is relooking value under barter system. Am I producing what the other is willing to exchange?
Like individual and in groups, we are like the industrious ants, blind to the human and emotional selves and only living to survive.
I have been there on these streets, among the money managers, witnessing the economic power and I have tasted inequality when I do my morning cycling, watching generations of humanity pileup on the roadside. Each ant does his chore and gets further entangled in the economic web. The stranded fossil assets, the stockpile of arsenals, the glorification of gambling financial-tools, the absence of learning-purpose and misplaced teaching valuations, overdoing the curiosity-consumption bit and economic incentivization of faith-crusaders. These are the “debates” we love and solutions we stay away from – why ? Because we see economics and money in every answer.
As I watched the attired economic and financial pundits on the financial news channel spewing out rubbish technicals and fundamentals, words like “brent /gold /nymex, individual is greater than the organization, buying opportunity at slightest dips, breaking-out on upside, consolidating, intra-day, momentum open-interest, new-high… would all these ever make sense to the millions on the street? And the best of the lot is the investment guru turning over his billions for uplifting the millions from the economic power harnessed from “disciplined gambling” – like in Harry Potter, we will shudder to utter the WORD .
And we talk about authenticity !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Photograph by Devang Desai