In his “Citizenship in a Republic”, Theodore Roosevelt stated that “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”
The republic, what of it may remain, is now a polarizing place full of extremes in every facet of our lives. It is difficult to relish the extremities because they weigh so heavily on the mind. Americans have been burdened with great weights that require solutions to our most difficult problems. Race relations, political turmoil, financial upheaval, and governmental overreach.
What has taken place in the arena of finance, however, may be the key to lifting the burdens off of our shoulders. Social media, for all its faults, has provided the opportunity for coordinated efforts like never before, and the coordinated effort conducted by the subReddit group WallStreetBets is one the likes that has never been seen. It truly has been a colossal undertaking that, on its face, looks so simple. In fact, it very well could be.
Redditors decided, based on due diligence conducted by a particular Redditor, to purchase the seemingly undervalued GameStop stock. The stock indeed was undervalued: that was a reason to purchase. The nostalgia with the company and the short selling of it? Those are a couple of reasons for keeping it. Redditors have been calling for “Diamond Hands”, which means they don’t plan to sell their shares anytime soon, if at all.
Whether you have been in this arena or not is unimportant. What is important is that common day traders have turned the tables on hedge funds and major investing firms. Costing them billions of dollars and sending shockwaves through them. Shockwaves that were typically relegated to the middle class. The same shockwaves that went through millions of people during the 2008 financial crisis. For many, like WallStreetBets member William, it isn’t about making money; it’s about losing money―for hedge funds. His reasoning stems from what happened to his parents after The Great Recession.
As I discussed on the history podcast this week, this feels very much like the French Revolution, except without the Reign of Terror. The “townspeople” indeed have revolted en masse against the arbiters of wealth and opportunity.
Make no mistake, this is revenge. It is not merely for what took place a dozen years. It is about Wall Street controlling too much of the financial outcomes of everyday Americans. Those who simply want to make a living and are not concerned with being billionaires, or even millionaires. It isn’t even so much about wanting a piece of the pie, as it is making sure the pie is available for anyone who wants a slice.
Another mistake not to be made is confusing this with what took place shortly after the financial crisis of 2008: Occupy Wall Street. These are not the opportunists who took to the streets to set up tents, scream at well-to-do passersby, and engage in outright pathetic behavior. This movement is smart, thorough, and capable of achieving desired results. It is tactical, researched, and organized. Only in today’s age of mass use of social media with groups and forums focused upon and committed to a specific goal would this be possible. There is no knee-jerk reaction. There is no confused methodology. And as it stands now, there is no backing down.
There have been very few times more important than today for Americans to show the true meaning of citizenship in a republic. What is taking place in this great arena―the arena of Wall Street―is nothing short of heroic. The credit truly does belong to those who have led this charge and are dedicated to this fight. Those who are dedicated to, in WallStreetBets-speak, “hold the line”.
Roosevelt surely would have noticed that these are not those “cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” They are in the arena; indeed, the arena seems now to belong to them.