Fight Club entered popular culture in 1999 when director David Fincher adapted Chuck Palahniuk's novel into a film that reflected the zeitgeist of modern America with its empty culture, obsession with aesthetic beauty, and slavish under and middle classes.
Warning: Decade-old spoiler coming up.
The film ends with the agents of "Project Mayhem," protagonist Tyler Durden's followers, destroying the headquarters of the major credit card companies with many tons of explosives. Durden's theory is that without the records of debt, everyone gets a fresh start. They are no longer slaves to the banks, and they are free.
This concept resonated hugely with Americans, and not just the douche bag frat boys who taped Brad Pitt's six-pack to their dorm walls. Citizens are working harder for less these days, and the American ennui originating from Reagan's tyrannical reign of deregulation, union busting, and middle-class rape has now exploded into severe disillusionment and anger. Americans are being crushed by debt, can't afford health care, and have less job security than ever.
Even the dimmest Americans know they're getting screwed by Wall Street fat cats, and nothing could have made that reality clearer than the bailouts: $1 trillion dollars of taxpayer money that went to line the pockets of the guys and gals who crashed the economy.
And if that wasn't bad enough, once the fat cats and credit card companies' armies of Repo Men were through collecting the contents of the houses, they came back for the houses themselves. The banks tried to sell the old, familiar lie that "irresponsible people" i.e. "black people" went and got themselves into a mess they couldn't dig themselves out of, which was almost always a lie. Subprime lenders issued mortgages in a predatory fashion, frequently lied, and used creative math to convince people they could afford mortgages with hidden, adjustable interest rates.
Those that can afford to play Capitalism: The Game prosper, while the rest of society suffers. Of course, those of us who don't work for the Big 4 banks in the Too Big To Fail gang wither and die. Today, the New York Times announced the 100th small bank failure of 2009. Don't expect any mourning. The bank isn't named "JPMorgan Chase."
It's projected that by 2012, there will be eight million home foreclosures in the United States. Lots of politicians are siding with the banks during the foreclosure epidemic, but a few brave souls are standing up to the Wall Street criminals.
Tyler Durden's strategy of destroying the paper trail is currently being utilized by the most unlikely of persons, a broach-wearing, bespeckled Congresswoman from the Midwest named Marcy Kaptur. The Ohio representative sounds more like a woman ready to chirp a cheerful "You betchya'!" than explode into a revolutionary diatribe, which is why Kaptur amazed the hell out of everyone when she urged her constituents to remain in their foreclosed homes:
In other words, Kaptur started a peaceful Project Mayhem, a revolution where the wronged refuse to happily play their parts in a fixed game concocted by Wall Street and the government, who work hand-in-hand to protect a tiny coterie of wealthy people, while average Americans unwittingly pick up the bill in a Corporate Socialism system that should really be called the United States of Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, and Goldman Sachs.
Wall Street gets to invest taxpayer money in their harebrained schemes (S&Ls, derivatives, Chinese cars, etc.) and when everything goes to hell, it is the taxpayer who gets to clean up the mess. I believe this is the system first-generation bankers envisioned during the country's founding when they were heard remarking, "Fucketh it. They're too busy tilling the soil to noticeth." I may be paraphrasing.
Much like the fictional character Tyler Durden, Kaptur knows the business world operates on precariously narrow tightropes of paper trails. Without the records of transactions, it's difficult for large banks and businesses to prove homeowners and customers are in debt.
"Produce the note," says Kaptur. She means that the banks must produce the mortgage they claim to own. The beauty of this system is that most mortgages were flipped, chopped up, and sold to other lenders and servicers during the lending boom feeding frenzy. As a result, many of the new lenders don't have the proper paperwork to show they own the mortgage.
And without that proof of mortgage, the banks cannot legally kick people out of their homes. Not only that, but this puts a homeowner in an excellent position to renegotiate a mortgage. It's finally a way for the fucked to offer a giant "fuck you" right back to banks.
Kaptur is hardly a revolutionary for the revolution's sake. The Congresswoman wants to work out a way to help people keep their homes. She is merely a good politician (remember that concept?) who wants to protect her constituents. She is the woman who still lives in the same house in the Toledo working class neighborhood where she grew up. When she talks about her "constituents," she's talking about her friends, family, and neighbors, and not the emotional ants she apathetically observes from her ivory tower.
In Toledo, Ohio, foreclosures have gone up 94 percent. For Kaptur, the results of economic turmoil are not theoretical. They're very real. The squatting project is a last ditch effort for Kaptur to save her community, but she also wants President Obama to take Ohio's empty units and require his administration to broker rental agreements with families, so they're not kicked out of their homes.
In an interview with Bill Moyers, Kaptur explained that foreclosed land is being sold by the banks to out-of-state parties, who then drive down local Ohio property values.
There is no reason any of this has to happen. As former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson explained on Moyers, Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac are now government agencies. That means they own a lot of mortgages that are in default or close to default, and they're also responsible for enormous amount of new loans.
...I live in Toledo, Ohio. The house next to me was foreclosed. And so, I called, the other day, a little plaque appeared on the door of this house. And it said, '$500 down, $300 a month rent.' I said, 'What is that, a land contract deal? What's going on there?' So I called the number. I get a repossession dealer in South Carolina.
I said, 'Hello, sir, what's your name?' 'Johnny,' or something. I said, 'And what's your address?' He gave me a P.O. Box number. I said, 'Now listen,' I said, 'Your property is bringing down the value of our property because you're on our heels.' 'Lady, I get these things from the bank.' And he said, 'You know, we try to unload 'em. What are you going to offer me?'
This is what he's saying to me over the telephone. I don't think a single one of my neighbors knows that that home is now in possession of a group in South Carolina that could care less about it.
Kaptur's rental agreement strategy is entirely doable if the Obama administrations summons the same enthusiastic support for average citizens as they possess for private industry and the Big 4 banks. The cold months are upon us. It would be a terrible time for anyone to lose their home, particularly if they are one of the millions of victims of predatory lending and the crimes of the unregulated banking behemoths.