Numerologists and The History Channel, known for its occult versions of world events, will have their heyday with two digits that, when arranged in certain sequence, foretold the fortunes of America. They are 9/11, of course, and now, 99:1.
The former entered American psyche like a bullet a decade ago, sinking so deeply into our collective wound that the evocation of its memories – exploding planes and falling glass towers, a fabled city shrouded in soot and dust, crushed bodies and a hole in the ground -- spurred two costly wars overseas. Indeed, some historians propose that 9/11 drove the American empire onto the path of self-destruction; the most powerful country on earth a decade later found itself teetering at the edge of an economic abyss as a direct result.
Nine. One. One. 9/11. Emergency. Crisis. Sorrow. War. Mistakes. Recession. The Lost Decade.
But while its meanings continue to pile up, a new arrangement of the two digits comes along exactly a decade later and with it, a shifting tide - 99:1. Ninety-nine to one. It stands for protest and misery, the slipping of the middle class from their moorings. The former delineates a nation rallying under the flag, of unity against a common enemy. The latter speaks of the opposite, of disparity, disunion and ultimately, disillusionment.
The colon between 99 and 1 has transformed into a drawbridge drawn, with the 1 percent living it up inside the fabled ivory citadel while the rest mill about, looking in. And the moat? A yawning gap between the haves and rising number of have-nots.
The Occupy Wall Street movement began in New York and quickly spread around the country -- then, inevitably, in the age of instant information, the world. A month later it continues unabated. In time, 99:1 may endure as a symbol of resistance and, as some youthful elements among the protesters in New York would have it, a symbol not without a sense of romance, “a revolution.”