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Bank of America changed their mind about that $5 fee, and yes, we made that change happen through expressed outrage.  Let’s be very careful here, not to confuse this minor achievement with victory.  Please, throw the brakes on the celebratory revelry for a moment and consider a few things.

What’s Great About BoFA’s Decision to Abandon the $5 Fee

It’s a shining example of what we can do when we complain loudly enough, together.  It should serve as a reminder that there’s great power in the people, united.

The Victory Begins and Ends There

Any business that makes a change, and then sees a negative reaction from their customer base, is going to reconsider the change.  This is what’s called: business strategy.  We didn’t bully them.  We didn’t “back them down”.  The paradigm our influence lives in here is still as consumers, and customers of Bank of America.  We’re still living in their world.  Still playing by their rules.  Still operating within the construct of their wicked game.

Maybe I’m being unclear.  This should help: Last night, after it was released that Bank of America would renege on their $5 fee, and everyone got busy patting themselves on the back, a Facebook friend posted that her daughter had so been looking forward to closing her Bank of America account.  The post implied her daughter would no longer be doing so, because she no longer had a reason after the $5 fee backsies.

Before the $5 fee, her daughter planned to move her money.  After the change, she planned to keep her account.  Does that look like a big win to you?  How many more people will not be moving their money, and getting out of the sick big-bank game, because of the change?

Why it’s Particularly Malevolent

In this RSA Animate Video, called “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce” (it’s embedded at the bottom of this post), philosopher Slavoj Žižek discusses many things, among them the phenomenon of so called compassionate capitalism (I’m paraphrasing).  In the video, he discusses poverty and charity, but I feel comfortable applying his sentiments here.

He says, “Their remedies do not cure the disease.  They merely prolong it.  Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease … The worst slave owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it.

So too does this decision prolong necessary outcomes: like applying real pressure to the third largest company in the world[1] by participating in a mass exodus on November 5th, which is Bank Transfer Day; by doing actions that will force institutions like Bank of America to do businesses in a way that isn’t abusive.

[Read this if you’re considering a move to a credit union, but aren’t sure how to go about it: 5 Things to Know About Moving Your Money: Why, Where & How?]

The Illusion of Influence

I’ll leave you with another thought.  The decision to abandon fees was a patronization that appears to be working.  Even the most radical of my Facebook groups is popping their champagne cork and lighting their cigars, and I’m shocked, truly shocked, that more people aren’t saying what I’m saying here.

Bernie Sanders can stand on his lectern and congratulate us on our success, but we should not be moved.

He said, “…and I want to applaud the people on the #OcccupyWallStreet campaign who focused attention on the greed of Wall Street and the millions of Americans who have said enough is enough. You took on the largest financial institution in the United States of America…and you beat em’.”

My friends, we did no such thing.  We should not be self-satisfied.  We should not allow our wins to look like this.  This is not a win.  This is a single dry bone thrown to a hungry mob.  We need to be smarter than this.  They’re interested in giving us something that looks vaguely like success so we’ll become pacified.  Don’t let it happen, Occupiers and Occupy Supporters.  Don’t let this sway you, angry consumers.

Get your money OUT of BoFA.  Get it OUT of Wells Fargo and HSBC and all the others.  Sell your stock in WalMart and invest in something smarter.

This is not enough.

#moveyourmoney #occupyeverywhere

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Further Reading:

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