Occupy Wall Street

I want to put my two cents in about the topic of Occupy Wall Street. If you don’t know what that is, read here. Where I am, in junction with that effort, they do things like this.

Now there are a number of things I think about this movement. For one, I can understand people that believe the movement to be a bit disorganized. I can even agree with that considering that, from what I understand, they try to avoid having only one, clear, overarching message other than “Stop being mean and stingy, you money-hoarding bastards…!” to which I can relate. However, this message isn’t enough for me. Let me explain this a bit.

I grew up, the oldest of six kids (eventually) and that meant low-income housing, welfare, medicaid, and so forth. The thing is, my mom determined that she would not remain in that and neither would her kids, so she did all she could to escape it and she did. I am proud of her for that and it has inspired me to wake up, kick ass, hustle and make things work when I need to. That said, I can’t comprehend that 20K+ people somehow have the idea that, because they are broke, they can just demand that a group of high-powered people fix that problem.

A couple of friends said that I should join the movement anyway, but I declined for a couple of reasons:

  1. i don’t know what’s going on. if you read my above explanation and are a part of the movement, you could clearly see and understand how far off-base I am from what’s really spurring these protests. It’s just what I’m seeing and the initial look is rarely complete, so I thought some research would be a good idea.
  2. it wasn’t my cause/you make me nervous. I avoid doing things just because large numbers of people do them without asking questions first. It makes me uncomfortable that there are so many people protesting without a single voice to go, “Oh, this is what we are protesting about…” because that basically means that the unseen people spurring everything on and keeping things organized can wield the power of pretty P.O’d masses of people in any way they see fit since the people in question are joined together by a relatively emotional topic.

That said, I did a bit of research. Lots of liberals and anarchist tendencies woven in here and there. This was interesting and explained the lack of central message; you can’t be an anarchist and establish well-defined order in protest. That makes no sense.

However, because of the second item I mentioned, I still shied away from joining the cause. It is not enough for me to hear someone say, “we’re protesting because people somewhere are rich and we’re not those people…” I needed more substance to grab. Remember, I grew up on welfare and all that. I grew up around people that were broke and just expected money to come from some magical place without trying to better themselves, so when I see people going, “Grrrawrwearebrokeandmad!!!!”, I don’t get it. My answer is something like, “Then get the tools you need to do something better. Go to school, google something, find out what you do well, kick ass, and make a profit, but stop complaining about it unless you’re going to make some movement…”

That would have been where my thoughts ended until I read this article. Read it, if you would.

This article made the whole concept of OccupyCityNameHere make so much sense that, honestly, had someone — anyone — walked up to me and explained it this way, I would be protesting every day afterward. It was respectful, well-thought out, and had no buzzwords.

Let me repeat that last item: no buzzwords.

I’m not a fan of marketing, even if I’m good at it, because I hate buzzwords. Even more when they aren’t explained in a way that connects with me. Let me rant here for one moment about the word solidarity.

I wasn’t born during the civil rights or any other major movement. I am not a social work major or master or anything like that. I’m some tech guy that loves people and watches anime. Use smaller words. Connect to me somehow. At least define the word. There aren’t many people in my generation, most of which is largely apathetic about political movements in the first place, that know that word. Break it down. Using these “big words” is like shining a flashlight in my eyes because I can’t see in the dark; I have light, but I still can’t see anything and neither can the other 50 people on my timeline that see the word solidarity.

Rant over. Now back to things that stood out to me about the article (which I’m hoping you read):

Here’s how a liberal looks at it:  a long time ago workers in this country realized that industrialization wasn’t making their lives better, but worse.  The captains of industry were making a ton of money and living a merry life far away from the dirty, dangerous factories they owned, and far away from the even dirtier and more dangerous mines that fed raw materials to those factories.

The workers quickly decided that this arrangement didn’t work for them.  If they were going to work as cogs in machines designed to build wealth for the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Carnegies, they wanted a cut.  They wanted a share of the wealth that they were helping create.  And that didn’t mean just more money; it meant a better quality of life.  It meant reasonable hours and better working conditions.

Eventually, somebody came up with the slogan, “8 hours of work, 8 hours of leisure, 8 hours of sleep” to divide the 24-hour day into what was considered a fair allocation of a human’s time.  It wasn’t a slogan that was immediately accepted.  People had to fight to put this standard in place.  People demonstrated, and fought with police, and were killed.  They were called communists (in fairness, some of them were), and traitors, and many of them got a lot worse than pepper spray at the hands of police and private security.

But by the time we got through the Great Depression and WWII, we’d all learned some valuable lessons about working together and sharing the prosperity, and the 8-hour workday became the norm.

The 8-hour workday and the 40-hour workweek became a standard by which we judged our economic success, and a reality check against which we could verify the American Dream.

If a family could live a good life with one wage-earner working a 40-hour job, then the American Dream was realized.  If the income from that job could pay the bills, buy a car, pay for the kids’ braces, allow the family to save enough money for a down payment on a house and still leave some money for retirement and maybe for a college fund for the kids, then we were living the American Dream.  The workers were sharing in the prosperity they helped create, and they still had time to take their kids to a ball game, take their spouses to a movie, and play a little golf on the weekends.

This is what I mean. The simplest person among us could understand this explanation and it gives appropriate context. From here, you could easily distill this and tie it to your own life circumstances. Or something like this:

I understand that a prosperous America needs people with money to invest, and I’ve got no problem with that.  All other things being equal, I want all the rich people to keep being rich.  And clever financiers who find ways to get more money into the hands of promising entrepreneurs should be rewarded for their contributions as well.

I think Wall Street has an important job to do, I just don’t think they’ve been doing it.  And I resent their sense of entitlement – their sense that they are special and deserve to be rewarded extravagantly even when they screw everything up.

Come on, it was only three years ago, kid.  Remember?  Those assholes almost destroyed our economy.  Do you remember the feeling of panic?  John McCain wanted to suspend the presidential campaign so that everybody could focus on the crisis.  Hallowed financial institutions like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch went belly up.  The government started intervening with bailouts, not because anybody thought “private profits and socialized losses” was fair, but because we were afraid not to intervene –  we were afraid our whole economy might come crashing down around us if we didn’t prop up companies that were “too big to fail.”

So, even though you and I had nothing to do with the bad decisions, blind greed and incompetence of those guys on Wall Street, we were sure as hell along for the ride, weren’t we?  And we’ve all paid a price.

All the” 99%” wants is for you to remember the role that Wall Street played in creating this mess, and for you to join us in demanding that Wall Street share the pain.  They don’t want to share the pain, and they’re spending a lot of money and twisting a lot of arms to foist their share of the pain on the rest of us instead.  And they’ve been given unprecedented powers to spend and twist, and they’re not even trying to hide what they’re doing.

All we want is for everybody to remember what happened, and to see what is happening still.  And we want you to see that the only way they can get away without paying their share is to undermine the American Dream for the rest of us.

And I want you and I to understand each other, and to stand together to prevent them from doing that.  You seem like the kind of guy who would be a strong ally, and I’d be proud to stand with you.

This part, especially what I have bolded, sealed the deal for me in a good way. I understand a little bit better. Not the whole thing, but enough to think about this properly and that’s what I needed in all the tweets and other things I’ve been inundated with. It also addresses one other idea I’ve struggled with which is this: where does our responsibility come in?

I’m all about owning things responsibility-wise. We’re a democratic-republic here, so I think that, if someone in government messes up things and whatnot, we are all partly responsible as the people of this country because we vote them in and don’t call them out on their bullshit collectively. Period. At some point, even in a situation like Occupy Wall St, someone has to recognize that we are responsible, too.

The part I bolded points out that Wall St played a role. They are not the entire problem. That was important to me, too. In and of themselves, they aren’t bad, but messing things up and not owning responsibility equal to what they did is not okay. Not being responsible to the people you’re supposed to govern is not okay. Using money to try to quiet us forcefully when we protest and demand that you do your part to fix problems that you caused is extremely not okay and, from what I can see, that is a large part of the message of Occupy Wall St and others.

Knowing that, I’m asking fewer questions about what is going on and why and more about how I can contribute somehow. The more I see, the more I want to help and that’s good. I can join people in their suffering because I can relate and understand and even point out things that can help relieve it.

You’ll probably see more posts like these. I think it’s a good thing; I’ve never really been a political activist because it hasn’t meant much to me until now.

However, now is a good time to start something new, right?

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