Posted by: minnow | October 14, 2011

Occupations and Politics

My son, the one I have  turned into a socially conscious blogging monster (not really a monster, he actually has a fairly peace filled spirit but still…), has been nagging me (again not quite an accurate character analysis) to watch the Republican debates.  So last Tuesday during dinner I did. We all did.   Grrr…I am lucky I did not get indigestion.  Instead I got regular old heart burn, the kind you don’t get rid of with Prilosec.  The disconnect between every single candidate on that stage and anyone who makes under 200 thousand dollars a year (in other words 70 to 90 percent of the country) was palatable.  Then Wednesday the evening news showed a clip of front-runner, Mitt Romney, in rolled up shirt sleeves as though he was really getting ready to “work”.  He was telling the crowed how much he cared and how well he understood the woes of the 99%.

Bullshit.

Yes, I know I just swore.  On a public forum.  There goes my political career.  But to quote a movie now, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”  The problem is, no matter how mad I get, in order to actually change the situation, I need the 99% to get mad as well. I need the 99% to get so mad that they do more than protest.

I  understand much of the frustration the Occupy Wall Street protesters feel.  Unlike Romney, I understand because I feel it, too.  I even understand how that frustration builds until one is tempted to throw the baby out with the  bath water.  In other words, I understand the extremes, the voices that call for an end to capitalism, the ones who think anarchy might be better, the ones who want to tax the rich ’til it hurts.  I don’t agree with the extremes but I do understand how people get to them.

The fact that the Occupy Wall Street movement, now entering its fifth week, has started Occupy protests across the country suggests more of us understand than our politicians, new reporters, and Wall Street investors want to admit.  Even my little city of under 100, 000 people has gotten into the act.  Last Saturday (10/8) a group held a general assembly meeting at a riverside park and then walked to the courthouse, carrying signs and trying to call attention to the issues they feel most strongly.  Some have been camping there ever since, in the rain and the cold, as well as in the sunshine.

The Courthouse Lawn

I find the criticism regarding the occupy movement rather telling. Some have said, “They (meaning the protesters) don’t even know why they’re protesting.”  Others that, “They’re disorganized and leaderless.”  The protesters have been characterized as lazy and their protest as a “flea party” (trying to be clever and pit them against the Tea Party I suppose).  Multiple times politicians and talking heads have suggested those gathered in Liberty Plaza “ought to just get jobs,” “quit expecting hand outs,” or “throw away their laptops, cell phones, and i pods if they hate corporate America so much.”  These characterizations are used to distract us and avoid confronting the real issues.

Facebook Message

The sign on the left seems to suggest occupiers just need to be willing to do without luxuries, work hard, and  save their money in order to get a college education and live comfortably.  My hat goes off to the integrity shown by the person holding this sign.  Avoiding debt shows wisdom.  Choosing to save, live frugally, and get a college education show sound financial priorities. This young person has a fairly good reason to hope for a relatively bright future.  Yet, whether or not s/he agrees with the Occupy protest or not unless s/he is somehow making over $300,000 dollars a year on a 30 hour a week just above minimum wage job s/he is part of the 99%.  There is simply no way around it.  Granted, the point of the sign was not to contradict the facts; it was to express opposition to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, at least as far as this individual understands their position.  Yet even so, I find myself asking why?

Why would anyone with a college education, who works hard to make ends meet, and values frugal living not want investors (who use other people’s money to make money for themselves) to be held accountable for their actions?  How could a college educated hard-working person not be frustrated by the unethical if not out right criminal behavior of the banking industry and Wall Street Investment companies which lead up to the bailout in 2008*, caused severe unemployment, and created housing foreclosures to reach levels unheard of since the great depression?  Why aren’t people like this sign holder outraged by the blatant conflict of interest represented in both the Bush and Obama White Houses with regard to their choices of financial advisers and fed chairmen?  AKA chair holders from the very investment companies responsible for the 2008 collapse as well as the fed chairman who pushed for the deregulation which allowed the unethical behavior to go unchecked in the first place.  Why?

Accountability is just one issue raised by the Wall Street protesters.  Jobs, health care, education, the environment, inequality–all these concern those at Liberty Plaza and the multitude of support protests across the country.  But like I said before, if the 99% are not will to do more than protest, the occupation will be for naught.  In addition to Wall Street, we must occupy the ballot booth.  We must insist that the politicians who claim to represent our interests actually do.  We must make democracy, not just money, work.

* If you want a succinct education on what lead up to the 2008 banking crisis take 108 minutes and watch Inside Job, the award-winning documentary on the subject by Charles Ferguson.

While this post doesn’t quite fit the theme, below are some SynchroBlog posts looking at the idea of intentional downward mobility and the experience of the marginalized.

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