Sunday, October 16, 2011

My take on the Occupy Wall Street movement

I would like to express that I am very proud of those who are occupying Wall St. and other streets across the country. Those who are occupying Wall St. are people who are tired of being sold out by the banks and government, tired of being unemployed and unemployable because they are "overqualified." They are tired of being called lazy and free loaders and accused of sitting on unemployment, collecting a government check. What makes this movement give me hope is that it is not one group rallying for their own personal gain and all others be damned. This is a movement of people from all walks, industries, and cultures of life rallying under one common theme: equality. As Americans we are being told metaphorically to "go to the back of the bus" by our politicians and upper one percent. Equality is a fundamental right that people will let bend, but maybe we are seeing that we won't let that right break.

Aside from the idealistic nature of the rally, another key ingredient of why I believe this movement will be successful is that it is a movement started and maintained by employed or formerly employed adults. This is not a handcuff yourself to a tree, or spray red paint on everyone who passes you who is wearing an animal product protest. This is not a college cause of the week, stage a protest and then go back to class. This is a protest that is born out of survival. When most people lose their jobs, survival skill number one is to find another job. These unemployed adults are up against something in finding a job  that I might guess many have never experienced before in their life: discrimination. They can't be hired because they are too old, been unemployed for too long, or require too high of a salary based on their industry skills. For those that do have jobs, we are witnessing corporations and governments fighting to reduce pay and take away workers rights.

From my young perspective, he is how I see this as different from the times of the sixties. These working adults are fighting for their and their families economic survival. The silent majority of those times were the working Americans who were annoyed with the antics and displays of young people who had no life experiences who supposedly felt they reflected their communities of which the majority if its citizens disagreed with. Today's silent majority is comprised of working adults who can see the corruption, disillusionment, and flat out lies in government to the point where they feel they have to do something about it.

The overarching theme that ties this movement to the times of the sixties is money. While college kids of the sixties might not have had the financial aide that is given now, they also didn't have all the college debt. As a young employee with no debt, perhaps it might have been easier to disagree with the boss without fearing the loss of your job? Could that have possibly been an unofficial "checks and balance" in the workplace? Fast forward to today, where students are averaging 20-25k or more in college debt before even finding their first job, how much leverage is now controlled by the employer? Young workers are expected to put in 60-70 hours on low salaries and have very little voice. Because of student loan debt (which cannot be defaulted on in bankruptcy) a college grad must take any job they can. In the process, they lose their voice. They must make their payments on debts and speaking out at work could affect that. Thus corruption, worker's rights violations, or harassment, can run rampant (which we know is true with the implementation of the "whistleblower" law).

The protesters of today still have loads of debt, unlike their young counterparts of the sixties. However the one common thread they share is the idea of equality. No amount of money in the world can adequately substitute for the lack of transparency, justice, or fair treatment of individuals.

I hope this movement will allow us to come to certain conclusions:
1. Consumerism didn't work. It dumbed us all down with thinking that products will make us smarter rather than depending on critical thinking.
2. Our economy cannot stand on a service industry. The service industry requires few people selling to many. Many cannot buy when only a few have jobs. Production/manufacturing industry serves the needs of our citizens best.
3. Education cannot be taken lightly, nor does paying tens of thousands of dollars to a college or university secure you enlightenment.