I’ve held off writing anything about Occupy Wall Street for a lot of reasons, but I’m finally breaking down (One of my reasons for holding off is that I’m not entirely convinced I’m as informed on the movement as I could be, and I don’t want to speak out of ignorance - but that’s rarely stopped me before, so here we go…)
As near as I’ve been able to determine, the protest was originally organized or “suggested” by Ad Busters as a statement against how big of a role money plays in our politics. I find that admirable and assume that’s a position most people would have a hard time arguing with.
What I kind of hate about Occupy Wall Street is that they seemingly, by design, allow their movement to be kind of amorphous; letting other people to join them and add whatever social or economic complaints they have to the protest.
So now, instead of just being about money in politics, the protest has a larger, over-arching theme of economic disparity. Which isn’t necessarily bad. I think it’s a good idea to shine a big light on the fact that 1% of the population controls the majority of the wealth in this country - if for no other reason then just to ask, is the system working? Did the 1% earn their way to the top, or have we stacked the deck against the poor in this country? Unfortunately, “economic disparity” is a little too broad of a message and attracts voices that I think fewer people can relate to - like people advocating all out socialism, universal debt forgiveness, or pooping on cop cars.
The other big problem with letting your movement become so fuzzy around the edges is that it allows your enemies to define you by your lowest common denominator. Listen to talk radio for a few minutes and you’ll walk away with the idea that all Occupy Wall Street protestors are either lazy kids who don’t want to pay their own way or liberal trust fund babies who just want something to rebel against.
Along those lines, this week I saw several people post the following picture on Facebook. It’s a flier that was supposedly dropped on protestors in Chicago :
There’s a lot wrong with this letter - like the writer’s implication that getting payed to landscape his yard is a “free ride” or that tipping 35% makes him some kind of philanthropic super hero. Also, what’s up with not spelling out the word “asses?” Isn’t that kind of puritanical for a letter in which you state you’ll take food off someone else’s plate to survive?
What’s really wrong with this letter, though, that you have to partially lay at the feet of Occupy Wall Street’s lack of clear mission, is that whoever handed it out has suddenly cast the movement as democrats and teacher’s unions being upset at stock brokers. Really? Talk about marginalizing a message…
Ultimately, it’s not my place to criticize someone else’s movement. They can make it about as many things or as few things at they want. I’ve just really hated seeing stuff like the above letter or hearing talk-radio callers so easily dismiss a movement that I think, at it’s heart, has a pretty universal sentiment.