Friday, October 14, 2011

The 53%

There's a trend in this country right now, and a frightening one at that: acceptance of the status quo.

Hard work, dedication, paying your dues--these are all admirable qualities. But there's something fundamental about the OWS protests that these "Other 53%" folks don't get: No one is saying anything about those qualities. Not a thing. The rhetoric coming from this movement is the same used to demonize the poor--these protestors are lazy, they want handouts, to live off the system, to have everything in life given to them, etc. It's a classic ploy that Republicans use fully to their advantage, turning the tables on the poor as a way to take attention off the rich. Kick those already down, rather than those who are up (because, after all, that maybe cause things to trickle down).

OWS isn't about how hard someone works, or how many jobs they have, or what their student loan debt is--not fundamentally, at least. The message is about how the rules of the economic game get made. Because somewhere along the way (Regan deregulation, Bush tax cuts, Clinton's diving into the pockets of Wall Street, amongst other factors), the game became unplayable for some and dominated by others. These protestors, these are people who played the game as it was taught to them all their lives: go to school, stay out of trouble, work hard, and you'll have a stable life. But that's not the case. Because instead of creating jobs for these people to obtain, these heads of industry have shipped them overseas, they've cut work forces in the effort to maximize unnecessary profits, they've driven down wages and destroyed unions. This is about power, how the people who control capital in this country have amassed wealth through the its wholesale purchase. They've created their own rules, laws, and system to ensure that they can continue to horde and take risk, and never with consequence.

But that's getting a little off point, to be fair. The thing I wonder is what kind of life are these Other 53% people promoting? One of 70-hour work weeks for the better years of your life? Of no vacations? Of constant fear of getting sick because you can't afford healthcare or to miss a single day of work? Like I said, I admire hard work, I truly do. But that's no life I want to live. If this is indeed the greatest country in the world, everyone is entitled to an honest wage for honest work. And they're entitled a slice of their life for leisure, for family, for arts, and culture, and books, and seeing the world. All the things that make life worth living.

Curtis White, in his book The Spirit of Disobedience, told a story about how he'd get angry letters, irate letters, from people expressing indignation over the fact that, as a college professor, he had the opportunity to take occasional sabbaticals to research, write, and explore his interests. Letters would come in, asking "why do you get to do this?" White replied, saying, "I think the better question is why don't you get to this?"

So, to the 53%: your traits are admirable. But you're missing the point, both of this protest and of life in general. We're here to live, not live in servitude.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you don't want to work for "the man", then start your own business, become self-employed...start an e-bay business, daycare, computer service...in other words...wipe your own ass and forget about what those wall street execs are doing.

Michael Moreci said...

Well, for starters, there's only so many self-employment opportunities, especially in our consumer/service-based economy. So what you suggest could only be a solution for a small, small fraction of the population. Besides, how many e-bay entrepreneurs do you know of? How many of them have benefits? Provide for their families? Have retirements plans? I'm guessing none.

Get real, Anonymous. If this is indeed the greatest country in the world, having a career with a livable wage, health care, and benefits isn't asking much. I don't what fantasy world people like you live in, where "every man for himself" is a viable economic solution in a country of billions.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not the objective of the occupy movement is to get free handouts and live off the system is irrelevant. The system has to be changed from within. Confrontations like this bring awareness to the problem, but do nothing to fix it. As it is, this protest has already caused more problems then its solved. Sure, Wall Street sucks, but there's no way you can change that by camping out at they're front door. You need to work within the current system until you are in a position where you can change things. Unfortunately, every time someone in the american government tries to change something for the better (i.e. healthcare) the majority of the country turns against him because modern day America's greatest attribute is greed. Also, America hasn't been the "greatest country in the world" for decades. An unfair healthcare system, the highest violent crime rate in any 1st world country, and the view of self indulgence as the highest virtue all combined to create the current state of the US. If there is any change, it would have to be a shift in the way that the entire nation thinks and operates, and that is not going to happen as a result of a few protests.
PS. The US doesn't have a population even close to 1 billion people. If your going to be insulting in your arguments, at least make sure they're actually fact first.

Michael Moreci said...

But, Anonymous, how do you change from within the system when the system is rigged? The only way to get elected to office in this country is to have deep pockets and backing from major fundraisers. And that comes from corporate interests, Wall Street, etc. As the middle class continues to shrink, the chance of anyone else but the elite hold power is nearly unthinkable. Which brings us right back around to the problem of equitable interests making policy and affecting the economy.

Maybe OWS won't spur change, maybe it will. Neither one of us can see the future. But what's happening--it's something. It's the people of this country (which i meant to say millions, my typo/mistake) banding together and trying to make change for the good of the majority--not the powerful few. And that's not how policy has been made in a very, very long time.

Speaking of facts, look up any poll on universe healthcare, especially prior to the GOP's demonizing it in the past two years. The public's response to a government-controlled system is overwhelmingly for it. Upwards in the 70% range.

Look, you can be cynical all you want--it's the easiest thing in the world to do. The OWS protestors, they're responding to the negligence most have Americans have felt for a long time now; they're enacting their right to free speech and assemble. I can't find fault in that.

Sammy Kanan said...

Excellent post Mike - very well stated and I am in complete agreement with you.

Oh, and Anonymous states, "As it is, this protest has already caused more problems then its solved." Get real...how do you even justify making that comment? What facts do you have to back that up? Its due time (way, way, way past due, in fact) that there has been a collective awakening amongst many of us who are being subjugated by this unprecedented greed coming from Wall Street and incredibly dangerous rhetoric coming from the political right.