More Thoughts on Occupy Wall Street
Today I spent some time learning more about the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I thought I knew what they were about because of a handful of radical statements I’d heard from them: “down with corporations,” “share the wealth,” “capitalism doesn’t work.” I’m ashamed to say that even before I knew that much about it, I judged the entire movement as a bunch of greedy whiners who were blind to their own privilege and ignorant of how the real world functions. However, when I read a couple of blog posts from people whose perspectives I respect speaking favorably of the movement, I knew it was time to dig deeper.
Here’s what I discovered…
Occupy Wall Street is a disparate movement composed of people across the political spectrum, from libertarians to hard-core socialists (though admittedly, it leans left). Although there are folks on the fringes who carry around copies of The Communist Manifesto, the core complaint for most protesters is simply that Washington and Wall Street are in bed together, and it has to stop. The system is broken, they say. Anyone with enough money to buy a politician or ten (the 1%) gets bail-outs, subsidies, and immunity, while the rest of us (the 99%) are left to duke it out in the trenches — and that’s wrong.
I couldn’t agree more.
I also discovered that the Occupy Wall Street Movement is actually not so far from the Tea Party at least in terms of what originally drove their anger: government bail-outs. You could argue that the Tea Party has since been taken over by social conservatives and is now just the Religious Right in disguise, but at least in their origins, the two movements have more in common than you might think. This illustration that a friend shared on Facebook expresses it pretty clearly:
(As a sidenote, it appears to me as though the Occupy Wall Street movement is in as much danger of being co-opted by their extremists as the Tea Party was — and I would expect the movement to be thoroughly discredited, just like the Tea Party, if that happens.)
I think a lot of good can emerge from this if we recognize what we have in common and build from there. As someone who has refused to identify with either movement because of the fringe elements, let’s come together and tackle corporatism! We all agree that’s the core problem, right?
In my mind, there are two places to effect change: in the private sector and in the public sector. It’s time for us to engage both.
Privately: Take responsibility for your spending. Are you uncomfortable with the power large corporations have? STOP doing business with them! Remember, not all corporations are the same — so do your research. Has a company you do business with received government hand-outs or subsidies? Are they actively engaged in lobbying? Is the CEO taking huge bonuses while everyone else struggles? Do their corporate values conflict with your personal values? If you don’t like what you find, take your dollars elsewhere — and tell your friends. Make it a point to shop local. Support small, entrepreneurial businesses. Bank at credit unions. Cut up your credit cards. The freedom to choose where and how you’ll spend your money is what capitalism is all about. Businesses exist to make money, so when you start voting with your wallet, they’ll notice. This power is already in your hands. Use it.
Publicly: Agitate for change. Protests are great because they get people talking, but if you’re not comfortable protesting, there’s more to be done. Find a candidate you like and contribute or volunteer. Blog your perspective on a position and persuade your friends. Write, call, and fax your representatives. VOTE. Change happens when we demand it.
For the record, I support Ron Paul for president in 2012. I think he’s right on nearly all of the important issues facing us, including foreign policy, taxation, spending, and marriage equality. Check out his website for more information on his positions! 🙂