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!  🙂

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About Katie L

Thirtysomething wife, mother, writer, runner, believer, and lover of good food and bad movies.

Posted on October 28, 2011, in News and Current Events and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Katie,

    I think it’s great that you have a follow-up post on this issue. Nice post! It’s important that we recognize that our decisions are neither completely made for us by society, nor are they 100% within our control. I think that the protestors have some legitimate complaints, to be sure, but I think that their efforts would be better served by making public advertisements that, as you suggested, are geared towards helping people make individual decisions to spend their dollars elsewhere, effectively taking away the power of large corporations.

    Of course, that’s much easier SAID than done.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Tony.

    I think the rawness of the OWS movement is great, and I think they’ve succeeded in getting everyone talking, which is also great — but I agree that there’s little in the way of proposed solutions, and eventually that will be the death of the movement. Which is unfortunate, because they have some valid points.

    Here’s a really interesting video from Reason.com, where Peter Schiff “speaks for the 1%” and dialogues with protesters on Wall Street. I think it really shows the diversity of the movement. I enjoyed it a lot.

  3. Although I haven’t paid much attention lately (except to avoid Walmart), there have been times I have sought to some small degree to pay attention to the ramifications of my actions as a consumer. I agree that a good step people can take is to put their purchasing dollars where their values are. Do a search for “socially responsible purchasing” or a similar term, and you can find all sorts of resources from an incredible variety of perspectives.

    I will say, though, it’s hard to be pure in such matters because of the way economic factors intertwine. Do I avoid Chinese products, for example, because of the lack of worker protections and the lack of religious freedom, or is there something to be said for providing real jobs in the world’s most populous country? There are no simple answers, and one of the problems I have with almost any protest movement, whether from the right or the left, is that it tends to oversimplify things.

    As to Ron Paul: I think he’s an interesting figure, and he’s the only one of the major candidates from either party who is honest in saying what it would take to do something about our national debt. On the other hand, I have some serious problems with the libertarian political philosophy. Basically, I’d most be in favor of some sort of fiscally responsible liberalism, but that’s as hard to find these days as fiscally responsible conservatism. Democrats these days want to spend, spend, spend, and Republicans want to reduce taxes for the wealthy while increasing military spending — but neither approach is responsible.

  4. Curious, Eric, what your reservations are about libertarianism? Is it the “virtue of selfishness” stuff?

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