Thursday, November 17, 2011

Will November 17 Be The Death Knell For Occupy Wall Street?

If you follow me on Twitter at all, you know I’m kind of obsessed with the Occupy movement. Not because I agree with it, but because I don’t get it. (I get fascinated with things I don’t understand. It’s also why I like to read books about serial killers.) I’ve tried to keep an open mind – I promise you, I have – but with all that has gone on over the past few weeks, I can’t do it anymore. They lost me when they carried a Palestinian flag into Rahm Emmanuel’s office. They lost me when they shut down the Port of Oakland and wouldn’t let people simply trying to do their jobs in and out. They lost me when I saw pictures of the trashed park in Portland. They lost me with their signs supporting Communism and Anarchism. They lost me when they started vandalizing businesses and disrupting small businesses.  And, of course, they lost me even more given today's turn of events.

I can’t relate at all to the type of people who vagabond around, march down the center of the street chanting with a sign, sit down in the middle of the street blocking traffic, and scream and yell at other people with no apparent purpose. This is doubly so when the things they are screaming and yelling are not legally or economically correct. Protests against a war I can understand because people are dying and the end goal is clear. Stop the war. But protesting without any real demands or any end goal is bizarre. I still don’t understand what the Occupy group hopes to accomplish.

I’m much too logical minded. Drop everything and go live in a park for two months? Why? I could never do something like that because my thoughts would be overwhelmed with questions like “Where will I sleep? What will I eat? Will I be cold? What if I get arrested and ruin my chance to get a job somewhere ten years from now? How will I pay my rent? What about my job? Will I be safe? Where will I pee? Where will I shower? What if someone steals my stuff?” You see, I can’t let all of the realities of life drop away to go off and have fun protesting for some unspecified amount of time for some vague reason. I’m just not the type.

It’s not that I object to people who are that type to do such a thing. Good for them. Different people make the world go around, and maybe we need the dedicated protestor types among us to make change happen. My problem is that if you are going to do it, at least be able to articulate why you are doing it and what you hope to accomplish by doing it. I’m not sure why it is, but nearly everyone I’ve seen interviewed by the media who are involved with Occupy can’t even explain why they are there or what they want. It’s all just a big party. (I like a party as much as anyone else, but have a party at your own house.) It appears that the Occupiers simply want to be able to set up a commune wherever they’d like, to the detriment of the rest of the public. Setting up a mini society in the middle of a park that others would like to use in NYC, Portland, SLC, Denver, and the rest of the cities dealing with this problem is a bit….hypocritical, no?

Hear me out. The overriding problem, according to the Occupiers is the still undefined 1%. Top 1% of income or wealth? Who knows, who cares? They are all evil, just like every single person who happens to work in the Wall Street general area is evil, including the secretaries, the guy who runs the coffee cart, and the guy running the newsstand. The Occupiers argue that they have been treated unfairly by the 1%, even though they refuse to identify any of these people or to explain how or why they have been treated unfairly, how or why these people broke the law, and why they themselves are not at least partially responsible. (Did someone hold a gun to their head, forcing them to sign student loan papers? I doubt it.) The Occupiers argue that the 1% has trampled on their rights, yet they claim they have the unfettered First Amendment right to pitch a tent or march wherever they want, thus trampling on the rest of the (99%) public’s rights. Oh, and they should be able to camp there forever. And ever. Or until they decide to leave. Hell, just leave it open ended. (Yes, camping out in front of TJ Maxx for a night or a few hours waiting for the grand opening is very different.) The Occupiers argue that the 1% don’t play by the rules, yet they refuse to get the proper permits for their marches, refuse to purchase something at a restaurant where they want to use the bathroom there, and think it is their right to block the streets.

So…what about the rest of the 99% who don’t want them pitching tents and marching and disrupting traffic and disrupting subways and disrupting small business and disrupting Wall Street and the ports and ruining beautiful parks and urinating and defecating on the street? (Oh, and Occupy Chicago? Your graffiti all over west Lincoln Park has not gone unnoticed.) Saying you represent the 99% doesn’t make it so. In fact, according to some recent polling, the popularity of this movement has substantially decreased. Announcing that you (and by “you” I mean the 100-1,000 people who turned out to march) “own” the streets is a little presumptive. I would argue that the streets are more likely “owned” by the other millions of (99%) people in your city who aren’t out marching and are simply trying to get from Point A to Point B. All you really succeed in doing is pissing those people off.

The point of this so-called movement has been completely lost, obliterated by the fight to redefine 200 years of interpretation of the First Amendment. (Although to be fair, most don’t seem to realize that the Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment at length, and that it goes far beyond the words on the paper.) And for what? So they can build a commune? Live in the middle of NYC without paying property taxes? Why not find a 1%er who is sympathetic to your cause who will donate some land and allow you to live there? Better yet, buy your own land or apartment with the hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to your “cause.” Why does it have to be in a park or location in the middle of the city that other people want to use? In Chicago, they are trying to demand that the city provide them with a place to protest. There are plenty of places to protest, provided you don’t want to spend the night.

What is so goddamn important about being able to spend the night? I don’t understand. What does spending the night have to do with this movement? I get that it’s called “Occupy” but why? In my opinion, the “Occupy” is the fun part, while actually getting things done (which is what they would be forced to do if they can’t stay overnight and continue the charade) is the hard part, and no one seems to have any idea how to proceed with the hard part. The Tea Party took a lot of ribbing in the media, but they sure got things done by electing representatives into Congress. I’m wondering why Occupy isn’t trying to do the same. After all, if they represent what the 99% want, it shouldn’t be hard to get all their people voted in. (Unfortunately for them, it is becoming very clear that they don’t represent much of the 99% who they claim to represent.)

The level of entitlement is also really astounding. When complaints arise about the number and cost of police to enforce the law, they claim they are “nonviolent” and the police don’t need to be there. Welcome to the real world. If hundreds or thousands of people are gathering, you need police around to make sure things don’t get out of hand. And these protests have been anything but “nonviolent.” I don’t care if it is a few bad seeds. Don’t blame the cops if you get banged up a little bit when you don’t listen to what they are telling you to do. (Maybe I was raised differently, but when a cop tells me to do something, I do it.) Forcing your way through barricades, sitting down in the street and refusing to move, throwing things at and taunting the police are anything but “nonviolent.” And let’s not even talk about the crime happening in these Occupy camps. You want to complain about taxes? Just wait until the bill comes due for cities handling the Occupiers. I’m sure we’ll all be thanking you in the coming months. (If “this is what democracy looks like,” then no thanks.) How is anything they are doing really helping the 99%? Sure they got some media attention, but as far as I can tell, that’s about it. They are deluded enough to think that “the whole world is watching,” yet a lot of people in this country don’t even know they exist, and I suspect a lot of people around the world aren’t too concerned that some people in the United States are sad because they have to pay back student loans or took out a home loan they couldn’t afford or can't find a job paying $100,000 a year.

Which leads me to the big, fat elephant in the room, which is….people in the United States don’t have it so bad. Do any of the kids out there protesting how awful things are here realize that? Do they know anything about what it is like to live in other countries? Is their world view that small? Do they know how lucky they were not to be born in a hut in Africa? We have plenty of social nets and government services for people who have fallen upon hard times or lost their job. You never hear about anyone starving to death in the United States. Most utility companies have heating and cooling assistance for those who can’t afford it. We have shelters for the homeless, and plenty of welfare and foodstamps. We have wonderful laws on free speech, and the government does give a lot of leeway. You can blog about, Tweet about, or talk about whatever you want. The Occupiers like to yell about a “police state” or trampling on their “freedom of speech?” Move to North Korea – then you’ll find out about a “police state.” They won’t even let you leave the country. You’ll also be enlightened what true lack of freedom of speech is when you realize you only have three television channels to choose from, most spewing North Korean government propaganda.  Or hey, move to a village in Africa where many people have HIV and no medical care, and on top of that, no food to eat. People die of starvation on a daily basis.  Or move to China where you can get arrested for blogging the wrong thing. Or go to certain countries in the Middle East, wherer women can't even go in public without a male escort. 

It’s hard to take any of these protestors seriously, with their Eddie Bauer backpacks, iPhones, iPads, Macs, Internet livestream, Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts, Abercrombie & Fitch hats, fancy camping tents and sleeping bags, lawyers, $500k+ in donations, and gourmet vegan food from the community kitchen. (I doubt many starving people in Africa are vegan.)  You want to complain about an 84 year old woman getting pepper sprayed or a person in a wheelchair getting arrested? Thank the ADA, and age discrimination laws for that. Shouldn’t they be treated equally if they are breaking the law? Why the outrage? Isn’t that what equality is all about? 

At any rate, we’ll see what happens now with this movement. In my opinion today’s events will be the death knell. I can’t see how average people in this country will continue to support this nonsense. And if I never have to hear “Whose street? Our street!”, “This is what democracy looks like” or “The whole world is watching” again, I will be a very happy person.

2 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. I have a few friends who are hyper-involved in the OccupyMN movement and while I understand the general issue of the disparity in income between CEOs & their employees (I experience that first-hand and it's maddening), I certainly don't see what sitting around in Government Plaza is going to solve. It must be nice to be able to afford to go hang out for weeks on end, because I sure as hell cannot do that. And I also agree on your point that no one seems to be able to articulate the real purpose of the Occupy movement. They want a revolution, but they are not able to tell precisely what they want to change.

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  2. I get the income disparity argument, but at the same time, most CEOs have worked their asses off to get there and are likely working 12-15 hour days, if not more. They have to make huge decisions, which is a ton of stress. If you make the wrong decision as CEO, your company could lose millions. I think many deserve their pay. That is unbelievable stress.

    I agree with Occupy on the corporate influence on government. That is how the Patent Act just got all messed up, in my opinion. And I think it absurd that you need a billion dollars to run for President. But, they just can't seem to find a focus. It's all about occupying now. And I agree, how are you able to sit in a park for two months? It's so strange. But yet fascinating

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