For the past couple of weeks, I have been watching and reading
and salivating at the thought of an Occupy protest springing up where I am numerous news developments about the Occupy Wall Street Movement that’s emerging. As a recent unemployed college grad myself, I’m not only sympathetic to the causes they are protesting for and about – I consider myself one of the 99%ers who has seen how what Cornel West calls the oligarchs and plutocrats (read: the fat cats on Wall Street and at major corporations) have bought our representatives on Capitol Hill (both Democrat and Republican). Although many in the mainstream media would like for people to believe that the Occupiers are just young, jobless, whiny hippies forming a mob to disrupt the flow of Wall Street and other important hubs in other cities, I don’t believe that to be the case. It’s about the economic and human injustices that have occurred because of the love of the all mighty dollar. I’ve also been reading the hundreds of individual stories on the Occupy Wall Street Tumblr, and it breaks my heart to hear about the plight of others who have seemingly become nameless and faceless (some victims of uncontrollable circumstances) that have been silenced for far too long. Economic in-equality is real, ya’ll. Since I can’t join the Occupiers in taking it to the streets just yet, I’ve been very vocal using social media and radio and now calling the reps in NYC to stop the interruption of the movement to stand by my fellow 99%ers. Although I’m sure I can name a kajillion reasons why this movement is important, I’ll try to narrow it down to 5:
1). It finally allows people to get real and be unashamed about their economic situations. Like I said, reading these stories on the Tumblr has not only saddened me, it’s made me realize even more than before that people from EVERY race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, educational background, and nearly every income bracket has seen their quality of life diminish while the cost of mere SURVIVAL has increased. Ten years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find someone from the “middle class” posting something on the internet with their picture attached divulging to the world their “dirty fiscal laundry” about how they struggle to pay the bills each month, how they owe more on their houses than they’re worth, and how they haven’t been able to afford to see a doctor in months or even years. The middle class, ya’ll! Not to mention the working class who has been struggling with these issues for over 30 years (Thanks, Reagan!). Now, critics of the movement argue that this is just a way for people to whine and complain about their “First World Problems,” (A la Herman Cain) but I respectfully disagree. I don’t think you’re whining or belly-aching when you share that you either have to choose between food or paying a long overdue bill. And, it’s not just a few people. It’s too many that have similar stories of struggle who have been suffering in silence and keeping it to themselves in an effort to keep up the facade that they are living the “American Dream.” Read any self-help book and go to any type of professional, and they will tell you that the first step toward bettering yourself is admitting that there’s a problem. Turns out that all of America has a HUGE problem and it’s high time to address it.
2). It’s changing the face of poverty
and economic injustice as we have known it. The more attention this movement gains, the more people are starting to realize that poverty in America is not only real, it’s very pervasive. For so long, many people believed that poverty in America was akin to poverty in places like Haiti, certain parts of Africa, South America, and some parts of urban America. While I’m not into comparing struggles (a la Zora Neale Hurston), I think that many Americans have gotten the wrong idea about what poverty is. Newsflash: if you can’t afford to sustain your needs (not your greed) like food, shelter, and miscellaneous personal expenses, you’re poor. Poverty is so hard to define partly because people dip in an out of it all the time. But using credit cards to buy groceries because you simply don’t have cash on hand? Yeaaa, you’re poor. One missed paycheck away from utter financial ruin? Poverty! Many people have been deceived into thinking that just because one doesn’t “look” poor, they are not poor. No, a person’s clothes may not be tattered and they may not “look” homeless, but they can, in fact, be struggling with poverty. How does poverty “look,” anyway?? (that’s another post). I can tell you: mosey on over to the Occupy Wall Street Tumblr. That’s what poverty is beginning to look like.
3). It makes us realize that what affects one, affects us all. For too long, many of us have operated like what we do and what we have (or don’t) as individuals does not impact the rest of humanity. I’m guilty of it. We’re all guilty of it. But, we’re wrong. This emerging movement is making me realize that just because I can sustain my most basic human needs (for now), doesn’t mean that I won’t ever be in a situation where I can not. And, although I can, millions of people can’t and haven’t been able to for a very long time. This may sound cheesy to some, but we’re all connected as a human race. Why do you think crime rates have gotten so out of control in places like Detroit and Flint, MI? People aren’t able to sustain themselves and are desperate for a way out. When people don’t have enough resources to support themselves consistently, we see murder rates increase, robbery rates increase, and drug activity increase IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS. Studies show that poverty is related to crime. Not only that, when people don’t have the means to take care of themselves, we all pay the price. Ailing workers not able to do or complete their jobs. Family members who constantly borrow to make ends meet (well, that’s been happening since the beginning of time – at least in my family). More pressure on the system that we all must contribute to with our tax dollars because so many people are going without (ie: Medicare/Medicaid; Food Stamps, etc). You simply can’t afford to write this off as another person’s problem if you’re somehow “making it.”
4). It’s bringing (even) more attention to how jacked up our economic legislation is. I won’t get into the gritty details about how the top 1% now own 40% of the nations’ wealth and how the middle class is shrinking exponentially, but the Occupy Wall Street movement is bringing to light what some people have been saying for a very long time: legislation is being bought and sold at the price of 99% of America’s humanity. There’s no way in the world that 2 out of ever 3 U.S. corporations should get away with paying NO taxes, while everyone else in the middle class and the working class has to pay or Uncle Sam comes a-calling. Some may argue that those who have gotten rich and have become successful have done it single-handedly without any help. WRONG. As Elizabeth Warren so eloquently states:
I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is…” whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for.
Essentially, all the roads, bridges, and tunnels used and even the education that these corporate CEOs and exec have obtained to get rich have been all subsidized by the American people. Not exactly the “boot strap theory” some like to believe. But still, we’re seeing our representatives get bought left and right by corporate lobbyists to, in effect, sabotage most of us from getting “there” – to that big corner office in the sky, or from simply being able to live comfortably. So why shouldn’t corporations and those who make big money from them have to pay their fair share in taxes? Taxation legislation needs to change, and the faces of the Occupiers have showed us why more clearly and more aggressively than ever before.
5). It’s could very well be the Civil Rights movement of our era. I truly believe this. Why? Partly because there are far too many people fed up with how things are going in this country. It’s not a partisan thing – it’s a human rights issue. Also, because the gap is between the rich and the poor one that is widening seemingly at the speed of light. Income disparities haven’t been this drastic since the 1920s. If the Occupy movement can organize to impact change at the polls, and subsequently with legislation, we could see the tide change
before we all die. And, as comedian and cultural critic Dick Gregory suggests, although this movement resembles the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, it’s unique in that it contains people of relative privilege: educated and white – relatively privileged identities which could probably help the movement gain a foot-hold faster (if done right) than the movement in ’50s, 60s, and 70s, mostly made up of African Americans who were uneducated, and underprivileged, but still able to bring about drastic change.