On the heels of Michael Bloomberg’s mid-September prediction regarding potential riots in the streets, there have been numerous attempts to compare the Occupy Wall Street movement to oppressed dissidents in Cairo and much of the Middle East. The situations that protestors in New York and around the country face are far from the tyrannical violence witnessed during the Arab Spring. However, there are many comparisons such as: the use of social media to organize and communicate, the demographics of the average protestor, and the misuse of police force. To many people, the temptation to tune out the protestors increases the more their message becomes distorted
A majority of the 99 percent is comprised of disenfranchised young adults that came straight from college classrooms and have been dumped into a much different America than their parents faced. When juxtaposed, today’s America is filled with an unemployed, over educated, service-based workforce, a battered middle class surviving on stagnant wages, a majority of recent college graduates with no way to pay outstanding student loan debt, and a population with a growing apathy towards politicians and the ruling elite. Many protestors have little work experience and haven’t exactly witnessed capitalism and our political system during its finest hour. But this doesn’t disqualify them from participating in our inclusive democratic process and exercise their right to assemble peacefully.
In July, the Canadian anti-consumerist website Adbusters called for a peaceful march on Wall Street to demonstrate against the banks that have been labeled Too Big To Fail. The frustration was originally directed towards many of these institutions for numerous reasons – mostly, they have been propped up by taxpayer monies in an opaque fashion, they have denied much needed gap loans to small businesses, they have profited by the sale of complex securities to investors around the world (which would later plummet in value), they have successfully lobbied to deregulated their own industry over the last fifteen years, and many banks have foreclosed homes on millions of Americans. And let’s not forget, thousands of recently laid off low-income employees with hopes of restoring value to bank stocks while executive pay has skyrocketed.
Many of the protestors fail to see the bigger picture regarding a rigged system involving Wall Street and its long-standing bedfellow Pennsylvania Avenue. President Obama, the recently self-proclaimed “Underdog”, was, and continues to be, the largest recipient of political contributions made by Wall Street banks. It is expected that President Obama will fuel his re-election campaign with over a billion dollars. Much of it will come from the institutions which he proudly demagogues – the same institutions found at ground zero of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Oddly enough, many protestors support the idea of an Obama second term.
The original protestors face the same looming paradox the Tea Party once faced. A perceived leader could distance supporters. Without an actual spokesperson, they run the risk of being overtaken by all sorts of special interest groups (specifically those that represent a polarized ideology of the Tea Party). The latest hi-jack attempt comes from the New York State Teachers Union which has begun to bus many of its members down to the protest site to march in solidarity. The AFL-CIO Executive board has recently offered unanimous support for the movement.
Celebrity endorsements by Michael Moore and Roseanne Barr as well as progressive academia such as Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, and Naomi Klein have openly endorsed the Occupy Wall Street movement. Much like the introduction of unions, the commandeering of, dare I say, Hollywood Elites, as well as every anti-capitalist ideologue east of the Mississippi could alienate many protestors and supporters. Many mainstream media outlets have even sparked the conversation of the Occupy Wall Street movement evolving into a political party.
Meanwhile, the GOP primary debates are catering to a specific ultra conservative base of the Republican Party. It is even possible the future nominee may not appeal to the Independent voters and the country could be stuck with the same misguided economic solutions from the current administration - all novelty and no substance. It is quite possible that we will witness the same dud with the Occupy Wall Street movement – a further entrenchment of ideals lost within the background noise of thirty second video clips on the evening news and no one willing to seriously address this countries long-term problems. Issues like: the growing income disparity between the countries lowest wage earners and the wealthy, corporate personhood rights and political campaign contributions, perpetually high unemployment, the lack of an effective healthcare system which covers a majority of Americans, our overly aggressive foreign policy, and a rogue Central Bank that purposely devalues our currency all need serious attention. But right now the protestors need to keep the focus on Wall Street; which coincidently was the original catalyst for the Tea Party as well as the Occupy Wall Street protests.
If Occupy Wall Street wants to be taken serious and appeal to the average frustrated American, many of which share the same distain for corporate greed and crony capitalism, they need to effectively communicate their mission and ditch the bozos with their own agenda. The movement should remain fluid and avoid the entrenchment of ideals. Real revolutions do not require celebrity endorsements or even a leader. They do not require violence. They do require passion and enthusiasm. The protestors need to harness their energy into an affective message that keeps elected officials on their toes. A short-attention-span-political-stage coming into an election year is on their side. President Obama has not openly supported the movement, but he has stated the protests are a “reflection of broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.”
From the point of view of the silent majority, there appears to be much more common ground between the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements. Two passionate armies that appear too stubborn to realize the power they collectively could harness – the utopian idea of a limited centralized government that spends within its means and doesn’t get into bed with corporations is still possible. However, it will be impossible to address these serious problems with just paint on a sign. An honest approach and open discussion is needed to win the hearts and minds of the American people and successfully fuse a homogeneous movement devoid of polarizing hyperbole.
The protestors have bridled the technology of social media to successfully organize and they have demonstrated their passion, but without streamlining their message, the movement looks more like the arduous task of herding cats. Once a clear and meaningful objective is in place, the America people will look past the gimmicky zombie costumes and begin to take them seriously.
A Johnston resident, Nathan Wilcox worked within the financial industry for more than ten years and has a Master’s degree in Business.