An expert (my stoner friend) was explaining to me his theory about the pendulum swing. He explains the last time we’ve had these kinds of demonstrations and people expressing the unfairness was back in the 60’s. And back then, the protests became so big and effective enough, there was change and progress. But it was only a quick fix to alleviate the chaos and over time things swung back to be more conservative and then finally more authoritarian. So are these demonstrations starting with Occupy Wall Street powerful enough to be effective? I haven’t heard Obama or anyone from the government acknowledge any of these movements. Do people like you and me even feel like its worth taking part of any demonstrations especially since the law enforcement are more likely to take shooting practice with their rubber bullets and pepper spray? Or should we be out there, arms locked, and fighting against social and economic inequality?
It’s all about solidarity, a unified front – even if it may be cities or even countries apart.
PHILIP: You can say what you want about the Occupy-ers—that they don’t have a clear-cut agenda or that nothing solid’s going to come from the protests or whatever—but the fact is they are continuing to shine a light on an issue that’s relevant to almost everyone in America today. They’re keeping the dialogue going. I think there’s potential for a lot more to come out of this movement, but if that’s all this accomplishes, that’s valuable in itself.
And I don’t agree that the protests of the 60s were eventually just a “quick fix.” A lot was accomplished that still resonates today. The fact that I can go to school where I want, eat where I want, not have to worry about being draft to fight in a war I may not believe in—those are some very real changes that came about because people were willing to step up, take action and make sacrifices.
DHH: I think I’m probably the only Offender old enough to have actually been around in the 60’s, and I agree with Philip that the changes triggered then had a real and lasting impact. When I was a kid, my parents were turned down from buying a house in Monterey Park, CA because they were Chinese (Monterey Park! Ironic, huh?). And one of the major reasons the Asian American population has grown so quickly over the past few decades is due to the 1960’s liberalization of Immigration Laws, which had previously favored Europeans and whites. Civil rights? A woman’s right to choose? Many other freedoms we take for granted today were made possible by the 60’s — not to mention, rock ‘n’ roll.
Your stoner friend is correct, however, that a good portion of these gains have been rolled back since the country turned more conservative in the 1980’s. And that’s where the pendulum swing comes in. In my opinion, America has now gone so far right that it’s time for a correction. Many of us hoped Obama’s election was going to be the answer, and maybe that will eventually prove to be the case, but right now, the backlash is fierce. I mean, the Republican Presidential debates are dominated by Free Market Fundamentalists who believe that an economy can only succeed with NO government interference (I guess that’s why China’s rigidly state-controlled economy is only growing at 9.5% this year, whereas we’re zipping along at 2.5%). And any candidate who shows the slightest sympathy to undocumented immigrants immediately finds himself under attack.
So I applaud the Occupy-ers as a necessary counterweight to help move the pendulum back to the middle. Statistics show that America’s Middle Class has been shrinking since the 1970’s. This ultimately poses a much greater threat to the security and stability of our nation’s economy than regulating financial industries or raising taxes on the rich.
(All that said, I guess “applaud” is the operative word for me cuz it’s not like I’m out there on the barricades, getting pepper-sprayed.)
ALFREDO: Even imperfect anger trumps indifference. (he said, sitting comfortably on the couch, fingers in the popcorn bowl)
PHILIP: BTW, I’ve been pepper-sprayed before and to say it sucks is an understatement.
ANDERSON: I think as a symbol of solidarity, you should do it. If anything, the Occupy Movement continually needs to be in the media’s eye, and having veterans in solidarity protesting against the 1% is a powerful image.
Yes, the Occupy movement doesn’t really have a central agenda and there are many strands and motives, and their messaging has been shoddy at times, but it clearly shows that people are angry. People want a paradigm shift. In my opinion, I really thought the movement was pure and great for a hot minute, but there’s so much crap that is going on, ranging from homeless shelters, theft, only the nut jobs being captured by mainstream media on camera. But, I think more and more people empathize with the Movement, more than the government or politicians think. It’s truly an interesting time and to see the Occupy Movement continue onward into an election year is going to be something definitely historic to witness.
I never really took into account the whole Zeitgeist: The Movie or Da Vinci Code conspiracies of ten families that control human history… It’s more like a few thousand families who actually run the world and it’s time to rethink how we as a country are to be competitive and innovative. We just have to see the forest from the trees and reinvent ourselves again. If that means abandoning the American dream of owning a home at any cost, and living within our means, then so be it. If it’s revising the tax code that is fair and the 1% pays their due, then that’s a start. Hey wait a second, isn’t this what the Occupy Movement is talking about all along?
IRIS: A lot of compelling points made here. But for Anson in particular, if you personally don’t feel strongly about any message, I think camping out for the sake of camping and hoping to get arrested could also work as a detriment to a movement. I remember seeing some sort of psychology experiment being conducted on the Berkeley campus, where some guy held up a sign that was completely blank and I suppose he was trying to see how many people would blindly follow him as he marched. He managed to get a string of people to follow after him and needless to say, they looked pretty ridiculous. On the other hand, if you do feel strongly about something enough to get arrested for, all power to you, and yes, I think it sends a message, as long as you’re shouting it at the cameras while you’re getting dragged away.
QUENTIN: I think the whole Occupy Wallstreet movement reflects the discontents of North American civilization. It almost uncannily resembles the sensibility of the Tienanmen Square pro democracy protest in 1989 China. The message is out and I hope the protests will come to a peaceful and fruitful close.
ROGER: America was built on HOPE. Hope and all of it’s blessings were buoyed and supported by America’s middle class. When you lose the middle class, you lose a nation’s hope, it’s shining spirit. In more recent times, capitalism and politics, both institutions that defined the pride and what was great about America, has evolved away from the caretakers of it’s own and into perverse, vampiric entities that now eat the children they once promised to nurture and protect. It’s not rocket science. Anyone who works for a living can tell you that access to affordable health care, the ability to afford a home in a safe and secure neighborhood, and the general ability to afford all the financial requirements of daily life is getting harder and harder and harder. And the reality is, it will only continue to get more challenging. And for the unfortunate many, it will become impossible (if it hasn’t so already). There are very few safety nets in today’s America. The middle class is crucial to America’s future and it’s reputation as a world power. The middle class gives foundation to all that has been and can be great about America. Unfortunately for America, today’s capitalism and politics are laying the middle class to pasture and salting it’s humble earth as opposed to nurturing and protecting and growing it. And as a result, HOPE in America is in alarming decline.
ELAINE: It’s encouraging to see the protests and I think it’s less about creating specific agendas and more about building a sense of solidarity. The spread and duration of these protests have also helped present the problem of class inequity as not a fringe issue but mainstream concern which I think is critical if we hope for politicians and the media especially to engage in a reality-based rather than partisan-fueled discourse about what needs to change re: economic priorities and policies in the US. The NYT which has generally played it quite safe finally produced an insightful piece deconstructing the wealth of the Lauder family and how they are an example of how the uber wealthy have managed to grow their wealth and avoid paying millions in taxes by using loopholes only available to them.
SUNG: Only time will tell if the OW movement changes anything. The fact none of us are out there says none of use have been affected enough to feel it personal or important enough to be out there.
BEVERLY: I’m a Doubting Thomas by nature, and as much as I support my friends and family who are part of the movement, I have a hard time getting behind something that doesn’t have a clear cut goal. If your OWS friends can’t tell you what specific changes they expect to make happen, then I would be wary of camping and getting arrested when the objective seems fuzzy.
JUSTIN: You should go and feel it out. Whether a visit or stay? You’ve served our country Anson so you of all people should never feel obligated. I’d love to hear your reaction (hopefully minus the pepper spray and rubber bullets).
EMMIE: If change/results are on your agenda, I think it’s best to identify the most efficient way to effect change (or to find the method that appeals to you the most), and to pursue that. I like that these protests are happening; it’s good to see people publicly expressing the dissatisfaction that too often evaporates after a quiet conversation with a friend.
There’s a quote from Gandhi that I think about from time to time:
Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.
That said, I think you should only do stuff that you believe in.