Occupy Wall Street began in September of 2011 in the financial district of New York City. The intent of the protest was to expose the corrupt agenda of the “One-Percenters” – the richest 1% of people in the nation. In essence, the movement was originally designed to “…expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.”1 At the inception of Occupy Wall Street, the protesters demanded a separation of money from politics. Since September protests have occurred in many cities across the United States, and as the movement has grown so have the agendas of the protesters.
From what I’ve been able to determine, many protesters believe that the wealthy are dictating laws, elections, foreign and domestic economic policy, and world trade policy. Essentially, they believe that “those with the money make the rules.” Occupiers claim to support the “99-Percenters” who believe that the distribution of wealth is adversely affecting the economy. Some feel those people possessing high interest mortgages and properties that are “underwater” should be compensated or accommodated because it was the condition of the economy that caused their financial problems. Others think that the rich should bear a greater share of the tax load, as well as possess a social responsibility toward those less fortunate. Some believe that the world should go to a single currency and global tax rate, and that the United States should become an egalitarian society. Most also believe that those who attained or enhanced their wealth during this downturn – aided by the recent economic bail-outs and other bills and practices that were initially supposed to help, but in the end adversely affected the economy – should be held legally responsible for the way things are today.
Like most people, the only exposure I’ve really had to Occupy Wall Street is through the news and the internet. I haven’t joined a protest, and I don’t know anyone who has joined a protest. All I know is that people are angry about the condition of the economy, and they’re trying to get someone’s attention. Personally, I am confused about what the protesters are trying to accomplish. According to the debates and discussions being aired and printed, it sounds like the protesters are confused themselves. Occupy Wall Street has come under ridicule and scrutiny for not having a clear, established, aligned agenda, nor a list of demands that they insist be met. They just appear to want to gather in front of public buildings and be noticed. The movement grew quickly, and with unfocused demands and nebulous goals, Occupy Wall Street became a vehicle of convenience for any agenda supported by the inhabitants of that community.
In general, people used to be sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street cause, and agreed with their methods and their intent. After all, we all agree that conditions as they stand now need to be changed for the positive. Now, sympathy has been reduced to the mocking banter of late night talk show hosts. The common impression is that OWS’ers are a bunch of people in their twenties who are lazy, entitled, and still living with their parents. They don’t want to earn the money to support the lifestyle they desire; instead, they want to be taken care of by the people who have a greater amount of wealth. They protest that they are inheriting an economy that actively prevents them from enjoying their own success, and the level of success enjoyed by their forebears. They feel that in past decades it was much easier to attain the level of living that they want to enjoy, and that they have to put in twice as much work to attain half as much financial security. To the people who are currently working two and three jobs, going to school, paying their bills, and not asking for subsistence, that just smacks of whining by the immature.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters completely lost my sympathy when they started getting violent. There have been deaths related to drug use, street fights, sexual assaults, damage to private and public property, robbery, and violence between protesters and law enforcement.2 Tent cities have been erected to support the protesters, which include catered meals, blankets and cots, and even live entertainment – in my opinion, the whole thing has just turned into a big block party. The protesters living in these “villages” enjoy food and shelter for free, while claiming that congregating together provides them with the support and solidarity they need to have “some good discussions.”3 But they contradict their own purported morals by scrutinizing and questioning attendees to make sure the homeless of the area aren’t taking advantage of the amenities the tent cities are providing.
The protesters shut down the United States’ fifth-largest shipping port4, and disrupted other businesses, which adversely affect hard-working citizens who are employed there, for whom they are supposed to be protesting. They negatively impact the fragile economy of the cities and states they are supposed to be fighting for. There has been word of protesters being paid to protest, and the movement is now making money by selling t-shirts and other merchandise. That, to me, just seems like they are taking advantage of the opportunity to make a quick buck while the bandwagon still rolls.
My question is this: would the combined efforts of so many people be better channeled elsewhere? I completely support our right to Freedom of Speech, and our right to gather in protest. But if the protesters put as much effort into bettering their own circumstances as they have in just complaining about them, would they be in a better place now than they were three months ago when this all started? I wonder how effective staging a protest is in this day and age. It seems to me that the people on Wall Street and The Hill will continue to make the decisions they’re going to make, regardless of the number of people shouting and picketing outside their door. If they could demonstrate any level of real progress that has been achieved in the past three months, I might see the merit in this activity. However, the definition of insanity is to do something over and over again while expecting different results. If things aren’t getting better, it’s time to try something else. They’ve gotten as much press time as they’re going to get by now. By continuing on, they’re making it seem like they just don’t know how to deliver a firm message. One thing is for sure, if the protesters of Occupy Wall Street keep committing acts of violence, and continue to contradict their own message by negatively impacting the lives of the “99 Percenters” who don’t choose to protest, they’ll very effectively derail their own movement.
 n.d. About Occupy Wall Street (online), 11/7/2011. Occupy Wall Street Website. http://occupywallst.org/about/
 November 12, 2011. Officials crack down on Occupy Wall Street camps around the country (online), 11/12/11. The Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/1112/Officials-crack-down-on-Occupy-Wall-Street-camps-around-the-country
 November 10, 2011. 40 Portraits From Occupy Wall Street: Tent City (online), 11/12/11. The New York Observer. http://www.observer.com/2011/11/portraits-from-occupy-wall-street-tent-city-slideshow/
 November 3, 2011. Occupy Oakland Protesters Shut Down City’s Port (online), 11/12/11. ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2011/11/occupy-oakland-protesters-shut-down-citys-port/
I’d really like to hear the opinions of my readers, those of you who live in the US and those of you who live in other countries. What do you think of the Occupy movement? Are you fired up? Do you completely disagree with me? Do you absolutely agree with me? Do you give a flying phooey?