The Move To Occupy
You can’t help hearing about the Occupy movements that have been springing up all around us; it’s being heavily reported on and taking place in heavily populated areas. My first impression of the movements were slightly positive, but I’d only been hearing small details and didn’t have much of an understanding of what was being done. Upon hearing more details, my thoughts on Occupy went from leaning towards positive to positively confused. I assumed there was something I was missing because it just didn’t make sense to me. This movement that was going to change the world didn’t seem like it was doing anything worthwhile.
A couple of nights ago, I watched True Life: I’m Occupying Wall Street with my husband. It followed two people who were occupying Zuccotti Park in New York, one was doing so part time after college classes and the other on a full time basis. Bryan, the full time occupier, showed his class early on by heckling Mayor Bloomberg, saying that someone with 14 billion shouldn’t be in the park. Kait, the part timer, feels that the occupy movement is the greatest thing she’s done in her life and enjoys being part of the group yelling at banks and holding up cardboard signs. Perhaps MTV was rushed to get this out, but I don’t feel that they made great choices in who to document.
One of the reasons given for the Occupy movement was that it will help those in debt because of student loans. Kait spoke briefly with an older gentleman and they were both outraged over the amount of debt they were in because of tuition payments. I’m a card-carrying member of the In Debt Because Of School group, so I initially had a bit of sympathy for the pair until I realized that they were blaming everyone around them for the debt and using this movement to try to fix it. College is expensive and some schools seem to charge more than I think is justified, but it’s not their fault that people are willing to pay the price to get a degree from them. I fail to see how squatting in the streets and whining about Bank Of America is going to fix a poor financial situation. I loathe B of A, but their survival is more important than a group of angry and broke college students. It makes more sense to give bail outs to banks, who will be able to responsibly manage the money than it does to give bail outs to the Occupiers or any of us regular folk who will probably just spend the cash on trivial things, wasting whatever benefit we could have gained. Yes, there is irresponsible behavior and yes, some of the people in charge go ahead and give themselves bonuses and other things they shouldn’t, but overall the corporations are better equipped to handle and distribute a monetary bail out than the average citizen.
Not highlighted on True Life but definitely something that should be noticed is the amount of violence that is infused in these movements. In Oakland, occupiers were starting fires and breaking windows, blocking streets and raising fences to stop traffic and block exits, throwing concrete, metal pipes, roman candles, and even Molotov cocktails. A New York man was arrested for sexually assaulting fellow protestors. Innocent people are being hospitalized and having their property damaged and lives disturbed by Occupiers who are using this movement as an excuse to act like spoiled children. What exactly are these protestors trying to change with this behavior? What does destroying a store front of an honest business accomplish? What will change for the better by raping and beating up whoever is unfortunate enough to be within reach? What message are we supposed to gain from that?
The Occupy movements seem to be defined mostly by a lack of movement. True Life showed Zuccotti Park’s temporary residents; some would walk the streets during the day and chant and wave signs but others didn’t seem to leave the park at all. When the park owners scheduled a day for a clean-up, Bryan attempted to rally the protestors and clean the park themselves so they wouldn’t be evicted. One would think that people would be happy to get up and do their part so they can remain in the park, but Bryan was largely on his own with the effort to clean as most protestors were content to sit on their sleeping bags and let others do the work for them. They did end up succeeding in delaying the cleaning so they could remain in the park, but it was barely done in time.
The problem with Occupying Wall Street or any other place is that all you’re doing is occupying the space. You’re not making a strong statement, you’re not ushering in major changes, you’re just standing around chanting silly things, camping out in public spaces, and becoming a nuisance to everyone who actually has a job to go to. I love that we have the benefit of being able to protest and often times there are great accomplishments that come out of protests. Sadly, I don’t think Occupy will be one of them. In general, it seems that the majority of protestors are out in the streets because going that route is simpler than actually taking steps to improve their lives on their own. It takes less effort for me to beg my mother-in-law for some cash than it does for me to work some overtime or get a second job. People always want the easy way out and strangely will inconvenience themselves greatly in pursuit of the easy way. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up eating my words when this protest ends up bringing about major change, but I’m fairly confident that once the sleeping bag brigade tires of their horrible living arrangements and once people tire of maneuvering around loud obnoxious temporarily homeless people, this Occupy movement will have accomplished nothing more than adding filth and violence to the streets.