Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Lots of news media coverage on the Occupy Wall Street protests. One has to wonder whether it can be a sustained effort, or if it is just a fad or the next new thing that lasts for a few months and then is forgotten. One also has to wonder whether it can shift from protest to influencing public policy.

In watching a lot of the coverage, it tends to go towards the idea that these people aren't "normal Americans" - that they are a bunch of socialists, or disorganized hippies, or even Nazis (I have actually heard that, and you don't really have to work too hard to guess which network that was on.......).

There is also a recurring theme that they are engaged in "Class Warfare", and that they want to take all the money from the rich and give it to the poor. As a Presidential Candidate recently said, if you are not rich, or working, it is YOUR fault, not the fault of Wall Street. Pretty interesting comments given the FACT that there are many more job applicants than there are available jobs.

Lastly, the idea that none of these protesters can really articulate what this is about, or that they don't really know what they are protesting for. It is true that there are those for whom this is the case. The media seems to be able to focus in laser-like on these people.

I think all of these ideas miss the point of the undercurrent of what these protests might really be about.

An idea that I got from William Greider several years ago in his book The Soul of Capitalism posits that we have ceded a lot of our "Self-Reliance" to big nameless, faceless organizations. This includes organizations that handle food distribution, fuel distribution, monetary distribution, logistics, infrastructure and a host of other things that it takes to survive in modern society.

When these systems are performing optimally, it is all transparent and not noticeable. When they are not performing optimally, or someone degrades the performance of the systems through greed or incompetence, that is when people try to start to think about looking in detail at the systems.

I believe these protests are about Rage. Impotence. Powerlessness. Insecurity. Fear. We've had to just take all of the things that have happened over the past 3 years.

No explanations, no apologies, no compensation. The people who did this to us are still working in the same places, making the same huge amounts of money, and now getting bonuses again, and for the most part they've never faced any kind of prosecution for what they've done.

Billions of dollars of wealth simply disappeared in a short period of time. Jobs and financial security disappeared, sometimes literally overnight. Homes were lost. Pensions were lost. While there has been minimal, incremental improvement, and statistically, at least for now the recession is over, a lot of those things have not improved in any large measure.

I believe these protests are about the inability to do anything when faced with a large, impersonal system, aided by it's protectors in Washington, that is not functioning optimally.

If you are one person sitting in your living room feeling the anger it is one thing. If you are one of thousands, that is quite another matter.

What fascinates me is a lot of reaction to the protests. A lot of people who are down on the protests and the protesters are people who've faced the same losses. They've faced same financial insecurity. The same impotence. The same fear. And, yet, they choose to face it stoically and without protest.


Why aren't we ALL not more angry about this?