Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Occupying Thought

Everywhere I look online, I'm seeing the word "occupy" appear.

At first, it was just "Occupy Wall Street." We Are the 99 Percent's website features posts from people who are in the enormous bottom segment of income in the United States: people who aren't making enough to live on and are involuntarily in hopeless situations. And with almost every post came that phrase. I had no clue what it meant.

That was two days ago.

Yesterday, I saw it again, in links on Facebook. Occupy Wall Street is a social/political movement (somewhat connected to the group Adbusters) that some are comparing to the recent Middle Eastern revolts. The purpose is more or less to stand up, as the lower-class majority, and stand against a country run by the top one percent of money holders. According to the website, they have "an interest in returning the US back into the hands of it's individual citizens."

(Guys, I love the idea, but you need a copy editor. I volunteer - not even joking.)

The Wall Street movement is going national, leading to events even here in Madison, this Friday in Reynolds Park. They have a Facebook page going for this, and a YouTube video. (A warning: the YouTube video features the V for Vendetta mask, but some protesters have been arrested, perhaps because of wearing it. Just something to keep in mind if you go this weekend.)

I am in favor of this movement to redistribute wealth in an appropriate manner. I am in favor of making minimum wage a living wage, of kick-starting the economy, of changing the way every election is determined by the dollar. I am in favor of this movement not having one specific leader, with the idea that each individual is helping lead it.

But that's not terribly realistic, and it needs some better organization. The Adbusters site says they "demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington." In other words, a complete rehaul of campaign financing (as some call it, bribery). A great idea - but it will take more than that to get such wealth properly redistributed.

The big risk here is that the wealth will be slowly filtered down till it reaches a stopping point. The article Eat the Rich on Occupy Everything's website shows some excellent graphs on how wealth is distributed in the U.S., and it's actually the top five percent who have everything. If the money at the top just trickles down, we'll have a slightly larger upper class, and the poorest will remain dirt poor.

Some people may be against this movement solely because they want to be in that top five percent some day. News flash: if we don't reorganize things now, you'll end up at the bottom right next to us. Inequality in wealth is growing, and the middle class could even disappear entirely. Does it sound like socialism to you? Surprise, it takes many people to make a country work. We all rely on the economy not crashing down around us; it's to everyone's benefit to stabilize it a little.

Ideally, in my mind, the best method of redistribution would be in sending money directly to the bottom. Minimum wage should be increased and adhered to - including for wait staff and those on commission. Communities should set up organizations to help those worst off to find jobs and affordable housing again. For some, extra money in their communities would literally be a life-saver, and they're the ones who most need to see it. To use a metaphor, this heavy box we call the economy should be lifted properly, from the bottom, in order to move it anywhere.

Some of this money should go directly toward kick-starting the economy. Debt should be paid off, jobs should be created. There are so many better uses for this money right now than sitting in bank accounts or keeping the rich neck-deep in luxury. Those at the top could help get our economy back on track and help keep the poor from getting poorer - in short, they can recreate America, a noble calling indeed.

Again, this is ideal. It wouldn't work out this way in reality. But I don't see a problem in shooting for something a little higher, because if we fall short, we still achieve many of our goals. So instead of just asking the President for campaign finance reform, let's also ask him for a redistribution of wealth in the top echelons of society, for the purpose of increasing economic stability and easing the plight of the poorest among us. In other words, let's make wealth less about "me" and more about "us": We the People, not I the Person.

Isn't that what this movement's all about? Let's Occupy Everywhere, Together.


  1. Clearly, this is all just ideas. I have no idea how they might realistically be implemented. Please comment if you have methods to share!

  2. No matter what you raise the minimum wage to, it will never be enough. You give a person making $5 an hour a $5 raise, they will use that money on something not required to "live"

    Look at all the people who supposedly are poor, and how they buy designer clothes, have playstations and all the new smart phones.

    I understand there are situations that cannot be helped, but most people are where they are because of decisions they have made. I could be making twice what I make now, but doing something I wouldn't enjoy.

    I work hard to make my boss money, and the money does find it's way back to me in raises/bonuses. It's the people who think going to work is a chore and would rather watch the grass grow that are going to bring us down.


  3. I have to disagree with you on that, seeing as I'm kind of homeless right now. To me, $5 an hour is the difference between homelessness and an apartment. But you're welcome to your opinion.

  4. I like the ideals, but have you read their list of demands? It's a little.. ridiculous and far-fetched. If the movement is to be taken seriously, the demands must be reasonable.

  5. Agreed. Just that one sentence stating their purpose is all I've read, but even that's shooting a bit too high. Good that they're setting their sights high, but they need to come back to earth.

  6. I have to say that this is one of the few things written on the Occupy movement that I pretty much totally agree with! Well said.


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