Oct 132011
Crappin on the Flag

Crappin on the FlagIt’s been over three weeks now since the start of the Occupy Wall Street protest.  We can now see a little more clearly the facts surrounding who started the protest and why.  The first few days of the protest reminded me of the scene from the movie Network where crazed TV anchorman Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, rants at the television audience about the economy and suggests that people yell out their windows that they’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

A pointless gesture to be sure.  The Wall Street protests, however, have become anything but pointless.  The protests were started by American Unions to create a new class struggle in the US, the rich vs. the rest of us; the rich being incorrectly defined as 1%, the rest of us as 99%.  It is worth noting that only about 15% of Americans fall below the arbitrary federal poverty threshold and less than 10% of Americans are unemployed.  Not promising figures to be sure but still a far cry from the 99% claimed by the Occupy Wall Street organizers.

Another fallacy surrounding the protests is that they are grassroots driven and lack any coherent leadership or organization.  Brian Lilly of Sun News Network reported recently that members of the SEIU, the Service Employees International Union are partially responsible for creating the Occupy Wall Street movement and advertised the fact about two months prior to the first event.  Adbusters, an anti-consumerism group, were also instrumental in promoting OWS.  The impetus for Occupy Wall Street is no doubt in direct response to the widely successful and much more popular Tea Party rallies.

The fact that organized labour had a hand in the protests should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the list of demands coming from the protesters.  Free university tuition, tax the rich, end capitalism, have the government take over the banks, and a guaranteed annual income for all are but some of the demands, all of them coinciding with the demands of organized labour for the past several decades.

These dystopian demands of the protesters are only a superficial reason for the occupation.  The real goal, I believe, is to create a class struggle in the United States, a struggle that President Obama can get behind and champion.  He has already coopted one of the so-called one percent to be a spokesman for the new bourgeoisie, Warren Buffet.  Buffet’s false claims that he pays less tax than his secretary and his call for greater taxes on the wealthy have flamed the hatred of the new proletariat and have given fuel to their envy.

Remember that Buffet, the third richest man in the world, with a net worth of $50 billion only paid himself a salary of $100,000.  His tax bill was $48.1 million taxed at a rate of 19% because it was from dividends and capital gains.  His salary was taxed at the same rate as his employees so his claim that he pays taxes at a lower rate than his employees was a deliberate deception of the facts.   It is this now false belief that the rich pay less in taxes than the rest of us that has given the Occupiers ammunition to fight for greater taxation.  Obama has been quick to take advantage of this falsehood.

The protests have become an excellent case study in politics, the labour movement, left wing ideologies, and by comparison right wing ideology.  The internet has gathered videos, photos and speeches from both the Occupy Wall Street protests and the Tea Party rallies and many pundits have put the two movements side by side to come up with some fascinating dichotomies of beliefs and actions.

The Occupiers have been accurately depicted as young people who despise the rich and the system which allowed them to create more wealth than they have.  They leave behind garbage at their rally sites, they have been seen to be naked, having sex and taking drugs while protesting.  They have broken several laws including trespass laws which has resulted in hundreds of arrests.  They have been seen defecating on the American flag, burning the American flag and destroying the American flag.

The Tea Party on the other hand has been documented to be primarily middle aged folk who love their country, display their flags proudly and respectfully at their rallies, have correctly targeted government as the cause of their frustration, are well behaved, and peaceful and leave their rally sites spotless.

What is common to both sides, the Tea Partiers and the Occupiers, is anger at an America that is a shadow of its former self.  The United States is failing and the blame runs deep; from the creations of Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae, Freddy Mac, the Federal Reserve System, to crony capitalism, to the edict by all Presidents since Jimmy Carter that bank’s must lend to sub-prime mortgagees.  This is the macroscopic view of blame.

A microscopic view of the blame for what ails America can best be summed up in two letters by two very different college women who wrote letters about their predicaments and posted them online.

One letter reads:

 I’m a college senior with $40K of debt.  There are no jobs in my feild (sic).  My toughest decision now is whether to sell drugs or my body.  I am the 99%.


The other letter reads:

 “I am a college senior, about to graduate completely debt free.  I pay for all of my living expenses by working 30+ hours a week making barely above minimum wage.  I chose a moderately priced, in-0state public university.

I started saving money for school at age 17.  I got decent grades in high school and received 2 scholarships which cover 90% of my tuition.  I currently have a 3.8 GPA.

I live comfortably in a cheap apt., knowing I can’t have everything I want.  I don’t eat out every day, or even once a month.  I have no credit card, new car, iPad or smart phone – and I’m perfectly OK with that.  If I did have debt, I would NOT blame Wall St. or the government for my own bad decisions.

I live below my means to continue saving for the future.  I expect nothing to be handed to my, and will continue to work my ass off for everything I have.

That’s how it’s supposed to work.  I am NOT the 99%, and whether or not you are is YOUR decision.

The difference in the attitudes is striking and acts as a perfect demarcation between what is right with America and what is wrong.  It comes down to individual choices.  The first lady continues to borrow money she knows she can’t repay to remain in college studying for a career she knows she cannot attain.  Whether or not there no jobs in her field as she claims is highly doubtful and belies a deep seated self-doubt.  Her resignation to either sell drugs or her body reveals a self-loathing and destructive nature.

The second lady studies hard, works hard, is confident of her future, and most importantly blames nobody but herself for either her successes or failures.  This used to be the mind-set and attitude of the people of the once great United States.

If every American adopted the attitude of the second college senior there would have been no sub-prime mortgage failure as people who could not afford mortgages would not have taken on such a liability.   People must realize that their problems will not be solved by government, by Wall St., by the banks, by Corporate America or by anyone but themselves.  This is how it should be.

When we deviate from this view and expect others to provide for our education, our health, our welfare, we can only expect a collapse not only of the economy but of something more important….our self-esteem.

(Originally aired on Just Right #221, October 13, 2011.)

  One Response to “Occupy Wall Street – anatomy of a protest”

  1. I think the mistake you’re making is here is assuming that Occupiers are blaming the government for their debt. The issue isn’t that they took out huge loans. It wasn’t that long ago when a person could take out these loans and expect to be able to pay them back because companies were hiring and if you spent the time and effort to get a degree, chances were that you would get a job. Many entered school hoping that they would be able to find work and pay off their loans on a reasonable timeline. None one of could have predicted the financial collapse or the mass layoffs that resulted. What the occupiers want more than anything is a sense of equity and justice. Bankers lied and got rich while the public suffered. There needs to be accountability, and this comes in the form of regulation and transparency. Occupiers are not inherently lazy people. Most of them have studied and earned their degrees in a wide range of fields. That they suffer despite this is where the inequity lies. We live in a country that is famous for facilitating upward mobility. Are we willing to sacrifice this integral part of the American identity in the name of frugality and avoidance of debt? I should hope not. I hope that in the future, more people feel compassion for the protestors instead of making harsh generalizations.

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