Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy… To What End?

occupy berlinImage by tranZland via FlickrIt started with Wall Street and it has spread just about everywhere. I am talking about the Occupy movement, of course. Even in my relatively quiet town, I drive past a sign that says, “Occupy Poughkeepsie Until We Are Free.”

Yes, the sign used the word “free” and I flinched as I read it.

You see, I’m not going to try to convince you that there isn’t value in fighting for change, or even demonstrating for change. I’m not going to try to convince you that there isn’t growing inequity between the very rich and the very poor. And although the middle class has been hurt – badly – by the current economy, I strongly believe in free speech.

Yes I used the word “free.”

In the interest of exercising my own right to free speech, I challenge the occupiers with the sign asking for freedom to define exactly what they are asking for. We are certainly are free to protest, and to write whatever we want on our signs. We are free to wear what we please. We are free to choose what to study, what work to pursue, where to live, and how to spend our time. We are free to vote and yes, we elected the politicians we are so unhappy with.

While “freedom” is clear in protests for civil rights, I believe financial success is something to be earned rather than handed out. But if we want change, we need to be clear about exactly what we want. So tell me please, what are we fighting for?


Anonymous said...

Here's what we're fighting for:

Colette said...

Anonymous, thanks for sharing that link and weighing in. In reading the article I would summarize it to say that we are fighting for "economic justice." But I am still at a loss to understand. So I will ask the question differently -- what would you like to see happen? What do you suggest the lawmakers do?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Collete...I'm all for vaguely worded "economic justice" just like I was for "change" in the 2008 election. I've tired of the Occupy Wall street folks because demanding justice doesn't mean any justice will be done. Rosa Parks didn't talk about change...she took a seat on the bus. If corporations are doing immoral things, either that has to become illegal, or the incentive for them to continue has to be removed. Banging drums in a park isn't going to solve the problem.

Larry North said...

Colette, we happen to be neighbors. I have lived in Poughkeepsie all of my 63 years. I worked hard all my life, saved, and I have recently retired. I am a part of the 99%. If you count backwards from my age you find I was 19 in 1968. The Tet offensive that spring brought about my being drafted into the U S Army. There were thousands of protests by young Americans. We marched with vague signs that questioned the legitimacy of our government's actions. We knew the waste of our blood and their treasure was wrong regardless of how articulately we could voice it. The response to the protests from the greatest generation was equally vague. Two of my favorites, Love it or leave it, We will have peace with honor.
I was going to tell you about IBM, the employee country club and,how it is symbolic of the change in relationship between communities and local corporations. I then see you have written about the country club in the past. You ended the essay stating that corporate america is just not quite what it used to be.I know that your statement is correct. Could you though put it on a sign to carry and be specific enough for all to understand? I understand you worked hard and I am sure your husband did also. You and I have much in common.You and I agree that financial success is best earned and not handed out. The blind spot that you are currently in dose not see young people graduating college, many with post graduate degrees who are management at Target etc. whose only function is to be creative in finding ways to squeeze expense ,labor, to earn a penny more for the stock holders. That is assuming they have a job and not attending the job fairs with to few jobs for to many people and going home to sleep in the old bedroom down the hall from mom and dad. Do you only see the people in your own neighborhood that have been so far spared the worst of this global economic system. You really can't see the end result of having to have a workforce that is willing to settle for 3rd world standards to be competitive. Tom Watson,IBM founder, assumed that his workers earned a country club, a college education that afforded a path to advancement,excellent free health care, and a pension to live a good life in retirement. You saw it. It's opportunity they need. LN

Colette said...

Larry, thanks for visiting and for your comment. (It did appear multiple times so I deleted the duplicates.) It's nice to see neighbors here.

So let me respond. I do think the corporate world has changed -- I write about it frequently here. In 1968, while it may have been hard to articulate, I think it was clear that the protests were against the war. The action was clear (albeit not easy to do) -- protesters wanted to end the war.

You say I have a blind spot and that may well be true. But -- after working for IBM for many years I too was asked to leave. And, I have kids entering the workforce and see first-hand what they and their friends are up against.

My beef, if you will, is that while it's clear there is inequity, it's not clear what the proposed action is. Re-distribution of wealth? How? More jobs? Where will they come from? What's the answer?

Joanne said...

It seems that the dialogue most sparked by the protests is, what are they seeking? Specifically? It'll be interesting to see if they can really pull together a strong focus and plan of action.

Anonymous said...

Harking back to the decade when I came of age, "We shall overcome" didn't spell out busing or magnet school plans and "Bring 'em home" didn't spell out peace treaties or withdrawal plans. While I too hope for coherent plans and translation to legislative action, I'm rooting for the occupy movement to grow and gain momentum as I believe it's a powerful first step to correcting injustice. Back to the civil rights era, "law and order" and "state's rights" were often a smoke screen for "let's don't upset the apple cart." From what I read in the media, I fear that in some quarters (not from you Colette) "they don't have a plan" is a similar smokescreen.

Colette said...

Thank you all for weighing in. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next weeks/months. This conversation reminds me a bit of when I was a manager and an employee would come to me with a vague complaint like, "I don't like my job." If followup questions resulted in answers like, "I'd like to go work in area x," or, "I need to be able to come in an hour later each day so I can get my kids on the bus," those were things I could DO something about. When followup questions resulted in, "I don't know, I just don't like it," or, "It doesn't feel right," or, "It doesn't seem fair," there was nothing I could do about it.

One Womans Eye said...

I agree with you. I do not dispute the inequity and I think something has to change. But what exactly the OWS demonstrations are offering is unclear.
I came across this post from Ann Leary the other day who expressed much of what my thoughts are.

Colette said...

Yes, that post kinda nails it.

Anonymous said...

"Economic Justice" is what is being sought here. As you may have noticed, whereas the main street has suffered from the 2008 Financial collapse, not a single CEO of a financial institution has gone to jail. Why is that? Why are they not accountable for bringing about this debacle?