I own a small business in Brooklyn and recently my business partner, Nick Radice, and I were discussing the latest civil disobedience sensation known as Occupy Wall Street.
I own a small business in Brooklyn and recently my business partner, Nick Radice, and I were discussing the latest civil disobedience sensation known as Occupy Wall Street. Not unlike many of these protestors, we too are in our 20s, are broke, have lost professional jobs and could not attain new ones as a result of the economy. We grew up in middle class households and have college degrees. We voted for Obama and we wear clothes one might consider of the hipster dernier cri. We should be out there Occupying Wall Street, right?
Wrong. Unlike the 99 percenters bumming social change in Manhattan’s Financial District, we refuse to buy in.
To make ends meet while my business grows, I work at a wine shop and that nets me a whopping $12.50 an hour. As a bonus for my ears, I am privy to humoring whatever bat-shit crazy political stance my customers offer up as they wait for me to ring up their booze. Lately, I’ve been getting customers buying hooch on their way to Occupy Wall Street. Funny, because I don’t recall seeing any of the Little Rock Nine being armed with flasks of Evan Williams. Anyhoo, today this British girl with legs that nearly scraped the ceiling strutted into the shop wearing a see-thru dress. She was particularly amped because she was on her way to the protest and asked if I would like to go. I said no thanks. Without skipping a beat she asks, “Why not? Don’t you hate the banks?”
And there my friends lies the problem with Occupy Wall Street. There is a considerable lack of education on what caused the economic crises and therefore we are playing the blame game. To make matters worse, there seems to be no clear resolution being offered by the protest’s organizers. And if you are reading this and saying, “Well, the giant corporations could just give us the money,” then you sir are a jackass. That mode of thought is reserved for friends of successful rappers who thought that they’d be getting a free ride out of the hood.
Upon listening to the sound bites of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, you will find that their motivations for participating range from joblessness to student loans to Big Government to the stock market to corporate greed to “Oh man, there’s a microphone in my face, better come up with something intelligent.” And the solution appears to be nothing but this mythical buzzword that Obama swindled us with in 2008: “Change.” Did any of these protestors do any bit of research on the economic collapse of 2008 to get a clearer picture of why we are where we are? Or were they too busy Googling how much McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner makes a year in comparison to a fry cook in Vietnam?
Alas, this is not the entirely the people’s fault. President Obama, who bailed out the big banks and General Motors, and who will get a considerable amount of campaign funding from these entities for so doing, is now currently doing his part to exacerbate Occupy Wall Street’s message by also blaming banks. Obama remarks that hidden fees, practices and “derivative cocktails that no one understands” have “exposed the economy to enormous risks.” Right, so, we are in this shit because of overdraft penalties? I could go on, but I can’t hate on Obama because co-opting Occupy Wall Street is a brilliant reelection strategy.
So, the question becomes who or what do we blame for this economic crises? The answer is simple: Everybody is at fault. As my business partner Nick Radice explains, the cause is a general attitude that people can do or get whatever they want with no sacrifice, limitations or responsibility. This applies to the government (massive retirement and health insurance programs that are now underwater). It applies to the absurdly dysfunctional tax code. It applies to the Rust Belt, in thinking we don’t have to take really serious actions to stay competitive globally. It applies to Wall Street in thinking that quick money comes first regardless of repercussions. It applies to the Federal Reserve in thinking that it can keep low interest rates and not expect a huge debt bubble to inflate and burst. It applies to individuals who didn’t save and took on too much debt.
The point Nick is making here is that everyone is at fault for thinking that we could have everything and sacrifice nothing, and that the future would never come.
I simply don’t see the point of scapegoating the banks, government or even one president’s failure to make a dollar out of fifteen cents (at least he tried). To think that the blame lies on any one factor speaks volumes on our nation’s ability to think reasonably. We don’t need to hold our breaths ’til we pass out for America’s 1% to say, “Okay you win!” We need to look at the whole system, find the flaws and correct them, which means everyone must sacrifice — real sacrifice, not camping in a private park (homeless people do that shit all the time).
Lastly, hipsters, I hate to break it to you but living in a tent in one specific spot with a meditation area, a soup kitchen and an Internet center for a few weeks based on this romantic ideal that you will change the world isn’t a protest — it’s a Phish concert.
-JESSE S. GADDIS
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