Occupy Wallstreet: Why It Isn’t Just Hippies and the Unemployed

I don’t foray into politics often, but every now and again, something happens to rile me up. NYC is 30 days into Occupy Wallstreet, and although I’m not physically part of the protest, I support them 100%.

The best information about Occupy Wallstreet can be found here. This is the official campaign website:

The thing that’s causing such an uproar are the cops. The protesters aren’t rioting, they aren’t picking fights, they aren’t spitting racial slurs, and they’re not preventing other people from going about their business. The cops are pepper spraying, beating, and harming the peaceful protestors. And many of them have been caught on camera laughing and joking about it.
There are food donations being taken, entertainment, a library for the people who are dedicated to the cause. The issue stems from the fact that billionaires and millionaires pay NO taxes when the middle and lower classes are taxed to death. I see the break-down of non-optional money drained from my paycheck every week and I don’t think it’s fair that I’m being taxed while people who can afford the taxes are exempt.
I’m in debt because I chose to go to a private institution for my degree. At the time, it was the only school that offered Graphic Design as a major. When I changed to English, yes, I could have transferred, but many of my credits would not have transfer with me. I had a $42,000 scholarship and maintained it for four years, on top of the HOPE, which provided an extra $3,500. I had a two-year, $2,000 dollar art scholarship as well. I didn’t pay for a meal plan.
I’ve been working since I was 15. I saved for my car, which will be paid off in May. I worked through college, and I’m working now. I have two jobs to supplement my income, I have one credit card which I use once a month for gas and pay off entirely. My student loans and car payment are the only debt I have. I live below my means, which doesn’t mean I can’t spring for the occasional concert, but does mean that I don’t go wild with my money.
I made logical decisions, and I’m being taxed for things I’ll never use. Social Security will be gone by the time I’m able to use it. Money is being taken from me when it could be taken from those exempt from payment. Why are they special, just because they managed to achieve financial security? Does anyone even know what a CEO does to earn that 7-figure salary?
I’m not saying the rich should pay MORE taxes; I’m saying that they should pay taxes, period.

Molly Crabapple's Vampire Squid Protest Design

And for the few who feel it’s silly or hypocritical that those people are protesting while using iPhone and shopping at Whole Foods, possessions and where you shop has no political merit.
It’s not about possessions. I have an iPhone, but that’s because I bought it from a friend who was upgrading to a different phone. I only spent $40 bucks on it. What you own and what you use don’t have anything to do with the reasons they’re protesting. You can’t say they’re hypocrites for having iPhones when you don’t know whether or not every one of them bought the phones new. Facebook isn’t a political forum either. It’s not a service you pay for, and Facebook is rapidly becoming the best and fastest means for communication. Whole Foods is expensive, yes, but for people like me, who are vegetarian or vegan, or who have various allergies, like gluten allergies, Whole Foods is one of the few stores that provide vegan/vegetarian/gluten/whatever free alternatives. I work in a grocery store and I can honestly tell you that there aren’t many options in commercial companies like Publix. Veganism/Vegetarianism is more than just eating veggies, just like being allergic to gluten doesn’t mean you should have to suffer food with no flavor or substance.What’s silly is defining people by what they own, what they wear, and where they shop. I dropped a good bit of money on new clothes for this journalism job because I’ve spent 90% of my working life in uniform. I don’t have anything. These pieces were an investment, and I won’t need pants again for a while (pants are the major expenditure). That doesn’t mean I shop only at department stores. I hit up thrift shops, consignment, places like Ross and T.J. Maxx. Sometimes I find something, sometimes I don’t. Just because I carry a Coach bag doesn’t mean I’m not in financial stress.
(I do, in fact, have a Coach bag. It was a Christmas gift I got at the Outlet with 80% off coupon. It is the only purse I own. It has a lifetime warranty and looks professional, unlike the Target clearance purses I used to own.)

The Great and Powerful Amanda Fucking Palmer

As for it being unemployed, homeless bums; no. It’s working people. There are accountants, and business men, as well as artists like Molly Crabapple, and musicians like Amanda Palmer. More and more, people are forgoing traditional jobs and starting to build their own businesses. I spoke with several people today at the festival I covered who lost their job or fell on difficult times and started making soap, or barbed wire art, or pottery, or jam. The downturn in the economy is allowing people to make their own jobs and let them chase after what they love to do instead of what they have to.

You all know that I’d write stories all day long if I could. The closest I’ll get right now is journalism. That doesn’t mean I’m not pushing for my dream, it just means I’m paying the bills until it happens. In that same vein, why should I be taxed for making my own way? Why should I have to shell out my earnings to a government that didn’t assist me, that didn’t work for it?

And even if those involved are unemployed, who better to protest than the downtrodden, who are STILL forced to pay when they can barely afford to eat? I did what I was told, got a degree, and I’m facing down debt that I need two jobs to manage. Most of my graduating class are either unemployed or under-employed, working retail jobs, which is NOT what we earned degrees in. Some of them can’t even find a cashier’s position.

I think as a whole, OWS is a good thing. It’s bringing people together and finally making people realize that we’re a community, no matter what states we live in. That we have the power to cause change in the country. No one should be exempt from assisting their community.
You don’t have to occupy. If you want to help, there are food services and clothing ops that could use donations. Reblog, retweet, get out there and play your guitar for the masses, read poetry on the streets, but don’t sit idly by in ignorance.
In the end, it’s your choice. In the words of Amanda Fucking Palmer:
INCREASED PARTICIPATION DOES NOT DILUTE THE MESSAGE. INCREASED PARTICIPATION IS THE MESSAGE.”
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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Occupy Wallstreet: Why It Isn’t Just Hippies and the Unemployed

  1. I’m coming back up to the top after I wrote this – darn, it’s a long reply! I am not shooting down anything you said; in fact, you make some great points. But here are some of the things I’ve been reading, as well…

    First, the OWS front page proves to me that it is not being run by very educated people. Our nation is NOT, and never has been, a Democracy. It is a Republic. There is a difference.

    I support some of the OWS points, I don’t others. I think that there are a lot of people there who have no fucking clue what they’re there for, they are just partying, and that’s not helping to further the message that the greater percentage of the protesters are fighting so hard to get through. There was an interview done recently with the protesters, and one guy said he had no clue what was going on, but it was a hell of a party; a woman interviewed said that she and her friend were there to see how much sex they could have. There are also a lot of the protesters that are going into local businesses, not buying anything, but making a mess of stores, restaurants, and restrooms. One business owner said her sink had been ripped off the wall by a protester, and that others were bringing her bags of their own bodily waste asking her to dispose of it. This means that many business owners have stopped letting protesters in, or have completely closed down. Again, not helping the message, and in fact making many Americans turn off to the message entirely. I would say in these cases, it’s not just the police who are making an issue. I have no problem with protesters who are informed about what they are fighting for and not taking advantage of businesses or other citizens, it’s the percentage who don’t care about what else is going on. They don’t care about business owners trying to make a living and feed families, or even respecting other customers rights to shop or dine in a pleasant environment. These protesters (or partiers, I should call them, as these people are not really protesting anything) deserve to be rounded up and shipped out.

    Also, have you seen the list of demands they posted? Again, some are good. I agree with many of them, at least in part. But it’s ones like Demand 11 that make me shake my head:
    “Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the “Books.” World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the “Books.” And I don’t mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.”

    So, if you chose to buy a house outside your means, or you chose an expensive school (remember, I went to the same school you did, and I’m still paying for it, too!), or chose to max out your credit card, that’s someone else’s problem. You should have zero accountability for your choices? This demand is ludicrous, and sounds like the writer wants to do whatever the hell they want without the bother of paying for it. Way to be responsible adults. They forget the things you and i already know – we choose to live below our means (doing things like living at home until debt is paid off, not going out to eat every night, not having the fanciest car or phone or computer) in order that we can do the things we want occasionally, and be on a stronger financial footing when we do move out, or until we do make it to a better position in a career we love. As a friend on facebook said, “This is what happens when the “everyone gets a medal” entitled generation finds out that they don’t get to be CEO when they graduate college and they are expected to pay their dues first…” I think he speaks the truth. You can see the list of demands here –> http://www.openmarket.org/2011/10/05/occupy-wall-street-protesters-make-demands/

    Yikes! Long reply! I didn’t know that I felt this strongly about the movement…Again, I don’t dispute their right to protest, I support that completely. Protest is great, and changes can be made through protest. But the minute it becomes a riot, I stop supporting it. Riots are dangerous, and get people killed. Once that happens, I support the police taking steps to shut it down. I hope that doesn’t happen at all here.

    • There will always be the uneducated and the just plain ignorant which is why the informed call-to-arms is important. No, people should absolutely be forced to take responsibiliy for the credit card expenditures, their housing, their cars, but in the same vein, I do believe that college loans should be, at least, reduced. The cost of furthering your education, while optional, basically leaves the student in an insurmountable field of debt. Yes, some people can attend college for free given various circumstances, but that’s not always the case. College should be available to those who wish to pursue it. It shouldn’t cost a lifetime of working double-jobs and slaving away to live.

      I’m living immersed in the consequences of my parent’s financial choices. I can see quite clearly what happens when you aren’t held accountable for your finances. I also know that I’m one of the lucky 99%; I can live at home, rent free, while I work to pay off my college debt. My car will be paid off in May. I have no financial responsibilities other than my car and student loans. I can manage those payments on what I make at my two jobs, one of which is luckily in my field. But I know people who aren’t as lucky as I am. I met some of them today, vending festivals. For some, it’s the main or only source of income.

      Though some of the demands are indeed ridiculous, there is a point of negotiation. I know; I’ve done that too. The main point is something needs to change, and it needs to change now. I don’t want to live to work. I want to experience the joys of my youth, I want to enjoy living. Working endlessly isn’t living.

      • All of your points, I agree with. I do agree that tuition for public colleges should be, if not free, greatly reduced. I do support the right of a private college to charge whatever the hell they want; they are, after all, private for a reason. But you are absolutely correct, our generation is living with the choices of our parents. While I’d like to say that’s a new phenomenon, it’s not. But I’m not sure it’s ever hit a young generation the way this is hitting ours, and while I’d like to have a clever phrase to illustrate that they best I can do right now is say that, in the words of this generation, it *sucks*. I am one of those who, while lucky to have one job, has lost the second one and now I have three different financial institutions calling me 10 times a day to yell at me about why they don’t have their money. I hate having to field 30 calls a day (yes, it’s that many, I’ve counted) when I’ve already talked to them, and they still aren’t satisfied. So I do understand and identify with the protesters, and I agree with them on many fronts. I also agree with you, we need to be able to enjoy where we are now, which is why every once in a while, I look at my finances and even though I probably can’t afford it, I go to that concert. More often recently, because there have been more this year than any other year, but looking at it realistically, it won’t happen next year. I’ve been set back getting my car paid, but it’ll still happen next year. My credit will be wrecked, and I’ll have to start working on it, but hopefully by the end of 2013, I’ll be credit card free. There’s a plan. The people that annoy me are the ones whose entire plan consist of, “I fucked up, someone else better fix it for me”. Those people, I can do without. Thankfully, neither one of us are those people.

        Eh, it’s 2:30 am. I’m not very coherent at the moment. I hope the above made sense.

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