Every now and then, something from the Occupy movement drifts onto my Facebook.
Usually it’s stuff like this:
And they’re often put forward by friends who I know for a fact are non-rich, left leaning, well meaning people.
And that tells me why the Occupy movement is not succeeding.
Because people don’t understand things clearly. They don’t understand the concept behind the Occupy movement, and that complete incomprehension is going to be the biggest hurdle for the Occupy protestors to overcome.
People just don’t get it.
Take the above sign. Does it make sense to you? Then you, too, fall into the category of people who don’t understand what Occupy is all about.
Let’s think about this for a moment:
The expression “I am the 99%” refers to the distribution of wealth in America. In the U.S, 1% of the population controls (depending on how you crunch the numbers) up to 40% of the wealth. 20% of Americans control 85% of the wealth.
So if you live in the U.S., and you make (individually, before taxes) less than $400,000, YOU ARE IN THE 99%.
Now do you see why the above sign is ridiculous? This person had to work FULL TIME to get through college. Despite having scholarships, he/she doesn’t have enough money to eat out even once a month. Unless he or she considers 400,000 a year to be “barely above minimum wage” and just happens to be an insane cheapskate, he or she is DEFINITELY in the 99%.
“But Carol”, people might argue, “maybe he or she is purposely twisting the slogan, indicating that 99% of people are lazy layabouts who want everything handed down to them from the rich.”
But that’s simply not true.
Remember, they started out by occupying WALL STREET. Not Beverly Hills or Boca Raton.
The Occupy movement is not about the poor gathering together with their hands out.
It is about holding corporations accountable for the economic crash, and protesting the corruption that both caused and resulted from it.
It is about letting people who DO bust their butts for what they earn actually KEEP enough of it to put a roof over their heads and feed their families, instead of taking it and buying new jets for company executives.
It seems funny to me that the banks can go to the government with their hands out and get billions of dollars in the name of good business sense, but if the working poor just want to keep some of their income to feed their families, they are deemed to be lazy bums.
The idea is supposed to be that by giving corporations tax cuts and bailouts, you give the companies the leeway to hire more employees, pay higher wages, and so on.
This model doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, personally.
Seems to me that if you just let the less wealthy taxpayers keep their money, especially the really strapped ones who are struggling to make ends meet, then they’ll have more money to spend, and the companies can make money that way.
Because, trust me, if you hand money to someone who almost never has any, they’ll respond by spending it, not stockpiling it. It may be on food, or clothes for their children, or college tuition, or it may be on a car or a vacation, but they will spend it.
And isn’t that how businesses are supposed to make money? From their patrons?
Giving money directly to the businesses seems backwards to me. You see, businesses are FOR PROFIT and they’re just as likely to stockpile the money to add to their company’s value.
Or maybe they’ll give it to an executive who already has lots of money to contribute to the economy, and he’ll stockpile it instead.
Which seems to be just what happens. It turns out that there isn’t much trickle-down from corporate tax breaks.
This isn’t just an American problem. Canada seems to be the poster-boy for the utter failure of corporate tax breaks to make an actual dent in unemployment rates.
Which is why you have Occupy Vancouver, Occupy Toronto, and Occupy Halifax, despite the fact that our banking system is MUCH more secure and came out of the crash not too badly.
MOST people, if you come right out and ask them, agree that corporate fraud is bad, that employment is good, and that more money needs to flow through the economy in order to stimulate things properly.
That’s why there are conservatives, liberals, and libertarians alike joining the Occupy movement, and why the Occupy movement is not merely an American thing.
…And that’s also why people are confused.
WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE STANDING TOGETHER? CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS CAN’T AGREE, SO THEIR MESSAGE MUST BE VERY MIXED AND CONFUSING!
Or, maybe they’re all part of the 99%, agreeing on basic things like money = good, greed and fraud= bad.
Unfortunately, people can’t grasp that simple a concept, and so they point to the millions of different ideas that the disparate groups have for solving the problem.
Sure, it’s haphazard and non-cohesive. But that’s the beginning of Democracy.
Let’s band together, and figure it out together, because whatever we’re doing right now isn’t working.
And if you’re Canadian and still unsure, you can double check your position in the percentiles here.
If MacLeans gives you a number greater than 1%, YOU ARE THE 99%.
For a really detailed breakdown of the wealth in America, you can try analzying this post from XKCD.
THANK YOU! I’m so sick of seeing “I am NOT the 99%”. I’m like, OMG, are we too stupid to even protest correctly? As a friend put it, “If you are seeing people on facebook who claim they are not the 99% and they DID NOT INVENT FACEBOOK, they ARE the 99%!”
LOL well put!
I think when people say “I’m NOT a part of the 99%”, it means “Those people protesting are not speaking for ME”, not that they don’t understand how the economic breakdown works.
At least, that’s how it is for me.
I think that probably IS what they mean, but it’s a dumb way of putting it, isn’t it?
It’s like saying “I didn’t vote for Barack Obama, therefore I am not part of the human race”. Instead, they should say “I am the 99%” and follow it up with their own views, because ALL the views of the 99% matter. Again, it comes down to people misunderstanding and thinking that the OWS have some crazy left-wing agenda, which isn’t true.
The above sign would have been MORE powerful and less easily dismissed if it had been followed with “I am the 99%”. Start spreading the word that just because you don’t make $400,000 a year doesn’t mean you’re a lazy layabout looking for a free handout. You know?
The whole point of the 99% is to create focus on what the 99% want – not trying to decide what they want for them or trying to decide whether they DESERVE to be in the 99%.
For all the media portrays the OWS protestors as being uber-left wing, anti-semitic hippies, the OWS is not that leftist a movement, unless you consider anti-fraud, anti-taxation of the poor to be radically left wing.
It’s just about speaking out for the things that EVERYONE wants, instead of letting massive corporations run things against the interests of 99% of the population.
Everyone who is part of the 99% should speak up with their views.
It’s the only way to get proportional democracy.
It goes both ways, though. Of the video clips and such that people have sent me to try to CONVINCE me why the protests are good, they all had laughable absurdities, too. I have yet to read or see something that is: a) coherent, b) concise, c) specific, or d) helpful at all in explaining what they want and expect their actions to accomplish. There seems to be a HUGE agenda covering many, many hot button issues — environment, unemployment, housing crisis, big pharmaceuticals, bio-genetically engineered food, and so on and so on. It’s all the “Bankers'” fault, apparently. And it’s peppered with entitlement (“I deserve a handout too!”) and personal greed (“We have our own problems. Don’t spend anymore money THERE. Spend it here.”).
The fact is, this protesting is really doing nothing. Do I think changes need to be made? You bet I do! Do I think these people who have the time to sit around and “occupy” parks and town squares are going to get those changes to happen? Not on your life.
Yes, well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? Since the 99% contains many different opinions, the OWS movement doesn’t have one cohesive message.
Isn’t it ironic that the majority can’t get anything done because the majority can’t agree?
I don’t have a problem with protesting. Protesters have made awesome changes in the past, from Jim Crow laws to gay rights. I wish the OWS folks all the best. But unfortunately, I think the issues are too complicated this time. People focus too much on the differing opinions and not enough on the stuff that everyone agrees on.
And yes, the economic cash WAS the bankers’ fault, and that’s coming from a banker’s daughter. The US banking system is messed up.
I don’t have an issue with protesting, either. But in this particular case, I think it’s a colossal waste of time and maybe actually HURTING their cause. (Again with the “if they have the time and freedom to BE there, then they must be better off than me!”) Comparing this with the Civil Rights movement or gay rights is… well, not comparable to me.
As for the “bankers”, sure we can lay a lot of the blame on the recession on them. But not those other things. And, assuming I’ve heard correctly, they paid their bail-out money back. It’s GM and the like, who didn’t, that we should bitch about.
In regards to the banks giving their top employees special perks, well, doesn’t that happen in many businesses? It’s all relative, really. My LCD tv and three square meals and clean, warm housing sure look amazing to a huge chunk of the world’s population. Don’t some companies even send their employees and their families to live in Caribbean countries sometimes? 😉
Perks happen. That doesn’t really bother me any more than the millionaire hockey players and movie stars. Is it fair? Not really. But life ain’t fair.
I guess I don’t have many people on my facebook who overtly do not support the occupy movement. I have seen the picture you posted above, but only in conjunction with a very long explanation about how this person is full of crap and could not possibly go to school the way she says she does because her numbers do not match up. And even if they did, as you pointed out, she’s still in the 99%. Our Occupy Fredericton, though small is apparently still doing well luckily.
Thankfully, I don’t have anyone on my Facebook who is openly AGAINST the OWS movement. Mostly it’s just folk who think it’s a bit of a joke and don’t understand the point of it. Thus they end up disseminating media lies and stereotypes unwittingly, which helps to bring down the OWS movement through sheer misunderstanding.
I just find it crazy that you’d have to work full time on minimum wage AND at the same time still have time to study. Then again, I suppose the rules and regulations for student loans in Sweden (and the UK) are not that bad – in the UK, you don’t even start paying it back unless you earn over a certain amount of money, which means if you never do, you never need to pay it back. So basically, getting a student loan isn’t that big a thing.
I got around 6780 SEK a month when I studied – part student grant, part loan. That had to cover all of my living expenses. Some people complain that you get far too little and how can you possibly live on that kind of money, but I didn’t have a problem. I could usually put away 500-1000 into my savings account every month to build up a buffer for when we didn’t get paid in December (for some stupid reason) and still had bills to pay. I could even get myself the occasional takeout pizza. Eating out in Sweden is relatively expensive, and besides, I’ve been brought up in a thrifty household that have always done home cooking. Then again, it probably helped a lot that I didn’t go out drinking in clubs twice a week, unlike most of my classmates …
They’re occupying everywhere. Apparently, they’re camping out on Market Square in Nottingham, and the council aren’t planning on evicting them. At the moment, they’re just saying, “well, they can’t stay there FOREVER, but they’re not harming anyone at the moment, so whatever.”
Definitely a part of that 99% group, because no, I didn’t invent Facebook, I’m not a banker or a major corporation. A very small portion of people are sitting on a tremendous amount of money, while others are starving. A bit like a dragon on top of a pile of gold, which means the rest of us just need to be sneaky hobbitses and we’ll be alright. 😉
Dang those hobbits and their crazy hipster ways!
I have no idea how anyone manages to work full time and attend school full time, and I think it’s sad that anyone would have to.
Student loans here are a pain, and to be avoided when possible, but most people get them. They’re considered liveable debt, like a mortgage, as opposed to scary bad-idea debt, like credit card debt.
Exactly. The rates are pretty good too, I think mine’s at about 2.5%, which is normally better than a mortgage and definitely better than credit cards. When you’re at college or uni, you’ve got enough on your plate with studies, and while I can understand why someone would want to stay debt-free, it’s still kind of … crazy working full time and studying full time. Okay if it’s a part-time job to get some extra cash while you’re studying, but full time sounds like a burn-out waiting to happen. I was thrifty, and got by fine. If I was in a real pickle, I could ask my parents for help, and I always paid them back as soon as I could.
With the Occupy thing, though, I’m not quite sure what they think is going to happen. Protesting against injustices is fair enough, but then what? Are they expecting the banking world to roll over and bare their throats? ‘Cause THAT’S going to happen … I think my hubby had a good point when he said that in order to bring about change, there’s not much point protesting. To fight the system, you need to be a part of it and try changing it from the inside. Basically, they’d be better off setting up a political party and try to get elected around the world and change things that way.
Hi, I'm Natalie. said:
I was the person with the poster. And so was my husband to a lesser extent (his scholarships paid his education and living costs almost entirely). Neither of us was actually eligible for student loans because of our parents’ income – even though we didn’t get any help from them. It was what it was.
I’m not against the movement, but I don’t pretend to understand it. (My little brother, the socialist Green Peace activist who is currently going to school in Nelson to become a metal-working artist, is actively against it. Even he doesn’t have a problem with living in a trailer, never eating out, not owning a phone, and not partaking in mass commercialism… to do what he wants to do.)
I think a lot of people are the person with the poster. You are the rule, not the exception. That’s why you ARE the 99%.
You say you don’t understand the movement. That makes me sad because it means I still didn’t explain it well enough. I’ll try one more time.
It’s protesting against corporate and political corruption and fraud.
I don’t know how to get simpler than that…
I don’t understand how any normal human can claim to be actively against OWS, even if they don’t think that it will achieve anything. Anyone who claims to be actively AGAINST Occupy Wall Street is saying that they are in FAVOUR of fraud, corporate and political corruption, and stealing from the poor to give to the rich. And how can so many people be in favour of fraud??
The only answer I can come up with is that the OWS is not getting its message out properly and the media is spinning it into something it is not. I was hoping that my post would help clarify the issue.
I guess I didn’t do a good enough job. 😦
Tara Dong (@TaraDong) said:
Um. “How any normal human can claim to be actively against OWS”?! Because the movement has NOT been about any of the things you mention, and because this “movement” publish bullshit like this: http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20111104/bc_occupy_vancouver_demands_111104/20111105/?hub=BritishColumbiaHome
In an ideal world where protestors are organized and have a plan. Yes, Carol, yes indeed it is about the things you mention, but instead it’s about a bunch a lowlifes left behind in parks to get high and killing themselves with drug overdoses and post random and completely ridiculous, and contradictory lists of demands that DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME (after the original OWS folks had realize how poorly thought out and planned their “plan” was).
Your issues above are wonderful, noble and valid. However, they don’t seem to match up in any way to any of the published demands of the actual OWS movement (or any of the OM’s around the country). I have my issues, I deal with them by showing up and voting, and by addressing them through policy not through campouts and weenie roasts. If the 99% really gave a crap about any of this, where were the other 74% on voting day? In our recent municipal election, news reported how amazing it was that at 25% we had one of the highest voter turnouts in the country…
You come to the conclusion that by not supporting OWS that I don’t give a shit, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. OWS has nothing to do with these issues any more, any normal human can see THAT.
See, this is the problem with Occupy. Because so many people have so many different angles at how to ACHIEVE the above mentioned goals, it has no proper consensus or single plan.
I agree that there are lowlifes out there. I agree that at lot of the plans won’t work. I agree that there are freeloaders in there with the people who have legitimate arguments.
I agree with all of that.
But that wasn’t the GOAL of Occupy, even if that has been the result in some places. The demands you linked to? Not official.
The primary goals which have actually reached consensus are:
more and better jobs, more equal distribution of income, bank reform, and a reduction of the influence of corporations on politics.
I never said you don’t give a shit. I think that you, like too many other people out there, are confused about the difference between the movement and the protesters.
So there are douchebags out protesting. There are douchebags everywhere. Saying that Occupy is no good because some of the protesters are no good would be like saying Christianity is no good because there are people like the Plainsboro Baptist Church.
If I disagree with THEM, does that make me anti-Christian? Of course not. But if I thought that Christianity was bogus because of people like Phelps, you’d be trying to set me straight.
I’m not trying to piss off people I love. I’m trying to help separate the point from the protesters, and discuss why a movement with such valid aims is not succeeding.
Tara Dong (@TaraDong) said:
I know you’re not, but the fact is you’re saying I don’t understand the issues if I disagree with the movement (and I was going to quote the line you used, but it appears to have been edited out). I do understand the issues, I can read wikipedia with the best of them, but the fact is that those driving the movement were fundamentally flawed in their judgement of how to effect change. I don’t support them. I take offence to the fact that they claim to speak for me, because as you and countless others have stated I AM IN THE 99% no doubt about it, guilty as charged.
I am as pissed about this as I am about white supremacists claiming they speak for my race, as I am about Christians that preach righteously about those sinful evil gays.
THEY DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME.
The very thesis of the OWS argument began and quite frankly ended with faulty logic and syllogism. “We are the 99%” prefaces everything you say with the fact that you are speaking for the masses with whom you have not consulted.
I also take offence that I must be uneducated or a horrible person if I think that corporate greed and corruption is evil…seriously — everything OWS is about is a micro-replica of what they claim to detest, there is corruption within them, there is certainly greed within them or they wouldn’t be campin’ in the rain. The states and to a lesser degree Canada were built on the premise that we have the freedom to pursue the dream at all costs. Even the expense of innocent bystanders around us.
I go to work every day, work in a unionized environment and happily collect my falsely inflated pay check, I spend some of it on frivolous things, but it’s my prerogative, I earned it. I spend some of it on my education. A lot of it on coffee. I’m in more debt than I should be and if I want I can claim bankruptcy and glibly walk away from my obligations (& saddle the rest of you with higher interest rates), or I can pay it off myself. I have those same choices that the big corporations have. Lucky me. I would fight for those rights, so why would I fight against corporations doing the very same thing?
YOu really want to see change OWS, get out your petition papers, formulate an intelligent demand and then find people to support it, even me. Walk it to your government, and present it intelligently.
There was a time in the US when blacks couldn’t share water fountains or eating establishments. Enough people organized themselves in such a way that change took place (most of those far less educated that the OWS claim to be)…it can happen. Just do it right. In the meantime, leave me out of it.
Disagreeing with how the protests were organized is not the same as disagreeing with the positions taken. I really want to stress this.
Why is camping in the rain a sign of greed? What corruption have the OWS protesters committed? If you’re referring to the local attempts at an Occupy Movement… yeah, those aren’t the best examples. But Occupy wasn’t about Vancouver, originally. My thoughts and support go to the U.S., where political change is desperately needed.
Saying that you are part of the masses is not the same as speaking for the masses. It is an attempt to have people see how big the issue is, that 99% of the country is being held hostage by 1%.
I wish that the person who held the sign in the picture above had finished with “I am the 99%”, because that would have sent a much better message – reminding people that not all people who support Occupy are lazy freeloaders, but hardworking people who are merely fighting for fair political representation.
You say you have the right to walk away from your obligations or pay them off yourself. Yes! After all, if you get yourself into a financial mess, that’s your problem, right?
So no one has come up to you and offered you $250,000 because you were too important to go into bankruptcy… Which is what happened to the businesses in the states.
And if someone DID do that – offered you a grant from taxpayer’s money to help with your mortgage, and you spent it all on a yacht instead, wouldn’t that be fraud? Shouldn’t you be held accountable for that?
Because, again, that’s what happened.
Is it okay to hold an individual accountable for their mistakes… but not a corporation?
Again, I don’t support everything done in the name of the Occupy movement, any more than I support everything done in the name of God or everything done in the name of preventing Terrorism. But I support the original goals and aims of the movement, because they are RIGHT. Change is needed.
I just don’t agree with everyone in the 99%. But if I wait for that to happen, we’ll never get anything done. I’d rather focus on what we agree on, rather than what we disagree on.
Perhaps that’s the problem – 99% of people can never agree on anything. But that doesn’t make the original goal any less noble, for all its impossibility. Like ending world hunger or achieving world peace, it looks nice on paper, but making it work is a different story.
Still, that’s no reason to sit back and say that I’m against the protests. Protests are how you get people’s attention. I wish them luck with it, but they haven’t done a very good job in getting their message across.
The civil rights movement didn’t effect change by getting petition papers, walking them to the government and presenting them intelligently. It effected change by bringing 250,000 people into Washington in protest. It was through powerful, effective speeches. It was through violence at points. But it was not through petitions to the government.
It was through the public, which is what OWS tried to do, and failed miserably, which is their downfall.
http://www.evolver.net/user/felicityoshannon/blog/what_occupy_has_accomplished_so_far The Occupy Movement has accomplished a few things.
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