The unrelenting accusation that Occupy Wall Street has no direction, no demands, and no purpose is an insidious refrain that, like the birther nightmare, simply won’t go away, no matter how often it’s disproved. Clearly the confusion cannot be innocent ignorance when the answer is only a google search away.
Occupy Wall Street has a simple message at its heart – the way the bank bailout of 2008 has played out has been unfair to the American people (i.e. the 99%) – but like any protest which snowballs into a larger movement, for each person the occupation has its own meaning and it has grown to encompass the varied and dynamic expressions of despair and frustration over an income disparity that is wider than ever.
This frustration manifested in many different ways, which may be what is confusing the media. The tumblr page which sprung up to give the movement a face and individual voice shows people unemployed, unhealthy, struggling with college debt and underwater mortgages or (conversely) frustrated with the movement itself. Where’s the message? What do these people want? You won’t find the answer explicitly stated in any of these handwritten notes, because they’re personal expressions of a misery which itself is a symptom of the recession. A recession which they believe was caused by the recklessness of the banks and the Wall Street mentality.
And by “they,” I mean “we.” The 99% still affected by the recession which our political parties have elected to ignore in favor of partisan bickering. The 99% who do not have the capital to purchase our own politicians. The 99% who are patted gently on the head by the media and told we are entitled whiners who simply aren’t boot-strappy enough. Why should we expect the same quality of life our parents and grandparents had? Why do we keep insisting that if we work hard and put in the effort, we expect to actually get somewhere? Why do we whine about burdensome college debt when we’ve been told our entire lives that to have a degree means we will never be in want of a job? Why do we think we should be able to retire when we’re 65? Why did we think we were entitled to our retirement fund which went poof in the collapse of our economy?
Joblessness, hopelessness, debt, illness, poverty and despair are all symptoms of the ongoing recession. A recession caused by a select few who have yet to be brought to justice. Our government promised reform, even passed the Dodd-Frank bill, but actual reform has been holed up by the legislature’s refusal to act. The bill requires that regulators create 243 rules, conduct 67 studies, and issue 22 periodic reports, but few of those rules have been written. Even though the bill has been on the books for well over a year now, it has made little progress.
We’re watching our roads degrade and fill with potholes, our states raid education and healthcare funding, our savings get eaten away by a debt we cannot pay off, our health decline when we can afford healthcare the least, our children go hungry, our family continue to eat a diet that will lead to avoidable disease because it’s what we can afford, our public transportation be cut when we can no longer pay to fix our car, our uncertainty of whether or not we will be employed in the weeks or months to come grow, our friends be forced to remain unemployed because they cannot afford healthcare on minimum wage but will lose the state care if they get a job, our media be more interested in making cheap shots at us than understanding us.
It’s not that hard. We’re you. We’re employed. We’re unemployed. We’re underemployed. We have two jobs so we can afford our healthcare. We’re insured. We’re uninsured. We haven’t seen a raise in three years. We’re in debt. We have friends who are in debt who had the audacity to get sick. We’re liberal. We’re conservative. We’re green. We’re anarchists. We’re mothers. We’re fathers. We’re childless. We have college educations. We don’t have college educations. We’re doctors. We’re PhD’s. We’re scientists. We’re tradesmen. We’re cashiers. We’re baristas. We’re engineers. We’re artists. We’re teachers. We’re not politicians. We’re not corporations. We care about our fellow man. In some way, shape or form, we’ve all been affected by the actions of a few.
It’s not that complicated. We’re frustrated, angry, and disillusioned and we want to see those responsible for the economic collapse, who received our financial support free of strings or obligations, pay it back. We helped you out. Now help us out.