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OPINION: We Are The 99 Percent, Too -- But We Don't Agree With Occupy

Posted by Alex Pearlman  October 12, 2011 08:50 AM

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occupymovementagainst.jpgBy Jen Schmidt

In their fourth week, the Occupy Wall Street protests that have propagated similar uprisings in cities all over the country look like they could be the real thing. Sources such as Al Jazeera and various domestic news outlets are calling these protests the voices of a generation, and they are right.

As a Millennial, I stand with you in sentiment and with solidarity. I have a master’s degree and am working as a bartender and an intern. There are no job prospects, and I continuously live paycheck to paycheck while paying $80,000 in student loan debt. However, as I stand with you, I stand slightly embarrassed, and here is why.

The Inherent Hypocrisy

The buses you rode to get to your protest and the gas that powered them, the computers you blog from, and the smart phones you tweet with were all created and sold by the very same Fortune 500 companies you claim to hate. Your point about hating the uber-wealthy corporation is lost when it finishes with a small "Sent from my iPhone" sign off.

The streets that you march down, the bridges that you occupy, and the public parks that you have now destroyed are all paid for in part by the 1 percent you protest.

You argue against corporations as though they were machines, forgetting that they are nothing more than a group of individuals acting collectively. There are about 100 million Americans, part of the 99 percent, that work for corporations, and I doubt that you argue for the removal of each of their individual rights. Do you want to be able to sue Exxon-Mobil or Bank of America? What about Phillip Morris Tobacco for giving your cancer? Or even McDonald's for making coffee too hot? Their existence as corporations allows you to do this.

We bailed out the banks because that is what we had to do. The last time major financial institutions were allowed to fail was called the Great Depression, and it took sweeping government intervention and a world war to get the country back on its feet.

Did you know that 60 percent of the 99 percent did not vote in 2010? What does that say about the supporters of occupations? You can demand a list of grievances, but when it comes time to vote for or against an issue, you can't use your power as a citizen?

The Lack of Awareness

There are 6,967,312,151 (and counting) people in the world.

You clamor over the ideas of social justice and social equality and forget that you live in one of the more equitable countries in this world. You are the 99 percent that does not get an equal share in the tremendous wealth that is afforded to this country; try being the 99 percent of a country that has nothing. Before you begin wearing that number like a badge of honor or a display of your harrowing hardships, I ask you to think about:

  • the 13 percent of the world that have no access to basic education;

  • the 26 percent of the world that have no basic literacy skills;

  • the 1 percent (33.3 million people) of the world dying from HIV/AIDS;

  • the 13 percent of the world who are suffering from hunger or malnourishment;

  • the 17 percent of the world who have no access to clean drinking water;

  • the 25 percent of the world who have no access to electricity;

  • the 70 percent of the world who have no access to the Internet;

  • the 6 percent of children who will never reach their fifth birthday; and

  • the 22 percent of the world that live below $1.25 a day.
The level of prosperity in this country is something that is envied throughout the world; do not forget that arguing for social justice requires a global consciousness. As you go back to your tent to your clean water and your daily meal, waiting to protest those who have more than you, remember that most of the world has less.

The Missing Message

The Occupy Wall Street General Assembly recently released a list of grievances. There are 25 complaints on that list, ranging from home foreclosures to animal rights, and it is nothing more than a list a liberal talking points. In New York, in Boston, and in other cities across the nation, we see hundreds if not thousands of Millennials all coming together, and yet they speak in hundreds if not thousands of different voices.

This is the question I pose to each and every one of you -- and to this I will get thousands of different answers: What are you fighting for?

While protest is a critical part of the democratic process, so is political organizing, and in that second grain, Occupy fails. If you want campaign finance reform, then go and participate in the process instead of screaming about why you have no voice.

While your numbers and your persistence have made you a staple in mainstream media in the last week, most stories focus on your utter lack of message. Without a goal, without a stance, and without an end, your means mean nothing. Awareness is great, but as you aim for tangible action and demand accountability from those you protest, the need for a unified message increases.

Be more than a group of people who need to vent; we all need to vent. Proclaim what you are fighting for and fight for it, because right now, though I stand with you in sentiment and with solidarity, I also stand embarrassed.

What do you think about Occupy's message? Does it fall short? Let us know what you think!

This post originally appeared on The Next Great Generation on Tuesday, Oct. 11.

Photo by Courtney Sacco

About Jen -- I love politics and creative thought. I work against social injustice in health care and am interested to see how social media and marketing will play a role in creating lasting change. Twitter: @JSchmidt19

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