|photo via thenation.com|
I can empathize. Really.
What I can't do is join you until someone gives me a viable,reliable, realistic reason to do so. A number of my friends are involved in the Occupy Movement and are standing out in the rain as I write this. They've been standing out in the rain, the cold and the wind for days now outside the state capital building. They've been arrested, bailed out and have returned to the same place on the side walk. They chant slogans and wave signs at passing motorists. They yell things like, " I'm doing this for you!" at passersby. They genuinely believe they are making a difference. I'd like nothing more than to see them be successful in making a change and helping to make things better for all of us.
But they haven't yet convinced me to join them. Why? Because I've participated in protests, sit-ins, and rallies for various reasons for the last 35 years. When the situation requires a show of numbers- such as when a vote is about to be considered on the senate floor- a visual sign of support or opposition is a crucial psychological aid to getting your point across. Groups of supporters at a one-shot event is great for morale-like when the school board wanted to change the local system. Gathering together in solidarity showed them we were not only concerned, but that we were mad as hell. They got the message. It didn't change their minds, but they were a little more cautious in their decision making and a little less cocky about being in charge later-especially when we went to the polls and voted half of them out of office.
This isn't a criticism, it's an observation by someone who's been there. This form of long-term protest is limited in its effectiveness; after awhile it becomes commonplace and everyday. Let's face it: the public is fickle. They will be on fire one moment and smoldering the next. It's just human nature. My personal opinion is that the Occupy Movement has already peaked and has accomplished getting people's attention. The next step would be for them to direct individuals to take concrete, purposeful action, like going to the polls and making their vote count. Look closely at how your elected officials are voting- and if you don't feel as though they're contributing to a positive resolution to helping fix the problems in our economy, if you think they're in bed with a corporate harlot vote them out of office. Better yet, find an elected official you think is doing a good job and become a volunteer in their campaign. Help get the word out by using the electoral process.
It isn't just corporate greed that cause this situation, but our own. We all wanted bigger, better and more. We made demands that exceeded our needs. We wanted it all for us alone. And we were willing to chance riding the train to ruin to get ours...and we have. Now we're angry at the monsters we've created because they're destroying us. Standing out in the rain in front of the state capital isn't going to change that.
One lesson I have taken away from the time when I was that inexperienced and idealistic is that acting out of emotion doesn't pay the bills or keep clothes on your back when you quit your job at the big bad mega-corporation every one hates. You may feel noble at the time, but that doesn't feed you later when you're hungry. The second related lesson is that all your idealistic friends will either be joining you on the brink of the abyss or will forget you exist altogether. Lesson number three is the hardest to come to terms with: you brought this on yourself and have no one else to blame. You will have accomplished nothing other than wanting to kick your own ass. Altruism bites. This is why, when you are more experienced in the realities of life, you choose your battles a little more carefully.
Personally,when it comes time to do so, I'm occupying the voting booth because it's the most realistic option for me.