Occupy… what?

Occupy Boston camp at Dewey Square

People keep asking me what I think of Occupy Wall Street and, by proxy, Occupy Boston. After all, I seem like the perfect fit in the movement: politically engaged, a history of political organizing and activism, and a story that fits right into the party line. Except, I don’t know what the party line is.

 

I read the websites, Twitter feeds, blogs, etc, and yet I still do not know what path for tangible change is being promoted. I understand people are angry. I am angry too. But when I am angry about an injustice, I work with groups that execute plans to get things done in an organized, media-savvy way. Occupy has none of these bases covered. If I am confused and feel disconnected from the movement, what is Suzie Suburbs thinking?

Political movements need a few things: effective leadership, direct purpose and message, cohesive PR/media strategy, a defined voice, and a clear pathway to create the change the movement is working to achieve. Some of these can be left out, but Occupy has not a single one of those bases covered.

Today, I went down by the camp at Dewey Square in Boston and also watched the march from Boston Common. It’s basically taking that angry kid on a message board who is fighting “the man”, multiplying him by 1000, and throwing him on the street. Toss a few Ron Paul fans in to delegitimize the whole thing and you’ve got what I saw this afternoon.

From where I sit, Occupy is hurting the progressive movement. I like marches as much as the next gal, but I like things happening better. When we talk more than act, we become an embodiment of what the right likes to call us: a bunch of smelly, aimless, unorganized hippies who like to hear ourselves talk. Maybe the old ways of creating change don’t work – lobbying political entities and voting in politicians whose goal is to be elected do not effectively create change in most scenarios. But I still do not know what the goal of Occupy is beyond showing the world how angry they are.

Am I getting old? Am I listening to too much Phil Ochs?

I saw a whole lot of Uncle Louie being thrown around. I have one of my own:

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.  ~ Louis D. Brandeis

Then there is the We Are the 99 Percent Tumblr. I want to empathize with everyone. Many, I do. Some stories bring tears to my eyes. Others I want to reach through the computer and shake. I worked my ass off through high school to get a merit scholarship to college. Yes, I was lucky to have a grandfather that would cover the difference for which I will always be grateful – but if I hadn’t, I would not have gone to Brandeis because the $30,000 of debt I would have accrued in 4 years would not have been worth it. I cannot bring myself to feel sorry for people that are my age and in $50,000, $60,000, or $100,000 in debt for undergrad alone. That was a choice. There are so many scenarios that can create debt. I am in debt myself due to cancer. But education can be found at so many institutions – community college, public schools, private schools with merit or financial aid. If you choose to go to a private university without the aforementioned aid, then please do not expect those of us who truly have fallen on hard times to empathize with your bad decision.

I am the 99 percent because I was diagnosed with cancer at 23 and had to work full time at a job  through chemo in order to keep my health insurance and a roof over my head. I had to move 1000 miles away from home to a much higher cost of living area in order to get the job. My cancer was discovered at the last stage because I went months without health insurance and even when I did have insurance during college, it cost too much to get a 2nd opinion despite knowing something more serious was wrong. My parents have been hurt by the economy and are unable to help me financially. I have worked hard for everything I achieved, made the right choices, and have seen so much of that crumble before me because I happened to be one of 70,000 young adults to be diagnosed with cancer this year. Now, I will not be able to enter the career I trained for nor will I ever be in a position to start my own business because of healthcare coverage concerns. I am the 99% because I am at work during the day and spend my nights working to fix the healthcare system, not because I scream the loudest at a protest or make the most eye catching sign.

I leave you with this final image. It by far is the most poignant of the 99 percent Tumblr.

Too few people are talking about this. Why aren't we talking about this?

 

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Posted in News, Rants

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