The day after I wrote this post, I received this letter from a reader. While it didn't really fit with his own blog, he wanted a place to share his thoughts on the Occupy Wall Street protests and asked if I would mind posting it on this blog. Here it is:
OWS or Victim Complex?
Two weeks ago, as I sifted through many of the different blogs and news sites I read on a daily bases I got a phone call. It was one of my good friends telling me that he had just visited the protests down on Wall Street. What a coincidence! I thought to myself as I was currently attempting to wrap my head around the idea of the protest, and if it would be able to have a positive outcome for the people of this country. My friend, who is best described as someone who suffers from a self-inflicted lifelong victim complex, seemed very excited and sold on the idea of what was to become the Occupy Wall St. movement. He continued on to say that he thinks this is a great idea, and will continue to go downtown to support the movement when he has free time. The moment I heard 'great idea' hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and if there was a mailbox being pictured in my mind's eye, a little red flag would shoot up announcing 'I've got mail!' If he feels this is good idea I think to myself, I need to really assess this whole thing from the beginning.
You see this friend is not bad natured. He is very intelligent, up to date on current events, reads the same books, blogs, and watches many of the same movies as myself. He is also a long term New Yorker like me. Why be so concerned if he thinks something is positive? Well as I said, we intake much of the same information, and I notice his take on things is always a bit different then mine. He tends to focus on the negative aspects, and loves the things that make him feel miserable, horrible, and that 'the man' is holding him down. I tend to enjoy the positive side of things and veer towards information that is spiritual, and puts wisdom, logic, and love above all else. So when something is what he deems 'positive', I know that somewhere deep inside of him, his inner victim is being fed and reassured that everything in the universe is out to screw it! Personally!
Over the many years of our friendship, I have learned to use his interesting views as my litmus test. He was my first clue that something was not kosher in my thought process. You see, I wanted to support the people protesting downtown, but something inside me was just not letting it settle in. I continued on my search, researching more, and reading views from both sides. I knew I didn't agree with those that said it was a waste of time, but there was something in the logic that I couldn't fault either. I believed any awareness of the Fed and the corrupt bankers, is a good thing. My internal dialogue was not so easily sold though. You see the problem with that, my blasted brain countered is, the awareness has been there for a longtime. A point I had to concede to my brain as my brain was right.
How many songs, books, movies and TV plots had we seen making jest of the 'corrupt fat cat bankers'? Not just recently, but for generations. I could quote songs from the 1800's that you would swear were written today due to the lyrics fitting current social and economic conditions. Break out some of Mark Twain's old political commentary, and you would think you were reading an op-ed from this past weekend's New York Times. The problem is not awareness at all, in truth we have an over awareness and are over saturated in the facts. We make fun of the truly disturbing reality that all banks and bankers are crooked. As if the knowledge of the shady dealings that happen on a daily basis in our banking systems are enough to make it ok. Well after I realized that the awareness was sort of a moot point, and still left with the question I started out with; 'Do I think it's a good idea to protest Wall St.'? I decided to take a quiet moment and really contemplate the facts.
My thought process instantly rebelled, and I was then slammed with the notion; 'At least people are not going to sit back and continue to do nothing! They are taking to the streets, and telling the big bad bankers that they need to share their ill gotten profit with the many, not just the few.' I could picture the people of this country outside of the banks chanting; It's our money, and we want it now! This mental image made me bask in a moment of patriotic pride for my country, and then the harsh reality hit me. Yes, they are doing something, but what are they doing really? They are wasting time and energy sitting in front of buildings trying to raise awareness of something that is already known in a place where the people they are trying to convince, see them as an inconvenience to their daily commute. I had to admit to myself. I started to think of the notion that if a protester happens to get the chance to be a fly on the wall (no pun intended) inside one of the many banking offices around the country, what do they think they would see and hear? Not bankers hiding under their desks sucking their thumbs asking for the great creator (Ben Bernanke) to come save them, that's for sure. I promise if they even heard mention of the protest, it would be in joke form. Nothing has changed inside these offices and its business as usual.
So where the hell do I stand, and what can I tell the reporter if stopped on the street by chance one day? I want to sound cool, you know, hip. After I quieted the pretentious side of my brain with the mute button, I was ready to get into the meat and potatoes of the question. I started my intensifying internal debate by pondering this; the point of the OWS protests is to raise awareness. Answer from the radio signal my brain pulls out of the depths of the universe; 'In this case yes, but the awareness is already there'. 'But at least people are doing something' I state. A mysterious logical answer to my question calmly replies; 'True, but in so doing this something, they are wasting time doing nothing'. 'But it is the beginning of something big, and more then we as Americans have done in a longtime, we're letting the 1% know we are not happy!' I retort, feeling pretty damn confident in that one. Yes, but this is no different than the many other uprisings that started as protests throughout history. Humans that come from a war-based society tend to only know anger and rage when it comes to trying to make a point. The ominous thought firmly concludes.
It is about that point the answer to the question slaps me square in the face; by getting angry about the perceived injustices faced on a daily bases, we are bound to be met with the same anger and rage from those that do not agree with our version of reality. Now the OWS is not violent (yet), but as the anger builds and gets fed, it will only take a small ember to light it ablaze. If it does not turn violent (which is preferred), it will fizzle out, accomplishing very little I'm afraid. This protest, no matter how much it hurts to say, is missing the boat, and ultimately shows how immature we as a race and nation are.
My answer was then obvious; I couldn't support something that just didn't make sense, I thought. The nagging uneasy feeling I was having about the whole thing just wouldn't go away though, and I couldn't figure out why. I knew I didn't believe it was the right way to wake up the masses, but the puzzle was still incomplete, and I needed to be sure this bold statement was how I truly felt. At the same time, a word was slowly uncovering in the depths of my mind that was there from the very beginning of this whole journey and was starting to force its way through the fog. My friend, it turns out, was the key to it all. As I sat in front of the computer a few days later I received a text from him asking if I wanted to come down to Wall Street and join him in being a presence for a while. I politely refused and asked how long he would be staying. He said he was going to stop by to show his support and then run some errands after. The thought of him running errands instantly dissipated the fog of my mind, and you could say I had my 'eureka' moment when the word that was so reluctant to manifest itself came to mind; hypocrite! That one word was the biggest pieces of the puzzle for me, and epitomized what the debate inside my mind was all about! If I was to go join these people in protesting things that I do agree with, I would be a hypocrite. In fact, I would not be a protester at all. Instead I would be a hypocritical New Yorker who would rather feel like I'm being victimized by a system though I do little to actually change it in my daily life!
I'll use our familiar number to elaborate more, 99% of the people protesting on Wall Street, and all over the country for that matter, have credit cards and bank accounts, cell phones, debts, and every other thing that goes with being a 'normal' American citizen. We are willing to shake our fists in fury over the fact that we get taking advantage of by the system, but we do very little to break the chains of the actual system. That is why you won't see the banks, big businesses, and The Fed, bat an eye or break a sweat over this, because people still continue to use these institutions, some while in the middle of the protests. We would rather it be known to the world, and nightly news, that we are doing 'something'. We will not get the satisfaction of tweeting to our friends that we are down on Wall St. fighting the man with our AT&T cell phones, and our frappucchino's to keep us warm. No one will care when you actually do something in private like getting rid of credit cards or bank accounts. This is why my friend is so enamored with this protest, it feeds his victim complex, while not changing all the little conveniences he has come to enjoy.
We all want our cake and eat it too. We want the world to know it is not right, but we don't do the real things to force real change. Can't ruin Capitalism, it has treated us pretty good thus far, right? At this point I am completely certain that my stance is the right one. So problem solved, case closed right? Not exactly. A new word, or quote I should say, has surfaced in my mind. This one is completely clear and repeating over and over; 'Be the change you wish to see.' If the movement was based off of something like that, you might peek my interests. Saying you want to camp out on a street and do nothing proactive but sit there, will not. What change do I wish for myself and others? Would be the logical question a person would come up with after being told such a potent statement.
I know my answer, and I've truthfully known it for a while now. I want to live a life of self-reliance and self-sufficiency using limited resources, relying on external help only as a last, not first resort. I want a system that empowers me, not forces me to work a pointless job just so I can afford to live in said system. I am not the first one to wish to see these things. In fact, we live in a country founded by people with very similar wants for themselves and their fellow man. That is not something that should have been forgotten or lost sight of. If people in this country truly want change, they are going to have to take a long hard look in the mirror and start there. We can't cause change by waving our fists in anger, we need to be an example to others by proving things like it is possible to live without credit cards, you can pay cash for items, or better yet barter for goods and services. We can't be afraid to lose certain conveniences just because we are used to them. Downsize, downgrade, and stop buying into the system. You don't need the new iPhone, but you should need to be complete and happy. The only reason they seem to control it all is because, like my friend, we play the victim. We have the power over the so called 1%. In fact we always have, and always will. My pretentious side is now appeased, and I feel I'm prepared for any possible street interview I may happen upon. Be the change you wish to see if you truly want change, if not, stop being a hypocrite and go do what you've always done; consume. The corporations will thank you! J.V.
From CNI: That post was way more elegantly put and thought out than my little rant. We both, however, came to the same conclusion. Instead of 99% of the population standing on the corner and whining about Bank of America, how about 99% of the population immediately go and close their BOA accounts, sell their BOA stock, pay off their BOA loans as quickly as possible, get a mortgage from a company other than BOA, and not buy mutual funds that contain any BOA stock? Can you imagine what would happen? BOA would pretty soon cease to exist, people would have made their point loud and clear, and then we--collectively--could go to the next large corporation that hasn't learned to be a good steward with the money and power they were given. It's simple, it's fast, and it's much more efficient than sleeping in front of City Hall for days on end.