Thursday, October 13, 2011

Occupy your mind....standing for the people.

There are many claims being flung about casually, about the "average" Occupy Wall Street protester and those who support the movement. Many of them center around the notion that protesters are "lazy, jobless, young" and "looking for a handout" or desirous of "entitlements". I can not explain my personal stance repeatedly so this post is something I plan to direct people towards when needed.

I'll begin with introducing myself, since there isn't much of an "average" OWS protester and I have met so many diverse people from all walks of life through this process. I want to make it abundantly clear that I speak for myself, for my own views and not for any group in this post.

I am a business owner: I have been a makeup artist for over a decade and I work in a shared studio space as an artist and an assistant photographer. I also work full-time for a large corporation that is generous to it's employees and socially progressive. I am a mixed-media artist, teaching classes on art and makeup. I have four amazing children and have been homeschooling since 1996. I am passionate about gardening and self-sufficiency. I embrace hard work, do not believe I am entitled to anything in this life and plan to work until the day I die.

First, the accusations that the spin-doctors are successfully convincing people of:

OWSers are "jobless, looking for a hand-out"

Anecdotal evidence here; my ex-husband tried to find a job for three years and could only get minimum wage, temp work. This is a man who went to college, owned a business, was a sales manager and top salesperson at the last company he worked for before going into real estate. I have friends in their 40's now who are back in school, going into debt because that's the best option right now. There is story after story of people trying HARD to get jobs...there aren't enough jobs when big corporations are willing to send those jobs overseas as well as using slave labor in developing countries!!

Being jobless does not automatically make a person a non-contributor in society. Since when did not having a job make someone unable to have a voice? Or help make positive changes? When is that a factor in deciding who has a right to political process? Larry King filed bankruptcy in the past and lost his job. Susan Boyle was jobless and caring for her mother at home at one time. Many, many writers and artists and other creative types find themselves in the "jobless" category throughout phases of their lives. SO what?

The other variation on the "jobless" theme is that they are "young people looking for a hand-out"

Two false-hoods at once? Cool! So let's go with the notion that most OWSers are "young". This is a problem how? I can't stand ageism. Young people have often been the cause of great and significant change. Young people in this country are locked in compulsory schools for 13 years of their precious lives, told they can't contribute anything of value, not allowed many freedoms most adults take for granted and then we are going to devalue them when they are actually standing up for their country? Standing up for what they believe in? Showing they are NOT the mindless, tv-watching, lazy Americans they are accused of being....then they get ageism flung at them again? REALLY? The young people I've met are articulate, intelligent beyond their years, willing to work hard, able to motivate an entire movement and they are being mocked? This is hard for me to stomach. Kudos to them for their motivation and energy. Our country has a chance in hell if they are the next generation.

It's interesting how disrespectful the older generations can be to our youth when they have something important to share or ideology aimed at change, yet not think twice about sending them into war to die "for our country".

Beyond that, there is more diversity at these protests and events than the press would lead you to believe. Don't trust everything you see on television. Maybe watch some of the live streaming and find out for yourself what is really going on. You aren't required to watch the bias in mainstream media....we can all report and be the media these days.

On to the "looking for a hand-out" portion:

If the protesters are asking the government for ANYthing, then it is not at all a hand-out in the sense that our tax dollars pay for it. Big banks and other industry got a huge hand-out in the form of the bail-out dollars and that's ok?? So a hand-out for giant mechanisms that don't use sustainable business practices is ok but individuals needing anything can go screw themselves? There is so much wrong with that I don't know where to start.

As a society we choose what tax dollars pay for. If we want those tax dollars to go to things like, oh, say education rather than war, this is some socialist/extremist/anarchist plot??? I'm a Mom. I'd like to have my kids get access to higher education more than I'd like them sent over to a foreign land we have no business in, to die for some corrupt government scheme. Many of us see problems with where the tax dollars are being spent. As a group, we can decide where that money should go, rather than trusting corrupt politicians. As a society, we have already decided that we want police and firefighters and a military. If anything linked to government money is a "hand-out", then let's cut those programs and see how well that goes over!

Most individuals actually needing a hand-out are people struggling terribly. As someone who has been on welfare in the past and found my way through troubled times, I am deeply bothered by the mean spirit and hatefulness toward anyone wanting some help. It's a nice thought that those people would get the help they need from their immediate communities but history has not shown that to be true. Most people don't want a hand-out forever...they want a chance.

Why shouldn't we, as a people, decide that education is more important than killing? That tax dollars are in our power to decide how to spend, that anything coming from the government is not truly a "hand-out" but a choice of how to spend our tax dollars for the collective good?

I don't know about you, but I'd like a voice in how those tax dollars are spent. I don't want to bail out unsustainable businesses. Which brings me to the accusation....

"You want to end capitalism"

It is not capitalism to finance businesses that have run themselves into the ground with shoddy practices. It is not capitalism to give a hand-out to companies that don't conduct their business profitably. It is capitalism to allow them to fail.

In the past, unregulated capitalism has led to horrendous treatment of employees, massive pollution and in this day and age, a recession that is teetering on the brink of a full-scale economic collapse. The evils of unregulated capitalism is a great look at the issues surrounding this topic. If unregulated capitalism works, then PLEASE, please, please show me one example of a developed country in which this has been a success for more than a few decades. Just one example. You can't. Because humans tend to be greedy and power-hungry people don't make great decisions for the entire society. The past 30 years have proven this.

So where is the dellusional, hateful attitude towards OWSer's originating from? Probably people like Glenn Beck who championed the bail-outs before speaking against them once he landed on Fox News. He also spoke out against Wall Street "largesse" at one time. Why are you suddenly taking a different stance Glenn? Ah, nevermind.

Limbaugh himself was against the bail-outs that were begun by George W. Bush and continued by Barack Obama. So it seems that we do indeed have some similar ideas, even if it is distasteful for me to admit that. I only say that because of the hatefulness and divisive attitude that most opinion/entertainers on Faux News like to create. But then, it makes them money.

As a protester in support of Occupy Wall Street, I only speak for myself. I say the bail-outs were the most socialist thing this country has ever done,
~ that it is not "socialist" to choose where our tax dollars should go (yes, even if it is to higher education)
~that the money needs to be taken away from politics,
~that our young people are very well our hope (the older generation has fucked it up pretty good, dontcha think?),
~ that big corporations should be held accountable for their actions and how they affect the populace (yes, it is your fault if you dump mercury in the river and people start getting cancer from it) and that it is time for the people to rise up and demand a government FOR the people and BY the people.

When our forefathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, they understood this all too well:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Notions such as these are our only hope....but it may still be too late.

All images used in this post were taken by Teri Butler Dosher at the Occupy Johnson City solidarity event in TN on October 15th, 2011.