Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy the Middle!

Before I grow fully involved in talking about identity groups, I would like to finally hash out this post about Occupy Wall Street that I have been trying to write for over a week. Despite, or maybe because of, nebulous and conflicting concerns and desires, the Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired a plethora of related movements, occupying things across the United States and even internationally.

Ideally I might open with what the goals of the movement are. However, as I have noted, such a thing is not easy to formulate. I think it is safe to say that the movements are characterized by an anti-capitalist sentiment, and an accompanying dissatisfaction with the growing economic disparity within the US. The proposed solutions are, unfortunately, less homogeneous.

I think that this is a necessary characteristic of the movements. In order to enjoy such broad popular support, I don't think one can afford to commit to a more specific plan. Ironically, one can witness the same phenomenon within the very political structure that, many of, the protesters vilify. There, just as with the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is arduous to nail down exactly what a politician plans to do, simply because it is easier to garner support by pointing out what problems exist than by proposing specific measures by which one intends to correct them.

By no means to I consider this to be a scathing criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement. I think it is inherently valuable to gain a platform from which we may air our grievances and question whether practices historically considered social necessities are, actually, contingencies put into place to tailor the system to the benefit of one group or another. However, I believe that true change will not be effective until people develop a plan of action more sophisticated than sitting in a public place until someone else gets sufficiently fed up and fixes the problem to make you go away.

While some have likened Occupy Wall Street to 60's era activism, the movement that most reminds me of Occupy Wall Street is the Tea Party. While they evolved out of radically different ideologies, I think at the heart of both movements is a deep sense of broad dissatisfaction with current domestic affairs. Contrast this with peace protests, civil rights movements, and even religious demonstrations, which all have much more definite goals to which they aspire.

Of course, there are significant differences between the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements. I think that the plans of the Tea Party were much more concrete, even if the underlying goals which they hoped to thereby accomplish remained quite nebulous. Perhaps correspondingly, I think the aims of the Tea Party translate better into the language of policy and legislation. Unfortunately, I do not particularly believe the change for which the Tea Party advocates can jar our society out of the malaise in which it currently lingers.

While I may not identify with"the 99%," I think their call for a re-conceptualization of "the good life" and our fundamental societal systems is a needed one. That said, I do not see how it is a matter of policy. One cannot legislate what people value, nor an ethic of individual accountability and responsibility. Of course, one might be able to, through legislation, encourage such a culture to develop. Personally I would like to see our nation take moral education and civic involvement more seriously, but that is just my opinion.

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