I’ve been following the developments of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and I have to say, I’m impressed.
I’m impressed that, despite their label as unemployed, slobby kids, young Americans are out there fighting for what they want. Americans of all ages are participating, but I am so proud of my generation for actually doing something. I’ve wanted to do something about the way our middle class is shrinking for so long. But I’m lucky in that I’m employed, as is my husband. It is not my dream job, nor is it his. But I have more than enough money to survive. In fact, I am even saving money very, very easily. In economic times where people are unable to afford even the basics, I have an apartment, a nice car, and healthcare. It didn’t cover any of my surgery this year, but I wouldn’t have been able to get surgery without a plan. So I am lucky like that, too. But I am often overworked, irritable, and tired. We both work 70-90 hours a week and are never home. We travel everywhere. Sometimes we work 80 days in a row with no days off. Every trip we have tried to plan has been threatened by work — we were going to rent a car and stay in Florida after we finished up at work last year, and our trip was delayed a day by work because I had to go cover someone’s ass for a police investigation. We often have to request to simply leave early, otherwise we won’t go home at all. This works every once in awhile. Just recently, we paid over a thousand dollars to go to a convention — Blizzcon — where my husband can network with people in the business he’s interested in. Now work is saying we can’t go. They’ll reimburse us, but it’s very disappointing. They control where we are at almost all times during the year, which means we have no time to look for another job or set up any sort of interview at home. It’s definitely not ideal, but I do consider myself extraordinarily lucky, financially speaking, compared to others.
I’m impressed that the protesters hold strong. That they haven’t been fooled into moving, or coerced into giving in, despite the pressure the police are putting on them. I would be out there with them, if I weren’t working.
And, I’m impressed that this idea has spread. That our friends and supporters across the globe are participating, and fighting for what they believe in, too. I can’t explain how wonderful it feels to have people stand with America once again, instead of against it. My heart grew three times its normal size today. 😉
As I said earlier, I have been vocal in the past about my feelings regarding the recession and my country’s lack of ability to get us back on track. Before I was even out of high school, I was aware that there was a bitter rivalry between the USA’s two major political parties, and that this could only spell disaster for the years to come. What I didn’t know was how short that time would be. Any idea to help America move forward, whether through a jobs creation package, or a healthcare package, has been filibustered or demonized, while other bills and proposals have cropped up just to slap us in the face and/or completely derail the entire discussion.
The Occupy movement is bringing people who are sick of this bipartisanship feuding together. They are discussing ideas, creating dialogues and strategies for changing the direction of politics; a direction that better addresses the majority of Americans and America’s future. Hell, it goes beyond that: They are addressing flaws in the entire global financial market, not just those within American borders. Those who oppose the movement seem to be angry because they’ve suffered and are thankful that they have what little they do have because it’s America and there are starving kids in Africa, and goddammit you should stop whining and being Un-American; or, they cite class warfare or maybe even pull out the good ol’ “you’re-just-jealous-of-all-my-shit” routine. I’ve seen a lot of “get a job” comments; the irony here is that they can’t just “get a job”, and that that is why they’re out there, frustrated, and exercising their right to protest what they perceive to be unfair treatment.
But despite the people who do not think this is productive, the number of supporters keeps growing. I for one stand with them, because although I cannot say I’m struggling as much as some of the OWS folks, I am only a very short fall from my slightly-higher perch. If I lost my job today, I would only have enough in savings for a few months, and I know the job market is still very very rough. I am college-educated and have a number of marketable skills: Creative writing, technical writing, editing, research, graphic design, video editing, and PR experience, to name a few. I know how it feels to compete against people with experience — even as little as 6 months experience more than you, and you are passed over. I know what it’s like to be one of those young adults, caught in that paradox of being “too educated” for low-paying jobs, like writing and designing part-time for a local newsletter. (Yes! I was turned down for this job… because I was “too educated” and didn’t have kids(?!)) But I’ve also been turned down for jobs because I’m “not experienced enough” for jobs my field that demand my skill set. (I applied to do international event organization at a local museum. The position was listed as “entry-level”, but said a degree would be preferable, and asked for skills like experience with intercultural relations, working in groups, planning, etc — all things I’ve done. I was one of 72 applicants, and received an email saying that a museum curator with over 20 years’ experience and a Master’s in Museum Studies was selected. How can you compete with that as a new college grad? Why would a person of that stature apply to an entry-level position? Competition for jobs is fierce.)
Or how about internships? How many young Americans can really afford to work for free? Sure, it’s great experience, and you have some peace of mind knowing that it is only a temporary position. But most people just can’t give up their income for several months. On top of all that, it’s often extremely competitive to attain an internship!
So I understand the frustration, I really do. It’s very difficult, no matter which options you’re presented with.
So there are my thoughts. Now, for my request. It is what everyone else is asking by now:
What are your demands, Occupy Wall Street?
I know you’re wary to say who you support, because this isn’t supposed to be affiliated with political parties. It’s a deep mistrust of politics that’s being conveyed, and that’s very clear (at least to me and a few others — some people seem to think it’s a left-only event). But I’m scared that although there’s a lot of passion, emotions, and desire for change involved in this, it will fizzle out without a clear and concise list of demands. We know things need to change, but how?
A few bloggers have already started voicing their own ideas. I will provide some links here so that you can see what they’re thinking about. I will think about things too, and perhaps write a follow-up post. I want to be the change I want to see. Do it with me.