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Occupy Wall Street: Do not try to oversimplify what is complex

12 Jan. 2012 Posted by Hannah Mich
occupy wall street, occupy movement, OWS, protestors

[A response to Marybeth Hicks article in the Washington Post “Occupy Wall Street – Who parented these people?”]

I was recently emailed a copy of an article written by Marybeth Hicks in regards to lessons she determined the protestors failed to learn from their parents. Below in the reference section you will find a link to the article, which I recommend reading prior to reading my response below. Although this article was published in October 2011, I still felt compelled to reply and share.

"I would rather live in a world where we are trying to achieve a goal of fairness, regardless of how unattainable"

Marybeth Hicks points out five lessons she feels “these people,” or the occupy protestors, did not learn from their parents. The points she makes include life is not fair, nothing is free, your word is your bond, a protest is not a party, and there are reasons you have not found jobs. Although I think she raises some valid points, she does is it in a manner that is far too simplistic and one-sided. She, therefore, neglects some important and valid points at the heart of this movement.

Yes. Life is not fair. However, we have a moral obligation to stand up and say something when people, especially the majority of people, are blatantly taken advantage of for the personal gain of a few. I would also like to hear Marybeth Hicks say these words – life is not fair - to the people in developing countries who make our clothes, gadgets and other daily products. They are often paid a dollar or less a day for their hard work. This has become an acceptable business practice [exploiting developing countries] in order to achieve maximum profits. So, yes life is not fair that is obvious. On the other hand, I would rather live in a world where we are trying to achieve a goal of fairness, regardless of how unattainable, rather than upholding, or working towards, a more unjust, unfair, and inhumane world. These protestors are protesting these unjust practices.

Marybeth Hicks raises another good point that nothing is “free.” I have had many conversations with protestors and have read a great many articles and blogs about the movement. Frankly, I have never gotten the impression that the protestors and the occupy movement represents this ideology of wanting something for nothing. What people want is their tax paying dollars to be spent more wisely and to go towards improving our education, infrastructure and health care. It is no secret that our government spending has been wasteful and poorly managed for years.

Furthermore, Marybeth Hicks is correct that this movement, she calls a “civic temper tantrum,” is costing taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, bucking the system, standing up for something you believe in, and protesting against the negligible actions of our government, mega-corporations and financial institutions does not come without a price either; but I would rather pay the price now than leave it to my children or grandchildren. Public protests have been used for generations as a way to produce change and this situation is no different. When people are physically protesting out in the streets it is much harder for the government and us as a society to ignore it.

I am not completely certain where Marybeth Hicks is going with the saying “your word is your bond.” Although I believe this is something we should all try to uphold, life is just not that simply. There are too many external factors contributing to life situations. She uses the example of student loans, but she neglects major points. When someone promises or signs a contract for a student loan it is done with the idea that “the system” will work the way it is suppose to work: You take out a student loan, you get a college education, you get a paying job, and then you pay back your student loan. What people are saying is that “the system” is broken: The cost of a college education is rapidly increasing, jobs are hard to come by, and people do not earn enough money to pay back the loan. I think they are raising valid points. The phrase – your word is your bond – would be better directed at our politicians than at protestors.

Marybeth Hicks also brings up the fact that a college education is a privilege that many people in other countries do not have. Yes, I agree that compared to citizens of developing countries a college education is seen as a privilege, but for citizens of developed countries it is more of a “necessity” as the majority of jobs require some element of secondary education. Therefore, protestors are just raising the point that if a college education is more of a necessity, than we, as a nation, need to figure out a way to make it more affordable. Providing loans for necessities such as a housing, college education and transportation only gives the false impression that it is affordable.

Marybeth Hicks lesson that “a protest is not a party” appears to be based on her observations of the protestors on one given Saturday in New York City. The majority of protestors take this movement and the protests very seriously. Singing and playing jigs is one way to express oneself, communicate with others and alleviate stress. Just because some think it appears foolish does not mean that is does not serve a purpose. A lesson for Marybeth Hicks and other people making hasty judgments is you should attempt to understand the situation before passing judgment. People often fear and ridicule what they do not understand.

I do not even know how Marybeth Hicks considers her last point – there is a reason you haven’t found jobs – as a lesson. The real lesson here is “do not judge a book by its cover.” Just because some of these protestors choose to look a certain way does not mean they are not intelligent, educated and hard-working people, who are employed. Marybeth Hicks continuous to state that “unconformity for the sack of unconformity is not virtuous,” but judging someone purely on looks is not virtuous either.

Furthermore, to dilute down unemployment and economical problems to “it’s not them. It’s you” is absolutely absurd. The protestors she is referring to do not even begin to encompass the over two million unemployed college graduates, and to ignore the plethora of other variables contributing to unemployment displays further ignorance.

I could go on about other lessons and points that could be made about this movement, these protestors and articles such as this one; but I think you get the point that I am trying to make. Oversimplifying people and complex situations such as these protestors and this movement shows some people’s denial and lack of understanding and will only inhibit change, innovation and solutions.

Washington Times; Occupy Wall Street – Who parented these people?; Marybeth Hicks


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