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What Are We Occupying Now?

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Occupy Wall Street protests seem to be catching on – to the point where I now have cousins calling to occupy nearby cities on Facebook. After many accusations that the media ignored them for the first few weeks, there seems to be a breakout of coverage recently. And as the NYT reports, the targets of the protests are panicking. So what’s really going on?

One of the things the protesters have going for them is that their stated goal is so vague that almost anyone can identify with it after a while. And there are surely some things that few people would agree with such as bankers and traders being paid large bonuses for causing a loss, and some decisions that impact everyone being made out of the reach of the average person. This gets the protestors a certain level of sympathy from nearly anyone who looks at the situation.

However, there is a danger that the protests will draw in more extreme views (if this wasn’t a part from the beginning). Anything that starts out by opposing the norm can quickly turn into a “big tent of crazies” where everyone who’s unhappy comes together. Businesses, including banks, need to run on their own and just like with criminal courts I prefer not to lock away everyone suspected of doing something wrong. I’ve also seen from the inside how people are sometimes held back from doing something reasonable just because it would look bad to people who know nothing.

I’m generally not a fan of protests since a lot of them seem to be motivated more by people having an adventure rather than doing something constructive. I’ve certainly had quite a few advantages in life but when I started my business I chose to go into an area where I was starting from nothing and create my own opportunity. It’s worked out for me and I suspect that quite a few people could put their effort into something productive instead of protesting and get similar results.

The best thing about these protests may be that they’re so vague they mostly get people to think rather than pushing for a specific outcome that only benefits a few people. It already seems to have changed the tone of media reports on the economy to refocus on issues that were forgotten. That’s a good thing because too many people have given up, simply reacting to events or ignoring them altogether because they think they can’t do anything. So I’m not entirely against these protests but I’m too busy building a better economy to attend one. If you think something isn’t quite right, you don’t need to march around all day. Just remember that you still have choices and you can speak out against things you don’t agree with. The extremists on either side only get heard when everyone else shuts up.

  1. Mark
    October 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    If the protests against Wall Street had taken place 3 years ago post Lehman, they might have made sense. If they were taking place now but in Washington and called “Occupy The Capitol”, they might have made sense.

    But now and against “Wall Street” when the current world-wide problems (i.e. European and Washington grid-lock in origin) have everything to do with governments spending more than they take in year after year and only involve the Financial community to the extent that banks have been stupid enough to support government mismanagement? (Especially when much of the spending has been to support social programmes for many of those who are protesting ironically). No sense at all.

    And what makes even less sense to me, as a Canadian, is we are having the same protests here even though we’ve been largely immune to the excesses of Wall Street AND government deficits. How stupid is that?

  2. October 11, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    They definitely could use a PR agency to focus their message, but if they aren’t exactly in the right place at the right time they could still have an impact. I wouldn’t say the banks are held separate from everything else since a lot of small businesses still don’t seem to be getting the credit they need to drive the economy up. If one private business doesn’t want to help another that’s fine but they did kind of get a little help themselves.

    The real question is, will this affect the decisions being made even if the protests aren’t at the right place? They have raised a certain awareness and everyone who is subject to the anger of the masses is noticing. It might actually be more effective than the protests in Greece.

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