What Are We Occupying Now?
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.