Even though I have pretty strong political views, I try very hard not to mention them in my blog. The purpose for this blog is to provide helpful smidgeons of advice when I stumble across them, and politics does not usually fit into that category (there’s nothing little in that topic!). However, I have recently been bothered by something in the news which I feel that I need to bring up in the blog, as it deals with education about politics (or the lack thereof). I apologize in advance for this lengthy post, but I could not rightly cut any of it and I felt it was necessary to post.
The Occupy Wall Street protests have been in the news a lot recently. Along with you, I have heard commentators and news reporters all try to analyze who is in charge of this seemingly mismatched mob which has encamped itself around what is considered the center of business in the United States, with occasional bands sprouting up across the nation. The biggest question seems to actually be two questions: Who are they? and What do they want? As basic as these two questions are, they have not been easy to answer.
I heard a very interesting radio program recently which helped shed some light on this “movement” for me, and I want to share a little of what I learned with you. I do not normally listen to Dave Ramsey (I should, I know I should, which is why I get his e-mail updates and why I am “friends” with his program on Facebook, but I just normally don’t take the time to listen). However, when his October 19 program advertised that it was about the “OWS” (as he called the Occupy Wall Street Protesters), I decided to listen. I have heard other radio hosts take callers from this group, but I like how Dave talks to callers he does not agree with, and I knew he would not agree with this group. I listened to the entire 3 hours (going to bed at 12:30 am – a great feat since I normally wake up with my husband at 5:00am). What I heard really opened my eyes.
Dave had only planned on using one of his three hours for these calls, and he began by saying he only wanted to hear from those who support the OWS protesters. Each person who called, he asked what they supported about the movement. Caller after caller listed their grievances – some Dave agreed with (i.e., against the bank bail outs) and some that were so far out there that I wondered how Dave could keep a straight face (like the guy who said plastics were poisoning the world). Caller after caller was certain that the reason everyone was protesting was because of their own “pet” complaint, yet, caller after caller, Dave explained to them that their call was not one of the reasons listed on the OWS official website (I think two calls could actually have been loosely connected with these official reasons for the protest). They were there for one reason, and they were certain that their own protest was a valid purpose for the movement. Dave struggled through the first hour to enlighten them that the movement was NOT there to support their claims.
Each protestor knew why he was there, but every caller had no idea why the protest had been organized. Ignorance, it seemed, was the only common thread between the calls. Ignorance, the lack of knowledge – not necessarily a lack of intelligence (though a few calls fit into that category, as well).
Some people called saying that they were against Wall Street. Dave asked them if they realized that Wall Street was simply a street in New York City. Many callers had not made that connection. On Wall Street, as Dave explained, was a building called the New York Stock Exchange, a place where investors exchange stocks. He called it the flea market for stocks. That’s all they do, and it’s only a limited number of businesses that participate in that. None of the callers were against honest businesses, and they all lost some of their steam as Dave talked to them. Also, Dave pointed out to several of them that what they were upset about was not on the list of 15 items which the website listed, so they were adding their energies to a movement that was not supporting them.
Other callers said they were against the Bush tax cuts, yet when Dave asked them what that meant, none of these people could explain. Again, ignorance of their main issue ruled these particular calls. Dave asked if they knew that putting $2,000 aside for their child’s college education tax free was one of the tax cuts, and asked why that was a problem. None of them knew that. So, Dave would ask them exactly WHICH tax cut they were against, and none had an answer. One caller replied, “Well, I’m not against that. I’m just against the phrase, ‘Bush Tax Cuts.’” Once again, ignorance ruled these calls.
Some claimed to be against the inequality of wealth, though when Dave pointed out that 8 out of 10 millionaires had started out in either poor or middle class families and had worked their tail off to make their money, listing specific examples by name, none of these callers wanted to take their hard earned money. Dave did point out that this would be stealing. Everyone who called in to complain about the lack of jobs actually HAD a job themselves, they were just grieved that people out there “somewhere” didn’t have a job. Ignorance of business and the way money works were the common thread in these types of calls.
In the middle of his second hour, a Twitter message went out from the OWS “leadership” saying that Dave was only taking the “stupid” callers, which he immediately addressed on-air, challenging anyone to call. They were not turning away supporters of this protest if they could halfway put two sentences together and if they had a phone that had signal strong enough to be understood. Toward the end of this second hour, a man called in who called himself a “Trainer” for the OWS protesters. Dave asked what he taught these people, and the guy simply said that he taught them whatever he felt they needed to know. Some things were about life as a protester, while other things he said he taught was about life in general, but he could not even name one item he taught. His own personal protest, his reason for joining this group he was training, was also not even on the official list.
So why were these people there? No one, not even those who were standing on Wall Street, seemed to know. Then came the last caller of hour three – one of the original founders of the Occupy Wall Street movement. His call, in my opinion, was the most enlightening. After hearing three hours of supporters of this movement, which was not actually moving anywhere, hearing one of the “founders” helped bring the entire protest into perspective, but it only helped after hearing all the other callers.
This man who said he was one of the originators of protest was in his early thirties, like most of the callers (most of whom were born in the 80’s). He was thrilled that the movement had gotten as big as it was. Dave asked him why the callers for the past three hours, many of whom had actually stood on the street to protest, all had different reasons for being there and not even the trainer knew the “demands” made on the official website. The young man reiterated that he was very excited that what had started as a small group of people had now extended across the United States. He said it didn’t matter that they were there for different reasons – he was just glad that they had a venue to express themselves. The leader of the movement had NO INTENTION OF LEADING THIS GROUP!!
Why is this a problem? Why not just allow these people to express themselves? As Dave told this young man and other callers, if you have a legitimate protest, come up with a solution and start your own protest, but THERE NEEDS TO BE SOME WAY TO RESOLVE THE ISSUES, and the way things stand right now, there is no way for this to happen in the OWS protest. Each person is there for a different reason. Dave told this young man that they need to communicate with those who are protesting, so they know why they are there and when it’s time to go home. So far, almost a week after the show broadcast, this has not yet happened.
Another problem is that, with this “movement” not having a leadership or any organization, there is room for other, well-organized groups to step in and take control. This is already happening. Communist and Marxist organizations have started setting up platforms, talking to those who are protesting in various cities across the US. Labor Unions have tried organizing the people in these crowds. All have had a small amount of success, though with everyone there for a different reason, none of these groups have control over the protest. Criminals have already found that there is no leader and rapes, muggings, and general unlawful activity are ruling many of these protests. Yet, we still have people blindly, ignorantly getting angry at the local law enforcement who are trying to keep the peace during these unorganized protests.
Ignorance is ruling the protests. There is a website, for anyone interested in finding it, that lists fifteen specific reasons for the protest, though very few have actually bothered to look this up. For others, the ignorance is about the actual issues that they claim to be protesting. Still other people seem to be ignorant of the fact that they have a legitimate protest that they should start on their own, organized protest.
Simply protesting to say you are mad is not a true protest. There is no way to resolve the fact that someone is mad. A peaceable protest is one of the great rights we have in this country, however, an unruly mob has no place in a civilized society.
We need to educate ourselves about the facts. Don’t just blindly join a group if you do not know why they are there. If you have an issue you want to protest, you need to clearly communicate that issue and protest it in a lawful manner. "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" was written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, attributing it to Voltaire. People have a right to protest, even the guy who believed plastics are poisoning the world, but they need to do it in a peaceable manner with some method of resolving (or dissolving) the protest in mind.