Over the course of the past several months, hundreds of protests have broken out around the world, forcing people to resort to their basic instincts for what we consider to be natural freedoms. Few expected these types of protests to reach the United States of America, where we are fortunate to have the freedoms others crave. More recently, however, the Occupy Wall Street movement burgeoned in New York as a series of demonstrations of protestors speaking out against corporate greed and socioeconomic inequality. Driven by social media and mob-like protests that have swept the nation and even crossed borders to London, Occupy Wall Street aims to … uhh … well, I’m not quite sure what the end goal of the campaign is, although its original sentiments are noble and could actually have some impact on the nation.
The major problem with the Occupy Wall Street movement is this lack of goal-setting. Tied to this issue is the fact that the protestors want to function against corporate greed and socioeconomic inequality, but do not target a particular group of people, such as policymakers or bankers and CEOs.
History tends to repeat itself, as more animal-like protests broke out in the post-Vietnam War era, resulting in former President Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” speech that highlighted the loss of confidence in the American population. If the protestors created more goal-oriented effort with a coherent message of what the American population seeks, whether it is more taxes for the higher income brackets or a final decision in healthcare overhaul, perhaps policymakers could respond more effectively.
Furthermore, this goal-setting could take place with much more ease if the Occupy Wall Street movement were actually centralized. Some commentators view the demonstrations as an extension of the Tea Party, while others think the Occupy Wall Street reveal tensions along the liberal end of the political scale. Still, no party or already-existing political group has claimed the Occupy Wall Street movement. In fact, most politicians have actively avoided associating themselves with the demonstrations. If a new third party arose out of the “flames” of Occupy Wall Street, this group could conduct the goal-setting and serve as the main voice and platform in the face of policymakers and media.
One of the most frequently used phrases in social media posts about Occupy Wall Street is “We are the 99 percent,” which appears to reference the general American public versus the top one percent of income earners who receive between 20 and 30 percent of income in the United States. One Tumblr entitled “We Are The 99 Percent” describes this 99 percent as a hard-working group of Americans who get an education, tough out rough situations to avoid additional expenses and try to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. I don’t have statistics to prove that this is not characteristic of a large percentage of the American population, but I can say with certainty that, if a group could appropriately represent 99 percent of the population, it would have cropped up a long time ago.
Sure, I am a member of this so-called 99 percent in that I work hard and will do whatever it takes to get an education, even if it means paying off student loans later. However, I do not think that this group of protestors accurately represent my interests or have even taken the time to reach out to its constituents.
Another qualm I have with the protestors who claim to serve my interests is their pride in defacing property, public and private alike. As a journalist, I support protesting and free speech as actions protected by the First Amendment, but the videos I have seen have proved that hooligan-like behavior will not effect change.
A problem that combines the lack of a coherent philosophy and target audience is the negative message sent by the 99 percent to bankers and CEOs about their immoral actions. As one of many messages, this particular statement can incite class warfare between the middle and upper classes, which further solves nothing.
In general, the Occupy Wall Street movement has, interestingly enough, been a rather quick mobilization of people across many generations, but due to a lack of goal setting, centralization and notions of representation, the effort is ultimately ineffective.