Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy, up close

Thoughts after a Saturday night visit to Occupy Boston:
First of all, it's more than just young kids whining about being about of work.
Most of the people camping out on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the ones that I saw, truly believe financial inequality in society needs to be addressed.  They're like many of us, justifiably pissed that so much of the country's wealth is in the hands of so few.  They also take serious objection to the notion that so much of the financial help has gone to the big banks, who in turn have been so tight-fisted when loaning money.
Many of these people don't even pitch tents.  They tell me they go to work, sometimes two jobs, and go to the site when they can.
The usual suspects are also there, the ones that always turn out for the Power-to-the-People protests. Many of them remind me of the anti-war crowd I used to see in Shawsheen Square in Andover, MA on Sundays.  These are people who cut their activist teeth in the anti-Vietnam protests.  They've been activists on standby ever since.
There are those who say the whole system needs to be thrown out.  They say capitalism hasn't worked (for them).  There are plenty of Socialists in the group.
But back to the Occupy Boston crowd:  they think they can make a difference, just by calling attention to their issue, which mainly is about the disparity between have and have-nots.  Most are young, most are quite energetic.
They like talking about it, too.  I struck up conversations with a handful of demonstrators, and heard earnest descriptions of the same problem, and the need to fix it.  Not any ideas about how to fix it, but the need to get a conversation going that will get lawmakers to take action.
A Boston University student told me she didn't know all the issues, but she sees so many of her friends working at least two jobs, and still not getting anywhere.  She's nervous about the future.  She claims she goes to the site every day after class.
Then there was this guy, who told me he had just arrived from New York.  He said it was crazy at the Occupy Wall Street protests:
The Occupy Boston protest, as of this writing, is a peaceful one.  God willing, it will stay that way.  There's plenty of music, shared food, beverage, tobacco and other things people can smoke.  I talked with a couple of police officers, who told me the crowd has been very well-behaved.
Cigarettes appear to be at a premium.  Four people tried to bum smokes from me.  Never mind that a 7-11 is maybe half a mile away from the protest site.
I wonder when Mayor Menino will say it's time for the protest to end?  I hope it ends without incident.  overall, I'm impressed by the organization of this thing, the non-threatening manner of the speakers I heard, the diversity of the crowd, and the importance of the issue.  Many people are hurting.  We're at a tipping point.  I hope this opportunity doesn't pass us by. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


From a distance, this Occupy movement seems to be an expression of major-league dissatisfaction with the system.  Let's try to look at it from two sides:

- the demonstrators are upset with big banks, who they blame for the current economic crisis.  Many of them seem to be young people who are having trouble finding work, and health care.  They're worried about the present, never mind the future.

- those who see the protests wonder what they're all about.  While many of them agree about the lack of jobs and dismal conditions, they wonder what the goal of the demonstrations is.

I'm glad that, as of this writing, they demonstrations have been mostly peaceful.  The protests are respectful.  They have a point to make, but they don't seem to be trying to spark anarchy.

Some would say, Then what are they trying to accomplish?   Wouldn't the time be better spent looking for work, any work, than camping out among the glistening towers of the cities?  Careers take time to build, you gotta start somewhere, even at the bottom rung.

Back to the peaceful nature of the Occupiers:  it's my humble opinion that change doesn't often come through sit ins.  People like Martin Luther King, Junior, are the exception.  They seize on moments, and bring about (mostly) peaceful revolutions.

The Occupying Force (that's my own, you like it?) seems to be much less focused.  To me, it's the latest incarnation of the battle between The People and The Money.

I do not side with the criminal actions of some of the big banks.  They've caused a heck of a lot of misery that isn't going away soon.  Their leaders ought to pay the price for the wreckage they've strewn over the international landscape.  If these demonstrations do one thing, I hope they spur government to go after more of them.  There are people in the financial industry with blood on their hands who are free as we speak, and they're not real worried about the possibility of indictments or arrest.

Let's remember how much we need the financial industry, though.  You want a loan to finance that home purchase?  You want to save for your child's education, your own retirement?  You're going to need to be involved in the financial world, to some extent.

In a perfect world, the bankers would look down upon the masses, and say Hmm, they're on to something.  Let's give them jobs doing something, anything, at a decent wage.  Let's make sure they have decent health insurance.

I'm afraid it's not going to happen.  Many of the folks in positions of authority have worked to get there.  Of course, there are the hacks, both public and private, who kiss enough glutius to climb the ladder.  In the financial world, we know that if they don't perform, they'll lose their jobs.

Education and hard work have fallen out of style.  We want it now, and dammit, we deserve it.  We're good people.  We went to school, we help old ladies across the street, and we try, we really do.


But there are no guarantees.

I totally encourage the Occupying Force to keep up their demonstrations, if they think they're going to reach the ultimate goal, whatever it is.

Ask your parents and grandparents, though, how they got to where they have.  Tell me how many answer "by camping out for weeks in a park" or "by marching around a neighborhood."

The economy sucks.  Things are tight.  But people are working.  Ours is the best economic system ever developed.

Let's get to work.