OPINION | Protest must do more than occupy

Occupy Wall Street slowly has been getting more national news attention in the past week and a handful of Bulldogs have taken up the cause here in Indianapolis.

I can wholeheartedly agree with their posted goals, and I offer my support to the movement as a whole. However, I hesitate to say they will succeed. The movement’s website said money has always been a part of the political system.

“A system based on the haves and have nots…will inevitably lead to a situation where the haves find a way to rule, whether by the sword or by the dollar,”
occupywallst.org said.

At the risk of raining on the protest, I don’t see that maxim getting changed any time soon. Especially if the movement comrpomises.

Compare it to the many waves of feminist protest in the United States. While important milestones have been hard won, no reasonable person can argue that the sexes are equal.

Butler University students have joined Occupy Indy protests to express their frustration with a system that advocates hard work but offers little reward or security.

The American Dream appears like a lottery wheel that only hands out to those who already have privilege.

“I think the movement is expressive of a general frustration with loss of control, loss of socio-economic security,” junior politcal science major Nicholas Hochstedler said.

More globally, the movement has spawned a huge viral response on Facebook, other social media sites and in other countries.

“People are finally mobilizing against classism,” Hochstedler said.

A poll conducted by the Associated Press shows that as many as one in three Americans support the movement, in part because of growing wealth disparity.

“The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer,” junior political science major Mike Callaway said. “It’s about getting the money and greed out of politics.”

As one can gather from their statement above, Occupy Wall Street is not merely angry at the financial sector, but at all governing forces. Money can’t rule politics unless politicians take the money.

And no one can deny that almost every politician takes the money.

In fact, it is precisely because the movement condemns the entire social structure of the U.S., of both government and corporations, that I find the protests admirable.

But something tells me that American politicians enjoy having deep pockets and won’t simply give it back. They’ve been accused of corruption and greed before.

More locally, Butler students might notice the economy is suffering. Some worry about employment after graduation.

They have good reason to fear an unemployment rate that various reports estimate is  between 9 and 20 percent.

“The middle class is disappearing,” Hochstedler said. “Student loans were hard to pay off before this.”

“Most of us are getting undergraduate degrees,” Callaway said. “And that doesn’t mean what it used to. I think a lot of kids from Butler are going to have trouble paying off their debts and getting jobs. I don’t think I will be able to pay off $80,000 of debt.”

There are, of course, exceptions. Self-made captains of industry have punctuated the history of this nation.

To try to argue that their experience is somehow typical, however, insults both those men and women and the entire lower class.

And even in some of the harshest slums in the United States, social scientists struggle to find individuals who do not believe in hard work and meritocracy.

Regardless of work ethic, Americans should honor the age-old virtues of compassion and community.

“You measure a society by how they treat the least well off,” Hochstedler said.

The issue isn’t just for those struggling in this economy, either.

The upper-most 1 percent have to deal with the 99 percent as a political force. And we should show compassion, Hochstedler said.

That’s not a new idea, nor one that should shock the vast majority of Collegian readers.

But before everyone gets “99%” tattooed on themselves, a huge point needs to be addressed.

While they have clear goals, the protesters have challenged some of the most powerful establishments in the world with nothing more than democratic ideals.

The body politic has passed incredibly controversial examples of corporate welfare before—the multi-billion-dollar bailouts, to name the most recent.

These few protesters face very tough odds of effecting change.

A handful of students in Indianapolis have to scream quite loudly to be heard in New York City and Washington, D.C.

My fear is that Occupy Wall Street will endorse a handful of candidates who offer big, sincere promises and then find themselves safely pushed to the side while everyone else continues business as usual.

So my message to the protesters is this: do not compromise.

Do not trade legitimate frustration and even anger for piecemeal reforms that might “get the ball rolling”.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”


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