In May, the New York Times reported on the challenges facing our current crop of recent college graduates. Of those under 25, and across the majors they analyzed with the data they had, the number of these individuals who were not working varied from 21.2% to 25.2%.
I’ve seen critiques of the folks occupying Wall Street right now – either that they’re privileged white kids or that they’re silly, aimless liberals – but both are in service of a right wing narrative (whether they know it or not).
It wouldn’t surprise me if you hadn’t even heard about the protest or the criticisms, because the media has expressed very little interest thus far in reporting on it, which Wonkette noted today in its article Liberal NPR Won’t Cover Wall Street Protests, So Read This Instead. In case you were interested in NPR’s response, this is it:
We asked the newsroom to explain their editorial decision. Executive editor for news Dick Meyer came back: “The recent protests on Wall Street did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective.”
Wonkette also reported another criticism that is often leveled at youth or even at middle or lower-middle class people who deign to protest their condition. Don’t listen to them, they own technology – if they were really poor, they wouldn’t have a laptop. This infuriates me. The most powerful tools that we have right now are those that facilitate the mass distribution of content. That means video cameras, that means iPhones, that means laptops. Twitter and YouTube are powerful tools for organizing when the media ignore you, and it’s sure as hell hard to type on location without a portable computer. When people critique those so-called luxuries, what they are advocating for is silence.
An article that is a “must-read” on the occupation was an essay titled The Revolution Begins at Home, by Arun Gupta that was reposted today by Naomi Klein. A few highlights:
They have created a unique opportunity to shift the tides of history in the tradition of other great peaceful occupations from the sit-down strikes of the 1930s to the lunch-counter sit-ins of the 1960s to the democratic uprisings across the Arab world and Europe today.
Our system is broken at every level. More than 25 million Americans are unemployed. More than 50 million live without health insurance. And perhaps 100 million Americans are mired in poverty, using realistic measures. Yet the fat cats continue to get tax breaks and reap billions while politicians compete to turn the austerity screws on all of us.
Yet against every description of a generation derided as narcissistic, apathetic and hopeless they are staking a claim to a better future for all of us.
To be fair, the scene in Liberty Plaza seems messy and chaotic. But it’s also a laboratory of possibility, and that’s the beauty of democracy. As opposed to our monoculture world, where political life is flipping a lever every four years, social life is being a consumer and economic life is being a timid cog, the Wall Street occupation is creating a polyculture of ideas, expression and art.
Yet while many people support the occupation, they hesitate to fully join in and are quick to offer criticism. It’s clear that the biggest obstacles to building a powerful movement are not the police or capital – it’s our own cynicism and despair.
Get size and scope (plus a bunch of rich folks looking down on them while drinking champagne…you can’t make this stuff up).
So here is the thing: these folks weren’t rallied and organized by FOX. They haven’t been fed talking points to regurgitate. They are actually in the midst of identifying and creating their actual agenda – all while maintaining presence on the more global agenda – that our country’s current interpretation of what capitalism should look like is destroying our country and their futures.
Those of us who have careers – who are lucky enough to still be on a track – might glom on to the idea that these are spoiled kids, but that’s not a valid narrative (and not only because it’s not just young people). We would be attracted to that narrative because it would make us feel better about our relative positions or provide an outlet (however inappropriate) for the exhaustion and stress of paying off debts for our own educations and houses. It’s why the NY Times so easily prints those criticisms or why NPR until recently (I think today) chose to not bother with it.
The truth is that those of us who cling to our middle class lives are clinging to a myth. Nothing guarantees that your luck won’t turn, that you won’t wind up one of those human interest stories about the successful person who lost it all. Very few of us are going to give up what we have without kicking and screaming, however, which is why the people taking up camp on Wall Street are so important. They have the time, wealth, privilege, poverty, powerlessness, or just plain guts to do what I’m not and what you’re probably not.
They’re holding the people responsible for the economic condition we’re in to account – the people who have made wealth beyond your wildest imagination at your expense. And that is why both narratives we’re presented with – the spoiled rich kids and the silly liberals – are in the service of the right wing: they both encourage you to do nothing, and nothing is getting a few people very, very rich.
Sadly, it’s sure not helping you.