Opinion: Taking The Occupy Movement Seriously

It’s over two months into the Occupy Wall Street movement and the St. Luke’s community needs to begin taking these protests seriously. Classroom discussions have dealt with the topic and students are beginning to formulate their own opinions, but generally it seems that within the school people are dismissing the movement as irrelevant and/or arguing misinformed points. The fact is, this movement is extremely important to citizens across the country, especially so to those of us in High School who are preparing for the working world. It’s time that we as a student body get behind the Occupy Wall Street movement and stop criticizing the protestors based on isolated incidents and blatant misconceptions.

I’ve heard many students insist that the Occupy movement lacks a central message. I’m surprised by these accusations because even the most trivial research reveals that the protestors have a strong and coherent set of goals. Don’t believe me? Ask this group of elementary-aged kids . They present the contract for the American Dream, the product of an organization led by Van Jones that doesn’t necessarily speak for the Occupy movement, but nonetheless provides a good summary of the protestors’ agenda. The way the contract was formed also serves as a metaphor for the entire movement: these points were not drafted by a single person, but were written based on over 25,000 ideas submitted online. Similarly, the Occupy movement itself does not have a central leader but is instead fueled by the beliefs of the people who voice their respective opinions through social media.

Another common viewpoint suggests that instead of generating chaos, these young protestors should be devoting their time to finding work. I feel that this argument essentially reenforces one the primary ideals behind Occupy Wall Street. We, as a generation, have been told that hard work through high school and college will lead to success in the working world. Obviously this is no longer the case (check out Ken Robinson’s RSA Animate for more on this). Because of the massive economic downturn caused by corporate greed and the notion that certain financial institutions were ‘too big to fail,’ this generation is facing a depressed job market, often with a more than significant amount of debt from college loans. Young people are protesting Wall Street, a symbol of the ideals that caused the economic downturn, in the hopes that congress will acknowledge their struggles and pass legislation to ensure that the country learns from its mistakes.

Despite popular belief among the movement’s enemies, the protesters at Zuccotti Park and around the world are not an amorphous group of hippies living in their own filth (as representative Peter King seems to believe). On the contrary, the movement is fronted by a group of inspiringly enterprising young people. Although one can question whether or not the ideals of Occupy Wall Street are good for the country, it is evident that the way these protestors are communicating said ideals is revolutionary. Before the protestors were evicted from Zuccotti, not only did they have a fantastic kitchen, but they were using technology and social media in unprecedented ways. As I mentioned before, one person cannot speak for the entire Occupy movement. Instead, people communicate experiences and opinions to the world through Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. In doing so, the protestors are changing the way freedom of expression is viewed in this country. The Occupy movement is the quintessential use of social media as an agent of social change. So don’t deny the Occupy Movement on the grounds that it is an ineffective means of protest, because decades from now it will be viewed as a turning point in the way the public makes their opinion heard.

Overall, it seems as though the student body is more interested in criticizing the false stigmas of Zuccotti park protestors rather than interpreting the message of the Occupy movement as a whole. False pretenses based on isolated incidents and preconceived notions of liberalism and ‘hipsterdom’ seem to prevail over well thought out arguments. When it comes down to it, your stance on Occupy Wall Street is a matter of opinion on what is best for this country. To dismiss the protests as irrelevant is simply unacceptable. I encourage students to research the movement in greater detail, because I believe that this is an extremely significant time in our nation’s social history. Join the movement, or don’t. Either way, be informed.

— Charlie Schlinkert, Music Editor 

Posted by on December 7, 2011. Filed under Op-Ed. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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