Originally written 11/2011; still completely relevant.
On September 17, 2011, a movement began in Zuccotti Park that spread like a rampant virus across the US and abroad. The movement that would soon be known as Occupy Wall Street consisted of “the 99%” of the nation angered at the wealthiest 1% of Americans. To many, it seemed as if these 99% were fighting the good fight; after all, they’re just like you and me (unless you’ve got seven or eight figures in your bank account), and those mean rich people are against us. According to the OWS movement, they’re the sole reason no one can find work these days. And you should be on their side, because if you’re struggling financially, it’s probably someone else’s fault, right?
The 99% want you to believe in their cause, and they want you to identify with them. But I’m not like these people, nor should you be, and I’ll explain why.
The OWS movement really had no clear or defined goals, and yet it managed to pop up all over major cities throughout the US. Organized primarily through the internet and other social media, the 99% found areas of high visibility to occupy and protest their plight of being unemployed and broke in a crap economy. With signs and banners proclaiming “WE WANT JOBS!” and “WE ARE THE 99%” they stood united outside of corporate office buildings and protested, yet nothing really happened. Well, what did they expect? The notion that Mr. Fortune 500 CEO is going to walk out of his building and say, “You know what, you’re right. You people ALL GET JOBS!” is completely asinine. You don’t have to take an economics course to understand that; it’s just common sense. If businesses are laying off employees nationally, they definitely can’t afford to hire you.
The problem with many of these people is that they lack any real marketable skills. Many of them spent their time in a private art school or possess a four-year liberal arts degree. What many failed to realize, just as many college students do each year, is that a degree alone will not get you a job in today’s economy. What will are all the extra curricular activities, leadership positions, and internships/jobs you held while in college in addition to a degree. Just as I have discussed with my roommates, you can’t get an arts/humanities degree and expect every major employer to come beating down your door; it’s just not going to happen like that. Instead, focus on something practical that you can put to use while you’re in school, as well as after you’ve graduated.
As I mentioned, this movement wasn’t just limited to Wall Street. In my own city of Louisville, KY, they set up camp across from my girlfriend’s church, which she mistook for a homeless refuge project. And that’s really not much of a stretch given the attire of some of these protesters. If their goal was to go to the major corporate institutions in their cities and complain about how they’ve been deprived of a job, at least these 99% could dress like they deserve to be employed. Instead, they resolve to dressing like bums, which won’t get anyone anywhere in our society. The Occupy [city financial district] movement is analogous to a job interview gone horribly wrong. Let’s break it down:
- The candidate (the 99%) shows up with no prior appointment, demanding to speak to whoever is in charge.
- They’re not dressed professionally, but insist that they be seen and considered for a position.
- When refused to be seen by the hiring manager, they begin throwing a tantrum that rivals a six-year old deprived of his XBOX.
- They refuse to leave the office until forcibly removed by security.
- They blame the manager and the institution for their lack of financial security, and refuse to take any stock in their situation.
And that last bullet point says it all. My biggest frustration with the 99% is that they have deemed themselves helpless to their current situation, and because there’s nothing to be done about it, they view that going out publicly and complaining is the best possible solution. This not only irritates me, but deeply offends me, because I’m in the same situation as many of these people. Yes, the economy sucks. That’s a fact, no matter how you look at it. This is the worst economic time since the Great Depression. But taking to the streets and complaining about it doesn’t change anything, which I hope these people realize since their dispersing in November. The situation of the 99% is only as bad as they collectively choose to make it, and while they continue to complain, I continue to look for a start on my career. Blaming someone else for your situation is not only immature, but it relinquishes control over your life. If you want something bad enough, you need to go out, exert the effort, and get what you want in life. But so many people don’t agree with this and think things should be easier.
Unfortunately, the way our generation has been raised, we’ve been conditioned this way. We all think we’re winners! If you’re an 80s kid like me, you know what I’m talking about. I listened to a Podcast by Adam Carolla recently, and he broke it down perfectly – the playing field was leveled for our generation so we could all feel like we’re special. In reality, we should feel special because of the hard work and determination put into reaching goals and achievements. This everyone’s-a-winner parenting style caused our generation to develop a gross sense of entitlement. I played soccer for three years when I was teen, and I was horrible – and I knew that. I never received a trophy that I truly deserved… but I got one for participation. Why should I have gotten a trophy for participating? That’s like saying, “Congrats. You showed up, had a pulse, and ran around for an hour. No, you didn’t really do anything, but at least you kind of tried.” This is the problem, and now that we’re all grown up, everyone wants something for nothing, expecting some kind of hand-out that’s never going to come. This sense of entitlement needs to end for my generation, and the emphasis needs to be placed back on hard work for personal achievement.
I agree that corporate greed and unchecked practices in Wall Street institutions have heavily contributed to the current “Great Recession” (see: Bernie Madoff). But at some point I, along with millions of other Americans draw the line on this movement, and say get over it. Complaining about your situation won’t change anything. It’s time for people to realize that change comes from within, and blaming others for your problems combined with an exaggerated sense of entitlement will only impede your growth as a contributing member of society.