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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Occupy movement has been long in the making

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 | 10:39 a.m. CDT

I do not, as so many others do, have blind faith in the prospects of change or the betterment of mankind.

Most decisions are made for a select few. This is not a paranoid view of the world, but a practical one, and one I feel can be applied to many walks of life.

Teachers make decisions for students, parents make decisions for children and governments make decisions for their people.

Each group claims to be more informed, or better equipped, to handle the decision and its consequences.

I do, however, believe in the power of opinions. Let me be more specific — well-informed opinions.

Opinions created upon ignorance, indifference or prejudice are not ones I typically bestow much weight on, and neither, I feel, should anyone else.

It is with this in mind that I comment on the Oct. 12 opinion page in the print edition of the Columbia Missourian. These headlines caught my attention: "To be effective, Occupy protesters need a focus"; "Occupy Wall Street is purely American"; and "Protesters' message is simple: 'Hear us, see us. Pay attention.'"

To the first: "To be effective, Occupy protesters need a focus." Not very long ago, before this article appeared in the Missourian, the protesters released a manifesto of sorts. They also publish a journal/newsletter documenting their activities and their goals.

I find it hard to believe that the author of this article is unfamiliar with Google, and could not be bothered to look beyond what they were told.

To the second: "Occupy Wall Street is purely American." I respect greatly the opinions put forward, however the Occupy movement has moved far beyond the borders of the United States.

Protests have begun in Ireland, London, Montreal and even Melbourne, Australia. The ideals of the protest are not solely American either.

The prospects of economic justice, steady work and the potential for future prosperity are ideals embraced worldwide. The movement, after all was called by Adbusters to mimic the revolution in Egypt, actually christening it a "Tahrir moment on Wall Street."

To the third: "Protesters' message is simple: 'Hear us, see us. Pay attention.' "

Again, I must congratulate and commend the opinions set forth here, but I must expand. The protests are far beyond wanted to be seen and be acknowledged.

It is beyond explanation, beyond stating "We are the 99 percent, and we are tired of it."

It is about action. The opinions and histories that are part of this movement did not suddenly erupt on Sept. 18. They did not spring from the ground all of a sudden.

They have been brewing, stewing and slowly coming to boil for decades. It is only now that people act, that people become the physical manifestation of what they believe.

We are far beyond being seen or being paid attention to at this point. At this point it is action.

The Occupy movement is not about being poor, about being American, or about being a liberal, a socialist, or a conservative. It is about a fundamental flaw in the mechanism of modern society. It is a chance for the members of society to reform it.

I hope the movement does not die. I hope that people see it for what it is, and not as something to use as a tool for political gain or public awareness.

I hope that society changes for the better — though I have very little faith that it will.

Jake Grepart lives in Columbia.


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Comments

Thomas Baker October 18, 2011 | 11:15 a.m.

I agree with this letter and it is very well written. I to hope the american people will open their eyes and minds to what is happening. I am also doubtful that there are enough who want to get envolved to make this happen.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 18, 2011 | 11:40 a.m.

Thomas Baker wrote:

"I am also doubtful that there are enough who want to get envolved to make this happen."

That's probably because the vast majority of the "99%" are really doing fairly well and aren't terribly worried about their economic situation.

DK

(Report Comment)
mike mentor October 18, 2011 | 12:06 p.m.

I guess even the people who write letters about the movement lack focus. The letter dances around the issues, but fails to lay them out.
Jake says, "It is about a fundamental flaw in the mechanism of modern society. It is a chance for the members of society to reform it."

O.k. Jake.

What is the fundemental flaw and how do we reform it to make it better?

I have heard nothing from you or any of the other "protesters" about what you want to happen other than a major wealth redistribution. I would suggest to you that you are actually suggesting that we end the economic system that took us from a fledgling nation to the worlds economic superpower in a couple of hundred years. You are wanting a pure communist state where everything is "fair" for everybody and everybody is "entitled" to their fair share.
I say to you my friends, go to Russia, China, or North Korea.

The American Way of life is individualistic, dynamic, pragmatic. It affirms the supreme value and dignity of the individual; it stresses incessant activity on his part, for he is never to rest but is always to be striving to "get ahead"; it defines an ethic of self-reliance, merit, and character, and judges by achievement: "deeds, not creeds" are what count. The "American Way of Life" is humanitarian, "forward-looking", optimistic. Americans are easily the most generous and philanthropic people in the world, in terms of their ready and unstinting response to suffering anywhere on the globe. The American believes in progress, in self-improvement, and quite fanatically in education.

This my friends is the way to live. You have the power inside you to change your current status if you are not happy. Stop looking to others to provide for you and do it for yourself.

I am far from a rich man. I have never bought a "new" car.
However, I want nothing to do with the new political party you are forming.

I'll call it the pity party.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield October 18, 2011 | 12:49 p.m.

"That's probably because the vast majority of the '99%' are really doing fairly well and aren't terribly worried about their economic situation."

Yup. 9.1% unemployment means that 90.9% still have a job. Even if one believes that 10% or 20% of the employed are underemployed, the fact remains that the vast majority are doing fairly well. If they weren't, sales of iPhones and iPads wouldn't be strong quarter after quarter, and you wouldn't have to wait for a table in this town on a Friday or Saturday, to name just two economic barometers.

(Report Comment)
James Krewson October 18, 2011 | 12:58 p.m.

The protesters need to focus on the real problem which is the current occupant of the White House. Is this the hope and change that he promised? To me he is Bush on steroids. Spend..spend...spend until we go bankrupt. Totally ignoring the will of the people.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 18, 2011 | 1:49 p.m.

mike mentor "wrote":

"The American Way of life is individualistic, dynamic, pragmatic...."

Um, you might want to attribute other people's writing rather than making it look like your own.

From:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_wa...

"An influential 1955 book, Protestant, Catholic, Jew by Will Herberg, identified the American Way of Life, politically "compounded almost equally of democracy and free enterprise",[1] as the "common religion" of American society:"

Unfortunately a lot of that quote isn't true anymore. However, I think we can agree that the vast majority of Americans don't want fundamental reform.

DK

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 18, 2011 | 1:50 p.m.

J Krewson - Bush was never in it with this guy. W's spending was Education, Prescription drugs and the wars. We don't know where Obama's trillions have gone.

(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall October 18, 2011 | 2:49 p.m.

The OWS movement is not about asking rich people to give away all their money to people who are too lazy to work.

Nor is it about communism.

It's about corruption and the fact that Wall Street/big business now buys our politicians so that only the voices of big business are "heard" at a governmental level. Make no mistake that politicians, on both sides of the aisle, are ignoring the needs of the 99% in favor of the 1% who funded them with the millions that are now required to get elected. Today, it takes so much money to run an election campaign that politicians must rely on fat-cat donors. And it's ludicrous to think that someone who has made sure to line your pockets with millions has no influence on your congressional or senatorial (or presidential) vote.

The OWS movement is about asking to be considered and heard. It is about the ordinary person who struggles to make a living being given a voice which that person no longer has in today's society. It is not about being republican or democrat or liberal or conservative. It's about pointing out the corruption that now runs our country.

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 18, 2011 | 4:23 p.m.

I thought the 99% were being "heard" when they elected B. Obama.

If one would honestly look at those politicians bent on the continuous extraction of money from government and those trying to stop it, it would seem apparent that it absolutely Is "about being republican or democrat or liberal or conservative."

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks October 18, 2011 | 4:40 p.m.

Robin: If all you said is true then you need to get out to these sites and gather up the troops and get them to the areas that matter. They should not be at Wall Street or City Halls. They need to be at the Universities and the White House and the Welfare offices protesting to them asking why these places continue to push the little man into the gutter instead of helping them up.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin October 18, 2011 | 5:25 p.m.

I wholeheartedly agree with Robin.

Regardless what the occasional OWS interviewee might say on camera, the movement as I understand it is driven by a simple desire: get the dam- crooks out -- of government, business, and our lives.

From the CEO who gets a huge payday after his/her company goes bust, to the Madoffs and the Enrons who use phony, illegal accounting to steal from their shareholders, to the politicians and public officials who've let corruption wreck the public good, these crooks are stealing us all blind -- liberal and conservative, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, black, white, brown or eco-Green -- ALL of us.

They've fostered an ongoing collusion between Big Business and Big Government that has indeed created a giant sucking sound -- of money and resources once well-distributed throughout organizations that are now flowing almost exclusively to the top.

In many respects, the Tea Party emerged from the same frustrations OWS members claim. They are -- dare I say -- the conservative and liberal analogs of a driving disgust with business as usual.

So I say, conservatives and liberals -- stop shooting at one another. When you do that, you take your eyes off the ball. And that's exactly where the crooks want your eyes.

That way, you're not keeping an eye on them.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin October 18, 2011 | 5:36 p.m.

And btw, we saw a great thing last night, when conservative and liberal City Council members listened -- as one team -- to the People. (Yes, Daryl was MIA from the team, but you can't have it all, esp. in politics).

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 18, 2011 | 5:40 p.m.

Robin Nuttall wrote:

"Make no mistake that politicians, on both sides of the aisle, are ignoring the needs of the 99% in favor of the 1% who funded them with the millions that are now required to get elected."

I woulodn't say they're ignoring them (after all, who elects them? Not the top 1%), I would say they really can't do much for them. Government has less control over the economy than a lot of people want to believe.

"Today, it takes so much money to run an election campaign that politicians must rely on fat-cat donors."

I agree, and this has been addressed in the past with legislation and probably should be again. However, that does not mean the candidates are being bribed.

Generally, someone looking to support a candidate will look for one whose platform or voting record is in agreement with that someone's views. Supporting that candidate is not buying them off, it's simply supporting them. If we saw candidates or office holders switching their views around all the time, then you'd have more reason for concern.

Income inequality is not an act of Congress. It's a result of globalization, primarily. In our current economy, people with lots of money can make more money easier than people with less. Congress didn't do that.

"It is about the ordinary person who struggles to make a living being given a voice which that person no longer has in today's society."

That person has the same voice that anyone else has - the ballot box. If the top 1% control our government, then why does the composition of Congress, and President, flip flop between the parties every few years? Shouldn't they all be conservative, pro-wealth Republicans?

Americans do not like to elect fringe candidates. They don't elect someone like a Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich just like they don't elect a Pat Robertson or David Duke. I think this is because most voters don't really care about the deeper issues and simply want the election to be over and things to be good. They don't want someone that's going to rock the boat that much (because things are still pretty good - Americans are VERY bad at counting their blessings). So we get centrist officials, that don't want to do anything radical, and nothing much changes.

Also, most people do not struggle to make a living - they struggle to live within their income. The two are entirely different things. The biggest enemy of the 99% is not the top 1% - it's *consumerism*. The idea that the more stuff I have, the happier I'll be. It's a shame so much of our economy has become dependent on that.

DK

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield October 18, 2011 | 6:25 p.m.

"They need to be at . . . the Welfare offices protesting to them asking why these places continue to push the little man into the gutter instead of helping them up."

www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2011/...

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 18, 2011 | 6:27 p.m.

Mike Martin says, "the movement as I understand it is driven by a simple desire: get the dam- crooks out -- of government, business, and our lives."
____________________

I'd like to agree with you except all I hear from these groups (and on these pages) is anti-corporation, anti-rich, anti-capitalist verbiage. So far, all the words I've heard concern redistribution of someone elses' wealth.

So, if you are right, the message isn't getting out to me. I can't speak for others, tho.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin October 18, 2011 | 6:32 p.m.

It's simplistic -- but convenient -- to assume that "globalization" is the primary cause of income inequality.

A country's ability to cope with globalization is largely a factor of localization -- local politics and policies.

For instance, jobs won't be shipped overseas if local economies favor job creation at home. In America, policies simply do not favor at-home job creation.

If local politics and policies favor highly-paid but poorly-productive leaders -- CEOs who continually "fail up" come to mind -- companies will not be able to effectively compete, either at home or abroad.

On yet another local level, the US does a poor job protecting those who need and deserve it -- the people who play by the rules, and make their money the old fashioned way: by earning it, whether they be the average worker or the stellar innovator like Steve Jobs.

The most prominent recent example is the refrain we've heard from Bernie Madoff's victims -- all the retirees and small businesspeople who lost their savings to him, wondering why US regulators weren't listening or responding to loud and public warnings about his shaky situation.

This basic dysfunction has nothing to do with globalization. It's a failure of local public policy.

Until it and many other local policy dysfunctions change, Americans will continue to see rising income inequality, globalization or not.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin October 18, 2011 | 6:45 p.m.

@Michael Williams:

Here's an OWS mission statement. I'm not seeing an anti-capitalism bent, but an anti-corrosion bent. That corrosion is rooted in crooked business and politics. If you choose to generalize it to all corporations and all capitalism, that's your choice, but I find it an inaccurate choice.

"Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally.

"OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations."

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 18, 2011 | 7:13 p.m.

Mike Martin - "the movement as I understand it is driven by a simple desire: get the dam- crooks out -- of government, business, and our lives."

You were quite specific about those in the private sector,"From the CEO who gets a huge payday after his/her company goes bust, to the Madoffs and the Enrons who use phony, illegal accounting to steal from their shareholders,". Less so about crooks in public side. "the politicians and public officials who've let corruption wreck the public good" is quite general and meaningless in this context. "So I say, conservatives and liberals -- stop shooting at one another."

Would it not be safe to say that "the crooks" are among the conservatives and the liberals in our government? Why not give us your side and allow us to keep an eye on the other offenders, rather than cheer lead for the demonstrators?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 18, 2011 | 9:17 p.m.

MikeMartin: Funny how that mission statement is lost in the real rhetoric from participants.

Or perhaps the media is misleading us, going for the thrill rather than the truth?
_________________

"....corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process".

Too bad the word "unions" was left out of the statement.

Agree?

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin October 19, 2011 | 8:31 a.m.

Unions haven't played nearly as visible or demonstrable role in the recent financial meltdown and no, I don't see an organization with a liberal bent like OWS protesting unions. You would be more likely to find that focus among Tea Party members.

One organization can't protest everything that's amiss. People pick their poisons and positions based on what they best understand. That's why it's better not to condemn individual groups and look at the larger picture. To me, the larger picture is that the People are finally speaking out.

(Report Comment)

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