November 20, 2011
Occupy wants to work.
There was this guy…
(Here’s a link to better visibility and a transcription, along with a great point by point response.)
And then I saw this one today…
And that’s not even everyone in my Facebook news feed, let alone some corners of the internet where I don’t hang out, suggesting that the real problem with all these people bitching, whining, and complaining, is that they “just don’t want to work.”
Let’s get a few things sorted out, internet critics of Occupy Wall Street and the 99% movement:
Protesting injustice and corruption is not the same as “just not wanting to work.”
Calling attention to it when something is seriously wrong is not the same as “not wanting to work.”
Standing up for your rights is not the same as “not wanting to work.”
Doing any of those things is not even a sign of somebody “just not wanting to work.”
Saying that “what is being done to us and our communities is wrong,” or that “the conditions under which we’re being expected to make ends meet are crushingly unsustainable,” is not the same as “not wanting to work,” nor a sign that somebody just doesn’t want to work.
Pointing it out when an entire system has become radically unfair, or that the people who *did not cause a global economic collapse* are the ones being disproportionately punished for it, is not “just making excuses” or “not taking responsibility for your own life” or “wanting to blame somebody else for all your mistakes.”
So you can think that the OWS protesters are dirty hippies. You can resent them taking up park space and making too much noise. You can dislike their tactics and criticize their vagueness, disorganization, and lack of concrete goals or actual policy proposals. You can think they’re misguided and wrong.
But do not slander them as “just not wanting to work.” They’re doing the work of calling attention to major injustice and keeping the tradition of protest and dissent alive in this country.
As for the people on the 99% Tumblr–not the Occupy campers–it takes all of 20 minutes to write a screed on a piece of paper, take a picture, and put it on the internet, so you really have no basis whatsoever to judge these people’s use of their time or decide that they’re putting insufficient energy into finding or keeping a job or working for their own futures.
Telling a story on the internet is not the same as not wanting to work. Telling the truth about how hard things are for most people in America right now is not the same as not wanting to work.
Daring to say that “the circumstances that allowed this to happen to me are not okay” is not the same as not wanting to work.
The thinking that says that it is, is a relic of the way we were treated in middle school–that somebody speaking up about unfairness or calling attention to a problem was shamed as guilty of creating a problem where there wasn’t any when no one was speaking up.
I guess a lot of people learned that lesson well. I didn’t.
A lot of the Occupy and 99% protesters are college graduates or have advanced degrees. You really think they dragged themselves through that many years of school, and the work and expense involved, because they “just didn’t want to work?” A lot of them went deep into debt for their college educations. You think they did that because they *didn’t* want to get a job? Or because they believed parents, teachers, and employers who told them that they needed a college degree *in order to get a good job* these days? Do you really think that what they’re doing now is easier than working a regular job, earning a living and going about their daily lives? Do you really think they’d all still be out there, with winter coming, if there were enough jobs paying livable wages to go around and they could just go get one?
When the economy first went into recession and unemployment spiked, many of these same people now protesting and occupying–including myself–yelled for a new WPA and Federal Theater Project, for the government to directly create jobs and put people to work. We wanted desperately to work–to put the economy back together, to put the country back together, to contribute in meaningful and permanent ways to our culture and future.
We begged to be allowed to work, to do the work that this country needed done.
But our government didn’t go that route…it mostly tried instead to entice private enterprise into bringing jobs back. Private enterprise didn’t come through with that.
And now you say that we “just don’t want to work.” It makes the irony-processing center of my brain freeze up.
It might be funny if it didn’t hurt so much.