It’s natural when we come across such a quote to do one of two things. We either react against it and not allow its message to pull a “me on vacation” and go inside you(I’m never going to see them again, so who cares???). The other common reaction is to align yourself with the quote’s message and assume – yes, I’m one of the smart people and it’s the others who must be the stupid ones. This is predictably human.
It’s clear that OWS has divided as many as it has unified. And it becomes very tricky business to begin parsing through all of this without falling into the ideological messiness of implying one set of beliefs to be superior or inferior to another. So, if you’re vehemently against the Occupy Wall Street movement, I wouldn’t say you’re necessarily wrong. I would never say that. I might say you’ve become so accustomed to our current way of doing things and are numb to the ills and evils associated with them, and you instinctively give the status quo your implicit faith and benefit of the doubt. Occupy Wall Street, because it’s this new, foreign thing, draws your critical ire a little more intensely. So, “Hey, those Occupy Wall Street assholes made some people late for work!” suddenly becomes a bigger menace than “Hey, those guys who are given a badge and a gun and are meant to protect people, regardless of their personal politics, are beating the shit out of them and spraying pepper spray in their eyes!”. So you’re not “wrong” because I can’t prove to you with any sort of objective criteria that assaulting people under a lawful pretense is worse than standing around and blocking someone’s way. You’re just kind of an asshole for needing to have something so patently fucking obvious explained to you in the first place.
And here I am getting all worked up already. I’m finding I get too worked up too easily when dealing with anti-OWS folks. It’s not because I have a problem with disagreement or conflicting ideas. That sort of stuff makes son’s dick jump. It’s that the bulk of the sentiments I’m coming across are meat-headed, selfish, and seemingly lifted from some bigot grandfather’s Thanksgiving dinner oratory. And it’s not like this horseshit has been compartmentalized to old white people who thought we were supposed to agree with Archie Bunker. A quick look at Twitter or Facebook will show you that young, capable minds are spouting similarly misguided, thoughtless sentiments.
It’s clear that the most effective thing to do here is to walk away from these people or ignore them or never turn on a computer or interact with people in public. But if you’re like me, you’ll probably find their stupidity, narcissism, selfishness, and cruelty too much to ignore. You’ll have a hate boner that needs to be relieved. Let me help you relieve your hate boner.
1. “Like, what do they even want? Why don’t they make some demands or something?”
Demands? Really? With a movement that certain media outlets are already having a field day misrepresenting and tenuously tying to violent revolutionary organizations, you want them to make “demands”? Is that a trick or something? This is a non-violent protest with broad socio-political implications, not a hostage-standoff film where Denzel Washington tries to get a heart transplant for his jerkoff son or whatever the fuck.
More than that, asking OWS to deliver “demands” is to misunderstand their intent completely. If the problem here is systemic, then the system needs to be addressed and reworked. “Demands” within that framework wouldn’t change very much. It’s likely their (and our, for that matter) thinking has been so accustomed to a certain way of doing things that all new thinking would be an uphill climb against that very way of doing things.
The things they “want” are clear to anyone who’s been even sort of paying attention here. They want to get our politics and policy out of the pocket of corporate interests. They want to restore our middle class. They want to give our democratic voice meaning. They want accountability for our richest and most powerful if their corruption happens to, say, destroy the lives of normal working folks. They want our less fortunate to not be totally fucked over. You know, “Christian shit”. The things they take issue with are fairly obvious to anyone who’s done any sort of critical reflecting on our nation’s history and its relationship to power. The logistics of changing all that, however, are dicier. If the problem is systemic, the solution sort of requires a new system to accommodate these new tenets. Suddenly, this whole thing becomes a bit more complex than, “Yeah, I want corporate interests completely removed from politics, some pizzas for the hostages, and a fully fueled chopper to the Caymans!”.
So then the OWS folks are tasked with drafting a new system which…given how strong and unchecked and – for some – efficient our current system is, that proves nearly impossible. Our system, as we know it, exists because it sort of came from nothing. We had like twelve drunk colonists walking around with hard dicks because they slaughtered like seven billion British soldiers and they needed to go about actually organizing things. It was messy and probably required a lot of trial and error and lots of borrowing from other systems they were probably familiar with. But the simple fact that they were in this “new” land without an entrenched way of doing things made the whole situation fertile for change and molding. Contrast that with today. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
2. “I heard some café let go of workers because the protests blocked their doors! I thought OWS is against unemployment!”
Here’s something that really flies over a lot peoples’ heads and I guess I can understand this a little more readily than most. You’re right. Losing jobs sucks. No one wants that. That’s, unfortunately, collateral damage in the scheme of this. But here’s the thing…protests aren’t meant to be these cozy, accommodating things. They’re meant to be inconvenient. They’re meant to grab attention. They’re meant to keep people from living their lives in such a way that allows them to ignore what’s being protested. Because blocking people from getting to work is a true pain in the ass. Because bitching about it on a blog can be dealt with with a mouse click.
And…uhh…do you really want to get into how many jobs our current system lost us? You really want to go there? If you wanna bang, I’ll bang.
3. “Hard work pays off!”
I want to know what sort of thoughts are populating a person’s head that might make them say something like this in total earnest. Like…none of these people are thinking about string theory or what Faulkner’s use of narrative voice might say about his relationship to language in general, right? It can’t be.
Anyway, these people truly believe, in 2011…over the age of, say, 14, that hard work is all you need to become successful. That’s all there is. They’ll inevitably cite how their homeless father/grandfather worked himself handless to send a bunch of kids through school, thus creating the degree-holding-but-never-picked-up-a-book-that-wasn’t-assigned specimen of intellectual mediocrity standing before you. These people will lecture you that, yes, hard work is all you need. If you’re not successful, fuck you. It’s your fault. Work harder.
I’ve seen close to a half a dozen people – solid job, good money and travel time – aggressively anti-OWS, fall on the “They should work harder!” thing repeatedly and seemingly without any awareness that [TWIST]: their parents or connections afforded to them by their successful parents got them their jobs. If you come across anyone so aggressively self-absorbed, I recommend you do what I’d like to do but would never for fear of the social ostracization that would result: stick your penis in their dumb mouth and brush their ignorant teeth with it. If you’re a girl, take someone else’s penis and do that. Actually, don’t do that. It would be an insult to the penis.
So…what about the working poor? The people working 2, 3, 4 jobs to support a family? What makes them only entitled to a bare minimum lifestyle? Are they not “working hard”? What about the people who maybe fell on some bad luck, despite an incredible work ethic? Did you miss the part about unemployment being at 9%? That’s not because fucking Skyrim came out. That’s because there are no jobs. There are no private sector jobs because we don’t make anything anymore and the public sector has been targeted heavily by “belt tightnin’” politicians. The labor market is simply not there.
4. “Well, McDonalds is hiring!”
Did you miss the part where it’s been internalized by, oh—all of society — that working at McDonalds is for fuck ups and losers? Because that’s what’s been pounded into our skulls by parents, friends, guidance counselors, and pop culture for the last 30-40 years. That’s the whole reason we pursued college so aggressively! A-Doy??? Furthermore, suggesting that an Occupy Wall-Streeter work for McDonalds or Starbucks once again tips off a fundamental lack of understanding. If someone is protesting against corporate influence, why the hell would they rush and take a minimum wage position for a muti-billion dollar conglomerate?
If you’re that incapable of understanding something so apparent, you need to abstain from pretending to have a valid, informed opinion about any of this. You’re failing at this whole “current events” thing. You’re only reaffirming yourself to people with the same lazy, half-formed beliefs as you and you’re flat out embarrassing yourself in the eyes of people who kind of give a shit about this – whether they agree with OWS or not. Your “discourse” – which, believe me, severely over inflates the value of whatever it is you’re doing — does real harm to the people who happen to have a beef with OWS for nuanced reasons that extend beyond your trite, thoughtless platitudes. Talk to one of these people. Read something. Like, an actual article. Or direct your energies toward something more in your wheelhouse. Don’t do these things for my kind and our sanity, which slips a little more each time we let your astoundingly thick headed brand of wrong enter our consciousness. Do it for the sake of your fellow anti-OWSers who are considerably smarter than you.