Tuesday, November 15, 2011

...on occupy

over the last two months or so, since they started, i've been doing a lot of thinking about the Occupy protests, but very little talking about the phenomenon. i still can't say i have a coherent or fully fleshed-out opinion or narrative about them, but these are the ideas that keep reoccurring in my mind most often.

i'm annoyed about income and wealth inequality, but i know it's a fact of life. yeah, it sucks that there are a few people with absurd amounts of money, whereas i'm going to have a subzero net worth for the rest of my life. it's a warm and fuzzy fantasy to imagine a world without a huge gulf in wealth, but i don't think there's anything that can actually be done about it. i blame human nature. people are greedy bastards at heart, and the vast majority of people can't meaningfully fight that. this is the crux of why i don't think Occupy, or any similar phenomenon, is going to change a thing. if "everyone else" wrestled the wealth away from Joe, Bob, and Jen...it would eventually fall into the hands of Rick, Sue, and Ann: the people with the best combination of acumen for gaming whatever system has been put into place, and pure dumb luck. it's something we're stuck with, and something i have to live with while trying to carve out whatever little corner i can in which to live.

i get really emotional and angry whenever anyone tries to talk to me about Occupy, because the protests rub a really sore spot about my own past. it reminds me of the time that i was naive and misguided enough to think that such things would make any improvement in society. my first year of college, i would have been right out there, waving a sign and screaming at the corner of Jackson and LaSalle. i was a protestor, a college activist, a sign-waver. i saw things in society that pissed me off, was naive in thinking that hanging out in public and trying to notify passers-by about all these outrageous things going on would get them to care, and even more naive in thinking that there could be some kind of fix. not that i was actually doing anything about a fix...even though i believed in some abstract sense that problems of insufficient wages or insufficient health care or terrible working conditions or an insufficient social safety net could actually be fixed. i had no idea how to implement anything i wanted to see, and as best as i can tell eleven jaded years later, i can only imagine that i envisioned a day when enough people's eyes would be opened to what was going on, some switch would flip, and government would start passing laws that gave anyone a chance to live comfortably no matter their current socioeconomic status. that's the same outlook i get the feeling most of the Occupiers have...that they are part of a movement, and their movement will eventually garner enough support that Society Will Improve.

i'm pretty sure the reasons why Occupy really frustrates me are very similar to the reasons why anything political really frustrates me. maybe i'm the problem, and it's wrong that i've completely given up on the idea of meaningful economic change. as much as i wish we could, though, i don't see any kind of way to meaningfully legislate around or structure a government to circumvent the fact that we inevitably want to grab whatever we can for ourselves. we're screwed, in this way, and it's a far better use of my time and energy to try and build whatever little life i can for myself in the midst of this than it is to focus on my anger over a suboptimal situation that i cannot change.