Occupy Wall Street: Misguided Movement?

// Posted by on 02/24/2014 (10:58 PM)

While there is a lot go be said about how a global movement stemmed from one Tweet, after reading the article “Inside Occupy Wall Street” I began to think of how the “message” of the OWS movement could possibly be misunderstood. More specifically, I was interested in figuring out what different kinds of people were involved in this movement that had such a global influence. I was surprised, therefore, to discover that more than a third of the activists involved in the OWS movement in New York City had household incomes over $100,000. Further, a survey showed that the people involved in the occupation of Zuccotti Park were more affluent, whiter, younger, and more highly educated than the average New Yorker (Study: OWS Was Disproportionately Rich, Overwhelmingly White), a majority of them were college students from distinguished schools, such as Bard, as well. Therefore, the idea that the people of the OWS movement were the 99% and are taking on the 1% is not exactly valid…

Interestingly, it has actually been a historically common pattern for rich people to speak on behalf of the poor. And the fact that these people are involved doesn’t necessarily invalidate any of the specific claims that are made by OWS, but it makes us question the reasons as to why these rich kids show up in the first place. Is it their guilty conscious? Are they angry teenagers rebelling against their parents? Are they bored? Do they feel a sense of self-importance stemming from their wealth? It is troublesome for me to think that these rich kids are trying to get rid of the very class they came from.


This picture shows a self-proclaimed rich girl:  she inherited money at 21 and has had health and dental insurance all her life. Sure, her ideas of leveling the playing field align with the slogans of the OWS movement, but, I have trouble with her saying she wants to be taxed in order to help out with the movement. Why doesn’t she just donate her money to a good cause or a productive charity instead? That way her money is going directly to those in need… The government might not even use the money she gives from taxes to help the people who need it. It might be used to finance the NSA surveillance programs, for example. Additionally, this girl didn’t even earn that money– it was given to her. Is this her guilty conscious speaking? Would she feel the same way about higher taxes if she had earned that money herself? Questions to consider…

The article Occupy Wall Street: Children of the 1% out for  good time at the protests  displays pictures of college kids smoking pot, handling large amounts of money, flashing expensive wallets and wearing $300 jeans… I am not sure if I can take these kids seriously. Clearly they amount of enjoy the money they have. I think in some ways these displays destroy the “message” of OWS.

I am wondering if the fact that this has become such a global movement and the fact that many people from many different backgrounds and cultures are involved, that the message of the movement can become blurred. It seems like since the crowd has such a big range of people– from old and homeless to young and rich- that each individual has a different idea of what the movement means to them, if anything at all, which can potentially weaken the strength of the collective message.



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Molly said...

Your point discussing the historical trend of white, relatively affluent composition of movements in favor of “poorer” peers reminded me of Turners “Counter culture to Cyber Culture”, in which movements such as the migration to the “frontier” and the ultimate development of the New Earth Magazine, Wired magazine were mostly ventures pushed and supported by this young, white, rich demographic. Although I agree she directly donate, rather than be taxed and have her money go who knows where, I think her effort to participate in something she can’t really relate to is admirable. I find it refreshing to see a “self-proclaimed rich girl” participating in a movement that would essentially ruin her, but I think what’s far more important and powerful is the words below, “I Am the 1%, but I stand with the 99%”. I think that the 1% is a cyclical transfer of money and power within a small community, and although people can “work their way up” and penetrate this group, it is not as black and white as it may sound. This is why I think one of the motivating factors inspiring these young, rich kids to participate is driven by both empathy, and a progressive mind frame to not only level the playing field but to connect with a great majority of their peers. I think their bold attempts to spray from their demographic to help break down the very hierarchies (in which they benefit from) and undermine corporate America in turn for a more united, fair society to be inspiring and progressive.

// 02/25/2014 at 11:31 am

Emily said...

I think the variability in the OWS crowd can also be looked at as a good thing. People of all different cultures and backgrounds have been brought together for this one cause, and this one cause is ultimately defending the poor. I admire the common ground the OWS movement has established. While I do agree with you on some points, for example the girl in the picture. I am almost one hundred percent positive that she would feel differently had she earned that money herself. It puts her in a completely different ball game that she inherited that money. Maybe not, or maybe I am perhaps reflecting on how exactly I would approach that situation. I also agree with you in that these taxes may be used to finance the NSA surveillance programs. We have no idea where exactly all of that money goes towards. But, the fact of the matter is is that we cannot speculate certain acts of the government. Their purpose is to protect our country and we have to hope that is what they are doing…. Innocent until proven guilty I would say. I do find it semi strange but also semi unexpected that a majority of the people involved in the protest have incomes over $100,000. Maybe this goes to show that the internet does really connect us on a different level. Maybe this protest gained more supporters by researching about the issue online. Maybe the protested gained more supporters by recruiting people to believe in receiving justice through online articles, or maybe the protest gained supporters through invalid statements and sites that are now all over the internet. We will never truly know… all we know is that the internet plays some role in these gatherings.

// 02/25/2014 at 12:11 pm