November 29, 2011

Occupy IDTMI

I'm going to have to straight up open by saying that I don't understand the Occupy Wall Street (et al) protests.

Actually, let me back up a little bit.

Whenever the question of free speech vs governmental restrictions comes up, I side with free speech. I think we should be able to say pretty much anything we want to say, anywhere, anytime - unless it can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that allowing such would cause direct and immediate harm to somebody. We can debate the exact details all over the place, but I'll generally err on the side of allowing free speech. Just thought you should know that.

Pursuant to that position, I'm fully supportive of people's rights to protest. If you're bothered by your local school board's policies, show up at the meeting and have your say. If you're worried that your city is discriminating, call the media and let 'em film your signs. If you think the federal government is turning control of the country over to some world government via secret codes on the back of the highway signs, write to the newspaper and set yourself ablaze.

I may not join you, but I'll defend your rights to say your piece to the ends of the Earth.

That being said, unless you have a specific issue and a solution, I may just ask you what you're hoping to accomplish here, and that's where I am with Occupy Wall Street. I just don't get what the protesters are hoping to accomplish.

I think we can all agree that there is a gigantic economic disparity in our country. The rich are getting richer on the backs of the poor and the middle class. We're in the middle of an economic downturn/recession that's as bad as anything we've had since the late 1970's (or longer depending on what measures you trust). Or maybe we're barely coming out of it - very...slowly. The recession was caused by the mistakes made by large investment banks that didn't seem to suffer too much in the (so far) long run.

And the middle class is getting killed. Jobs are being lost. Homes are being lost. Retirement savings are being lost.

I get the anger. I understand the frustration. I just don't see the way out or what the Occupy Wall Street protesters are hoping to change. Rather, I don't get how the Occupy Wall Street protesters are hoping to turn their Occupy-ing into change.

How are they hoping that camping out, Occupying Everywhere, chanting, cheering, getting arrested, beaten, and trampled is going to lead to this change? And just what change do they want to see happen?

Do they want taxes raised on the rich job creators?

Do they want more regulations on investment banks?

Do they want more jobs?

Do they want more governmental support of unions?

Do they want to end subsidies to oil companies?

What's the specific goal that can be accomplished to make the protesters happy? If their goal is a more equitable distribution of wealth, I'm afraid they're going to be Occupying through a whole lot of long, cold winters.


That being said, the treatment that the protesters have received - and possibly that they have given back to law enforcement in some cases - has been deplorable. The video above shows a peaceful protest at UC Davis which was broken up by the infamous (and meme-inspiring) pepper-spraying John Pike. We've seen similar incidents in lots of other cities - including Portland, shown to the right - many of which have lead to extremely violent showdowns between protesters and law enforcement - most noticeably in Oakland.

I am happy to say that all reports here in the Queen City have been that police have done their jobs while being respectful of the protesters. There have been arrests and park-clearings, but there hasn't been violence.

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