This article was published in the Huffington Post.
I have always been fascinated by the concept of political activism.
And I’ve always wondered when my generation’s great call to action would surface. Where was our Vietnam, our civil rights movement? I thought I’d be on board when it finally came to light. I never expected to be a twenty-something disagreeing with a protest.
But I am 21 years old, and I won’t be occupying anything.I’m sure it’s easy to get caught up in the camaraderie and righteous indignation of a protest environment. It doesn’t mean those occupying Wall Street are jumping on a bandwagon, or that they don’t know what they’re angry about.
That’s the part of this protest that is very, very clear to me — the anger. I understand that the protestors are furious about living in a broken economy, about the influence of money on politics, about the corruption of government. I understand that they’re frustrated with the bank bailouts, with tax breaks for the rich, with a lack of transparency within the system.
What I don’t understand is what anyone involved thinks they’re accomplishing. The movement’s recently listed demands are in desperate need of specificity, just as the movement as a whole is in desperate need of leadership.
The Occupiers say they want a clear distinction between people and corporations, but they offer no suggestions on how this can be done. They expect job creation through public works and claim that “the government could easily create enough jobs,” but fail to explore the economic effects artificial job creation would have. They decry political leaders for “ignoring the parts of [the United States Constitution] that are inconvenient to their political goals,” but make no effort to elaborate on the parts of the constitution being ignored.
So much of the world is responding in perplexity – what are you trying to say? The movement is buried in rhetoric, and seems to be expecting simple solutions to complex problems.
Neither Wall Street nor the government can simply raise their hands and fix economy or democracy. No official or businessperson can wake up one morning and say, “You know what? Today, I think I’ll eliminate corporate personhood.” That’s not how a free market works. That’s not how the commonwealth works.
I am enmeshed in this economy, and I’m not going to say I’m not anxious or afraid. Does the economy need restoration? Yes. Am I frustrated by the fact that I’ll graduate in May with a degree that doesn’t mean much at all? Absolutely.
But do I think the protestors in New York City, and across the world, are going to change any of that? No.
Obviously something needs to change — but this is not the way to do it. All involved in this movement need to figure out what they want — not in terms of concepts, but in terms of action. They need to decide what specific legislation they want passed, and then they need to demand it.
Until then, Occupy Wall Street is an outcry of emotion, not activism.