The other day, somebody asked me, “What do you think of the Occupy Wall Street movement?” The only answer that I could offer was that I did not care, and have been intentionally not following it because I have more important things to do. Then, just yesterday, a friend asked, “Why haven’t you written about your support for the movement on your blog?” I thought for a second and responded, “What makes you think I support this?”
I guess everyone who is young and in college has already been stigmatized by the masses as mindless fools showing zombie-like support for the protest that has been abbreviated OWS. I very rarely tackle political issues on my blog, mainly because visitors come there for hockey and history. Politics do not usually come into play in what I write for either subject, unless I’m discussing the causes of the American Civil War, something about which I write frequently.
While I am young and in college, and my political views are generally liberal, like most of the OWS protestors, I cannot help but cringe whenever I hear any news about it, because rarely is it anything good. Rather, it tends to be glaring missteps in what was originally a peaceful movement to protest corporate greed. A few months, and even more on-location beatings, rapes, and arrests later, we have the giant picture of these young and enthusiastic protesters, who hold a sign denigrating corporate America in one hand, while sending a text on their iPhone in the other. The jokes are endless, and I do not want to get into them, because this situation really is not funny.
The initial idea, I suppose, was a good one. Doesn’t everyone feel that they should get to stick it to The Man every now and again? Don’t we all have a lot less money than we would like? Of course! Of course we all want to be millionaires and live a life of luxury and comfort, but is standing in the streets shouting going to do anything about it? How about getting a job and trying to earn the money, you know, the good old-fashioned way, instead of converging on Wall Street en masse without any real knowledge of what you are even doing there?
I know, it is much more complex than simply saying, “Oh, go get a job!” but that is where it starts. The problem with today’s society, at least in America, is the sense of entitlement that everyone is born with. It starts at childbirth, with mommy and daddy telling you that you’re the best in everything, even when you fail, and it extends right on through to youth sports and contests where everyone gets a trophy, even teams that did not win a game all season and played dismally.
That is what the world has become, so is it any surprise that the me-first generation would expect the same treatment in the “real world”, where jobs and having money outweigh all? It is not a shocker in any sense, and is actually expected. These people feel that they are entitled to the American Dream, but they have no grasp of what the American Dream is. The fact is, they are entitled to it, but also to the years of hard work that goes with it.
We all tend to see ultra-wealthy people as being evil, because most of us are in the middle class and have never had thousands or millions of dollars just lying around for a rainy day to splurge on something luxurious. But how did the wealthy get that way? Through hard work and self-determination. It cannot be assumed that every rich person was born into it through inheritance, and even so, somehow, some way, at some point in time, a member of their family was dirt poor and broke out of it—it does not matter if that happened yesterday or a hundred years ago, like when my great-grandfather immigrated from Rome, Italy to Staten Island, New York.
He came across the Atlantic Ocean knowing probably just enough English to say “Please” and “Thank You”, and he was able to get a job with the B & O Railroad, and eventually became a conductor. While he was never wealthy by any stretch of the definition, he did make enough money to buy his own house and support a very large family of thirteen children. He was a simple man who had a fig tree on the side of the house and a small shed in the backyard, where he made his own red wine. Afternoons in his later years consisted of playing with his grandchildren, giving them the healthy snack of the figs he proudly grew, and oh yes, sipping that wine and enjoying a cigar. That was his American Dream, and he achieved it after years and years of grueling work, while facing racism and xenophobia like almost all other immigrants like himself. Somehow, the family lineage of stories leaves out the part where he joined others in a protest, and that is because it did not happen.
Times are different, absolutely, and there are not as many jobs to be had as in years past, but that does not mean there are no jobs available. I currently work two jobs and volunteer at another, and I happen to enjoy all three, but there was a time, when I was younger, that I hated where I worked, a road we have all been down. I first worked in a supermarket, and then later a pizzeria, both driving me up the wall with the anger I felt for the bosses that hovered over me. Then I worked landscaping with an ex-National Guardsman for a little more than a year, and while I did not mind it, the work was tough and the jobs were irregular. But did these three all pay money? Of course they did.
I feel that many people are out of work because they choose to be there and do not want to work lower-paying, menial jobs. So if you can see their sense in this, they would rather make nothing and complain about it than make a little and be proud enough to say, “At least I have a job.” I have also shared my parents’ cars for the last two years, like many that I know, and will finally be able to buy my own vehicle at the end of December, after years of working and waiting. Should I have just walked to the nearest car dealer, drew up a sign, and demanded one for free instead?
Paying for education also comes into the equation, and that can be an article in itself. That is the other thing that keeps me busy, because when I am not in class, I am trying to run programs for each of my two jobs, write articles on this site, and naturally, wait for the next hockey season to come around so I can continue volunteering as a coach, something I enjoy even more than my paying jobs. My situation of having little free time is not special or isolated, though—there are millions of people my age and even younger, holding down jobs in the daytime and taking classes at night. I feel for these people, because my schedule is actually pretty lenient at the moment, though it could change at any time. These are the people who should be admired, especially if they are trying to raise a family at the same time. These are the people who work hard, and when there is no high paying job available, they take a lower one and try to work their way up.
Maybe you don’t want to work in a pizzeria or mow a lawn, but it sure beats the hell out of standing with a thousand people, in anger, arguing for something that is just not going to change. The millionaires are not going to open up their windows and start throwing hundred-dollar bills at you.
OWS has yet to accomplish a single thing, and the actions of some of the protesters have done nothing but tarnish an already skeptical movement. If you have read through my blog enough, then you know how much I detest the TEA Party movement, what lies on the other side of the political spectrum, but right here and now, both are similar if not completely the same in my humble eyes: both started out as a small, but good idea, but then ballooned into a frenzy of stupidity and rage that will not necessarily go away quietly.
The people of Occupy Wall Street say they are tired of being stereotyped as a bunch of crazed “kids” who are too lazy to get a job, but as of right now, that is exactly what they are. Maybe they are not all a bunch of nuts like the first few pages of the New York Post made them out to be this morning, and maybe there are a few that have some genuinely good ideas that should be listened to, but joining in a lynch mob is not the forum for it. The people with the good ideas must find a way to outshine all those others who are muddying up the waters. Only then can the OWS movement gain any shred of credibility, but unfortunately, it does not seem like that is going to happen any time soon.
They keep saying they are the 99%, as in the majority of the country in regards to their financial situation, but so am I—I am in the 99% that is not wealthy, but you will not see me in the streets protesting, and that is because I am busy trying to work hard and stay in school so that one day I can have a career. If you think I have a lot of encouragement, think again; I want to be a teacher in the state of New Jersey, and you all know how that situation is right now. Am I upset? Yes, but I am going to roll with the punches and fight through it, like every single other person did in times where there was no entitlement and people actually worked for a living. The time for this OWS honeymoon to end is now. Every minute these people stand in the streets is another minute that they are unemployed, thus contributing to one of the very factors they are trying to fight.
Greg Caggiano is a 20-year-old historian, writer, and hockey coach whose sports writing covers New York Rangers hockey and San Francisco Giants baseball. His blog, From New York to San Francisco, also features his musings on movies, music, books, history and current events.