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OWS – A Global Syndrome

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OWS – A Global Syndrome

Republished from “Eyes Not Sold: A Journal of Opinion,” by John Borden


So much has been written and opined upon on this issue that this blog has been stymied from any comment. So here’s some recognition of the issue from this perspective, perhaps dated or already commented on by others.

Overall, this seems to be an anarchist movement or at times a libertarian movement that is spontaneous and driven by real but uncoordinated issues. It’s real for certain and not necesssarily just a passing moment. Unlike the civil rights movement of the early and mid-60’s or the anti-war movement of the mid-60’s to early 70’s, there is no one certain goal that makes for a cohesive cause. We are the 99% is a phrase that means little but resonates with some(Paul Krugman today made the point today that statistically the phrase could more aptly be we are the 99.9% as only a small sliver of our society has made these absurdly high levels of assets that are being protected by Republican interests and resented by almost all citizens). Unlike the demonstrations and encampments of the Great Depression, those protesting today generally do not look poor or malnourished(in fact they look healthy and relatively prosperous generally), with the exception of some homeless who have joined for food and shelter, some mentally challenged, and then some predators who have latched onto the group looking at various opportunities for criminal activity and sexual assaults.

The current precedents are the persistent unfocused anarchist protests at various world economic summits and to some lesser extent the overdue uprisings against the long established middle east regimes.

The frightening historic precedents, if this grows exponentially, are the Paris Commune of 1870 and the Russian uprisings of 1905 and 1917(the populist U.S. demonstrations of 1893 drew attention but were really minor in scope), and the collapse of the monetary system in post world war I Germany. Those thoughts are extremely remote, but the world is unpredictable and they were led by anarchists with no real plans but the overthrow of an existing order and facilitated by completely inept bureaucrats and government leaders.

The motivating fact of OWS is that the existing establishment is moribund and so completely institutionalized that any change of supposed consequence is really miniscule. While technology and globalization have roared ahead, leaving job losses in their wake, other aspects of U.S. society have not materially changed in 30 or more years, and if so usually not for the better. Infrastructure, education systems, methods of health care, penal systems once called rehabilitation, immigration reform and acceptance, and the functioning of the political system have stagnated or taken a nose dive. The establishment is really no longer functioning in a constructive way that points to a better future for the majority of either the coming generations or much of the current populace. That’s the general OWS unarticulated thesis it seems and its mostly all true.

In the hinterlands of this great country these issues are just as important but not as urgent as communities often do a better job of taking care of themselves. Take away those local post offices and traditional meeting places and that may even cause some mayhem out there. Add to that the chaos and fear caused by Alabama’s draconian immigration profiling and if by chance that concept spreads, the rural areas may join the urban ones in unsettled and committed resentment, whether it be tea party or OWS related.

What’s missing from the OWS creed is an Occupy Congress effort, to scare those starched shorts politicos into some sort of constructive action. Both Congress and the Executive Branch(Clinton, Bush II, and to a lesser extent the overly low key Obama) were responsible for regulation of Wall Street and were cheerleaders for Fannie and Freddies downmarket push. They, Clinton and Bush in particular, basked in the tax receipts from successful lightly regulated firms across industries, as well as the contributions and quid pro quo revolving door benefits of those who served them and then went on to hugely profitable job opportunities. Focusing on Wall Street is the easier tact because of the huge profits made by a very small percentage of individuals there at the same time that the vaunted middle class of America is quickly becoming what might be called the lower middle class.

The surrender of the Republican Party to the Tea Party and Grover Norquist has been a huge negative. The arrogant orthodoxy of the Democrats during their four years of ascendancy was not constructive. Unemployment is obviously high and may well go higher if Europe even comes close to a credit freeze up, a path that it is on. The continued attacks on the financial industries by administrations, regulators, and litigators is not healthy. The destruction of elderly savers nest eggs with the no interest rate environment is painful to many seniors. None of this is good news.

Counter that with healthy corporate profits in many industries, continued if somewhat recent slightly muted growth in Asia and other emerging markets, and the continued innovation in technology when it is in areas that benefit society, and the picture is not completely bleak. In this viewer’s eye, there are more jobs available than than the media portrays, but 99 weeks of unemployment benefits plus an unwillingness by many to start at low levels is masking the opportunities.

If there were some way to turn the OWS movement into constructive or at least cohesive action that would be a huge positive that is not impossible, strange as that thought may seem. Whether OWS is a passing phenomenon facilitated by constant media attention to a relatively small amount of the U.S. population is now an unknown. Civil authorities will exert control when necessary. It may be that many young people temporarily enchanted by a loose confederation of committed anarchists, informed political activists, and copy cat activists with double digit IQ’s will become disenhanted and abandon what may be a short term exhilerating lark and get back to their books, their job searches, and their dreams of entrepreneurship.

So this has been my ramble on our current dilemma, offering only observations, fears, and hopes. Where it all goes…

Postscript to job availability comment related to youth who make up a significant portion of the protestors: my 24 year old college graduate, magna cum laude, has had four jobs since leaving college. Two were not in her line of interest but paid a modest salary, one was what she wanted to do but hard work and part time, and now she has a full time job in a real company that is related to her interests. She’s in a starting level marketing position but it’s a small young energetic growing company. Her persistance kept her employed. my 18, just 17 until recently, year old college freshman worked 20 hours a week during most of her senior year of high school and during this past summer, just 10 bucks an hour but she was proud to be working. These are not young people whose financial backing required work. They wanted to do it and found the opportunities.

It should be noted that this postscript is directed at the many young people that are seen at OWS events, and not at the people with families to support, the displaced middle aged group, and the aging segment of our population that have seemingly intractable problems with unemployment beyond historical norms in supposed economic recoveries.

Go to “Eyes Not Sold: a Journal of Opinion”


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