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Opinion: Occupy Wall Street Toothless

What is OWS going to accomplish? Probably nothing, at least in its current form. There are no clear demands, no single voice to the movement, no clarity in its function, and most importantly, no mass support. Yes, apparently 99% of the populous are represented, but only a tiny fraction actually mobilize. Think about this, comparatively to the rest of the world (and movements we’ve seen) we’re RICH in comparison–we ARE the 1%, even our hobos are in the top 5%. I’m not saying that it’s therefore OK to live in poverty, our numbers are growing and poverty is poverty no matter where you’re going, but the climate for movement is different.

To drag a slightly annoyed middle class out of their homes in a cool Fall air is hard to do especially when we’re apathetic to begin and frankly, don’t necessarily resonate with hippies and beatniks.

OWS in it’s current form will fail. The decentralized nature of the movement, its success up to this point, is its downfall because one coherent message can’t emerge. However, mark my words, OWS is the catalyst for something bigger.

There IS undoubtedly growing discontent in the hearts of many, especially those living the realities of a crippled economy. When there are 30 million unemployed person, they will eventually rise up. Overall middle class folks who stop to think about wealth distribution can’t argue that something is amiss in the current system.

But who’s to blame?

The current system, particularly in the US, was predicated by the votes of the people. Other than Clinton, Republicans have owned American politics and have worked hard to strip away so-called economic barriers. The famous “less government, less taxes” mantra resulted in the removal of industry checks and balances–their regulations–that protected the average consumer.

The dream resonated with many–more money for you! Only problem was few knew how to navigate the system to their upmost advantage. Little did we know that the rush for individual profit and less government was only going to help a select bunch while crippling the rest. But nonetheless, it didn’t bother us because silently we played the fool or wanted to be the elite.

Fast forward 20 years, and those who knew how to navigate the system became incredibly wealthy. The rest stayed the same–some got worse. Wealth distribution is the heart of the matter with OWS, but how to change that problem, well there doesn’t seem to be a real plan. Some demand the obvious change. But when everyone with power to change is tied up with the very corporations protested against, well change isn’t going to happen altruistically from some hero politician.

No, change is not going to come to America. But it’s not because we can’t mobilize enough idiots to vote. It’s because we all want to be those wealthy people on yachts. The foundation of America (and to a lesser extent Canada) is to accumulation of individual stuff. Consumerism is built into our fabric, and the very nature of the nation pursue a dream of ‘more stuff’. The problem with the ‘American Dream’ is that there’s no end. When is your house and white picket fence big enough? Our culture is one of consumerism and entitlement. We ALL want more, and are jealous of those who figured out how to get it.

Fundamentally the culture needs to change, and perhaps it’s starting to do just that. Sure, die hard conservatives are still convinced that the unemployed need to just get jobs and stop complaining, whereas most everyone else notes there’s a growing divide. But again, that divide is a result of everyone’s pursuit for short term gain. Look at savings rates up until 2008. Always going down. Consumer credit always going up. The culture screams MORE, MORE, MORE, so why is everyone surprised when Wall Street, et. al, wanted more, more, more?!

A fundamental flaw in the whole economics of Reganomics is the person. The plan was supposed to pan out in such a way that the rich would turn around and do what they’re really good at doing–making more money. That usually meant starting new ventures and opportunities. The problem in the economy after American capitalism really went for a free for all was the fact big corporations started to look and measure in the very short term. Financiers learned how to manipulate markets to their advantage and boards erroneously rewarded them with outlandish bonuses for their short term gains.

That’s the key: always short term.

Nobody looked beyond a year or two. Then, to make matters worse, the 100 million plus bonuses weren’t reinvested into the economy to create more jobs, no, they were handed to executives and then it was in turn sunk into lavish spending: yachts, homes, jets, etc. The people who were supposedly supposed to use their wealth to generate even more stopped doing that and instead just kept it.

It makes sense that those who preyed upon the risk of the most vulnerable Americans should be brought to justice, but under what penalty? The regulations that could catch these supposed perps are long gone. What are left with then?

Nothing has changed in the financial system. The rich will still get richer, the poor still poorer. Occupy Wall Street will continue to be a tiny clanging symbol with no clarity or purpose.

But again, it’s what comes next that will important. OWS is pointless now, but the next movement, and the next one after that, will continue to refine the approach and message. Ultimately the only way to change the system is voting with your feet and dollars and just plain voting. The very same people who are poor are being exploited in various ways, but they are the same people who never vote. The middle class happy to languish in invisibility are too apathetic to mobilize for some change.

So ultimately the middle class will be dented enough by hardship that they’ll wake up and move, and the lower class will decide they’re sick of no heat in the winter and less beer in the summer. Don’t forget the most important factor in the mix, the mobilization of the emerging youth on both sides of the spectrum.

Only through the change of the very systems that are enabling the financial divide will we see any actual change. Let’s face it. Americans can’t protest for social change. Greece, France, those dudes can protest/riot. The changes that emerge are limited. The change of guard for the decision makers is the first step. Obama clearly wasn’t that change, so fingers crossed the dark horse will emerge in time to save the livelihood of millions.

What are your thoughts? What can be done to really usher in change?

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