I have very mixed feelings about the "Occupy Wall Street" folks.
My gut says one thing; my brain another.
My gut is a negative reaction.
Part of me is very sympathetic to the critics: get a job, give up the sense of entitlement and that everyone else is to solve your problems, and take some personal responsibility for your life.
Part of this comes from my own personal experience. ?Two and half years ago I was forced into a mid-life career change. ?I left my well-paying professional job as a pastor, and took a reduction of pay of over 60% (plus went from full benefits to none). ?All of this during an historically terrible economic season — a pretty much terrible time to be looking for a job. ?But since that time, I have gotten 4 raises, 2 promotions, and have worked into a management level position with a growing restaurant group with a legitimate salary (though still significantly less that I was making), full benefits, etc.
It wasn't always easy… it took hard work, going back to school, some tough decisions, tight budgeting… but here I am. ?And if I can do it, anyone can.
So my gut is not so sympathetic.
But my brain tells me something different.
While I would like to think that what I have accomplished over the last 2 and half years is really all because of me, I know better. ?I have been the beneficiary of great privilege — all of which helps me succeed in life in a variety of ways.
I grew up in a supportive, loving and upper middle class family in an affluent CT suburb with superb schools (according to most people… but not my older brother… but that is a different story). I am the beneficiary of that education, which allowed for an excellent undergrad education (via Clark University and UCONN). ?I have always known that I have a built-in safety net with my family. ?Never once have I ever even considered the idea that I could be homeless, hungry or without resources. ?My family would be there. ?And I have been a financial?beneficiary?of my upbringing as well. ?So while much of my re-schooling effort and the last two years were subsidized by my savings, even that is the result of being raised with privilege. ?And without getting too into the politics of it all, being white and a male also tends to help too.
In other words, "if I can do it, anyone can" is kind of a myth.?
I don't apologize for what I have, who I am or even the privilege that has allowed me to get where I am. But I do need to recognize the reality of who I am and how I got here.
And that not everyone has those same opportunities and privileges — the kind that came more as a birthrite than by anything I did to warrant them.
Intellectually, I also support protest, reform movements, living wages, pursuit of economic justice… all things that the current "Occupy" movement seems to be about.
I might even be there with them, except I am too busy with my 60-hour-a-week job… (which, upon reflection, gets me back to my gut reaction/resentment of them perhaps).
I wish the movement was less about "me" and a sense of entitlement than about advocating for those that have less… advocating for economic reform and justice. ?Movements that are about a GREATER CAUSE — other than myself — resonate more with me.
And I wish the people being interviewed on TV weren't so sophomoric in their views and articulation. ?And some, frankly, have no idea why they are there… more along for the ride than anything else. ?But this is no different than a large portion of the Tea Party movement, as far as I can tell. ?It is part of the nature of movements… you need the masses with you, though it matters little if the masses get what it is all about. ?As long as they are there.
So I have mixed feelings…?
But here is my prediction… we should not ignore what is happening because it is tapped into a powerful and real angst in our nation. ?And it is possible that there are enough people who have reached there "I can standz no more" moment, that this movement is real… and in it for the long haul. ?And if they stick around long enough… and develop some more focus and leadership… who knows, they may find me camped out next to them (as long as I can use some of my paid vacation time to do it.)
Oh how life is complicated sometimes…