Monday, October 3, 2011

A Vocal Majority

There are people protesting on Wall Street, and they're not even sure what they want, they just know that they have a lot to protest.  And it's just going to get bigger.

 At least, before it gets colder.

I can't help but recall the worldwide protest on February 15, 2003.  The BBC estimated that between 6-10 million people gathered around the world to protest the Iraq War.  Over 3 million people demonstrated in Rome alone, earning a designation by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest protest ever recorded. 

And it had no effect whatsoever.

So I'm impressed by the people who are gathering in Wall Street, regardless of whether all is for naught.  Or maybe particularly if it is.  Because right now, I barely have the energy to write a blog post, let alone make my way over to New York.  I live in DC, and I see what's going on, and I'm probably pretty young to be so convinced that none of it matters, and nothing is ever going to happen that isn't pushed along by very powerful people.  
When did minority stop being a numerical designation and start just being a term for  those who are not in power?  (Congressional nerds, keep your hands down.)  During the 2003 protests, Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, dismissed the protests as not representative of public opinion, saying, "I don't know that you can measure public opinion by just the number of people who show up at a demonstrations."  

(Over 600,000 people showed up at those Australian demonstrations.)

So what are these protests all about?  Would the people gathering on Wall Street even be there if we were still living in the bliss of the bubble? 

Probably not.

I hate to be cynical.  I actually hope that the protest keeps growing, and outlasts all the cynics (like me) who think that people will dissipate once the weather gets cold.  

(What do you call a hopeful cynic?)

But in order for the Wall Street protests to take off, those people demonstrating need to know what they actually want.  And I think that's a prevailing problem of my generation.

We're the most educated generation in history.  And not only are we entering the job pool without any jobs available, but we also have a view of work that is unique, I think, to our generation.  Our parents, and their parents, could go to work and just get the job done well regardless of whether they were passionate about their career or whether their work inspired them.  And I think we're looking for something more than that.

What does that have to do with corporate taxes, corporate bailouts and corporate pension plans?  Not much, I guess.  We could choose that career path, and if you did and you love it, more power to you.  But maybe some of those people who didn't choose that path now have no job, and they're pissed that something of the promise of their multiple degrees just never paid off.  So there they sit, over-educated and under-worked, with all the promise and none of the career prospects whatsoever.

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