Challenge Yourself, Not the Public’s Patience

Andrew Melillo, Political Science '11 October 14, 2011 Opinion 13

Andrew is the External VP of the NU College Republicans.

Is there any parallel between the Occupy movement and the Tea Party? Is it a drum circle of students who should be doing something more productive with their time? Both are relevant questions to ask when attempting to make any sense at all of the current Occupy movement. For over a week, haggard individuals from all over the region have camped out on the Rose Kennedy Greenway protesting corporate greed and economic inequality. Their unfocused effort is sure to accomplish little while testing the public’s patience and ignoring the importance of principles such as personal initiative and responsibility, as well as the good, old-fashioned American work ethic.

The proud, thunderous proclamations of the protesters, “This is what democracy looks like!” are washed away when those very same voices say that “it’s not so much about the demands, but using a real democratic process,” whatever that actually means. The Tea Party grew out of similar discord with the status quo of government activity, yet the Occupy participants, who are just as frustrated and angry, seem to be less organized, live where they protest, and rely on outside and non-participating supporters to assist them with basic hygiene. Further, the Tea Party has an organized and cohesive set of goals that consist of demanding policies of responsible, low taxation and limiting the power and size of government. The group is organized to the extent that they have succeeded in electing representatives to high office. The Occupy movement preaches the virtue of tax increases and the tenets of how corporations and rich people are inherently evil. Sound messy? It is.

Courtesy of ToonariPost – A News Mash Up

So are these protesters drum-beating hipster students or are they something more? A good place to start would be at Northeastern University with the recent twelve o’clock “walk-out” last week. Roughly 100 students from the university met on Centennial Common to voice their grievances, and managed to attract some press attention.

Allow me to address some of my fellow peers’ comments and concerns. Victoria Porell, who helped organize Wednesday’s walkout, remarked to Boston’s NPR news station WBUR, “Students don’t have lobbyists.”[1] While this is true, when you work for a company, that company most likely will. If your economic interests are tied to the company you work for, and that company is competitive, you will be represented just fine.

One of the participants, Alyssa, was quoted in the same news story saying, “I am a typical Northeastern student…When I graduate I’m going to have over $125,000 of loans, which is $1,500 a month starting six months after I graduate. I ask you, ‘How am I supposed to afford to live off of that?’” I would ask in response, how are you supposed to afford living off that mentality? Alyssa and other “typical” Northeastern students would do well to remember that they have come to college to get an education, acquire a talent or skill, and then seek an employer who can afford investing in their ability to make the company succeed.

Jon Phoenix, a fellow Political Science student, shared his perspective on what college is all about, “College was supposed to be the ‘be all, end all’. It’s supposed to be the place where no matter how crazy your background, you go into college, you come out, and you’re supposed to be guaranteed entry into the middle class.”

But the “be all”, and “end all” is not college, and certainly not how “crazy” your background in college was for the past four years, whatever you might have been doing. The “be all, end all” is you. Therefore if this hipster movement is to bring about a meaningful “change”, similar to the overall effectiveness the Teaparty has demonstrated, then it needs to do one of the following: (1) find an actual method or outlet that will realize their grievances; (2) clarify intended goals and unify all protestors to a single purpose of sorts, and; (3) if the first two fail, it would be wise to go home and start looking for any relevant job openings.

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13 Comments »

  1. Daniel Morrissey October 14, 2011 at 4:57 pm -

    Uh, what?

    Comparing the cohesiveness and organization of the Tea Party and the Occupy movement is inherently ridiculous mostly because the Tea Party movement has already been around for about three years whereas the Occupy movement has only just began very recently. But the rest of this article is equally ridiculous.

    The Occupy movement does have concrete policy goals especially compared to the Tea Party’s goals which are just reactionary sentiment and racism. There are common goals such as reversing the Citizens United case and implementing various financial reforms to alleviate inequality that are coming from many of the people and organized forums at these protests. More importantly, the Occupy movement is trying to fix a system they perceive to be broken instead of destroying it like the Tea Party intends to do. Saying that the occupy movement is less productive than the Tea Party which is inherently unproductive is on its face ridiculous.

    In terms of “personal responsibility” and “the American work ethic” being the solution to people’s problems, this is clearly a case of ignoring literally everything that the movement is talking about and an intense naivety about social issues. America is a country where people have to work multiple jobs to support their family, where a minimum wage is not a living wage. America is a country in which people refuse medical care because getting an ambulance ride to fix their broken necks will bankrupt them. There are serious issues with inequality in this country and saying that people need to just pull themselves up by the bootstraps is insane and borderline offensive.

    Furthermore saying that the protests haven’t delivered any concrete policies after only a month is missing the entire point of why these protests are significant. These protests are politicizing people who were previously apathetic or apolitical and is allowing people to network with each other. Overall you should spend more time watching what actually happens with this protest and less time writing ad hominem attacks about the protesters’ hygiene and regurgitating regressive talking points because you seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what these protests are actually doing.

  2. Anne October 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm -

    Uh, Dan, what?
    First of all, the Occupy movement has set the wrong target — Wall Street is hardly made up of the ruthless millionaires that these fools are demonizing. There are plenty of middle-class people working in their midst — working hard, mind you. If they had any brains, they would be setting up camp in DC — that’s where the bailouts begin, taxpayers’ money is tossed around to corrupt companies, regulations are set up to strangle small business, etc. Wall Street does not cast votes — Congress does. If these morons don’t like how the country is being run, then why not target those who are driving it to ground?
    Did you seriously just complain about the minimum wage? Apparently, it’s high enough to compel some businesses to seek illegal labor (which, mind you, is encouraged by your very party — see Patrick, Deval). And did you forget a portion of your earnings are going straight to the government, i.e. TAXES?? How about asking for lower taxes instead of another $2 per hour?
    Oh the inequality argument…give it a break. Are millionaires to feel guilty that they worked hard in school, kept their grades high and sought internships, got into Harvard Business and then worked their way through the ranks? Should a truck driver really be making the same amount as a Wall Street trader, who is under tremendous pressure and stress throughout the day (not to mention SMART)? Where would the incentive be for a scholar to lend his intelligence to helping find a cure for disease, when he could make the same amount delivering pizza? People who are smart, motivated, and diligent have earned their salaries — so end the “unfair” argument and read a book.

  3. Evan England October 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm -

    Also, please see the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City: http://nycga.cc/2011/09/30/declaration-of-the-occupation-of-new-york-city/ it has TWENTY TWO specific grievances. This is not about demands, it is about frustration with a system that is supposed to represent the best interests of the people but is more concerned with corporate profiteering.

    Your attempts to minimize the gravity of movement’s message by making inaccurate generalization about the types of individuals participating is demeaning and will ultimately backfire.

  4. Frank Marino October 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm -

    This kind of rhetoric, your “american work ethic” points, are exactly the kind of talk that gets us into trouble. We can not continue to deny that there is institutional, systemic bias at play against PoC, the poor, the veteran, the differently abled, the sexual minority, etc. and that it is so deeply ingrained into our society’s structure that it is what creates the inequality occupy aims to address. It is so offensive to disenfranchised groups to be told to “work harder” in a system that is effectively working against them. We are set up to fail, at the expense of those comfortable in their positions of power. But I recognize it is really difficult for a white male to acknowledge, let alone recognize, their privilege. However it is a conversation we as a nation must have, and soon.

    Also, the public kinda like the occupy wall street protests so…maybe they have a bit more patience than you. http://hotair.com/archives/2011/10/05/poll-the-public-kinda-likes-occupy-wall-street-protesters/

  5. Daniel Morrissey October 14, 2011 at 8:54 pm -

    I hardly see how demands for things like campaign finance reform, corporate social responsibility, and solutions to rising inequality are attacks on the middle class. The Occupy Wall Street movement is a movement against neoliberal policy and unchecked corporate influence in the US government. To think of it as an attack on people who happen to work on Wall Street like janitors and other low level employees would be a serve case of intentionally missing the message. To say that corporations and the financial sector do not have any influence in the way Congress and the United States government operate and that Congress is solely responsible for our current situation is also incredibly naive and ignorant. You also seem to be arguing from some sort of social darwinist influenced position which is extremely perplexing, there are a variety of reasons people end up with the jobs that they do intelligence and hard work are not the only reason that someone can be successful and being unsuccessful does not mean that someone is dumb or didn’t try in life. Also I have no idea why you think “fixing inequality” means give literally everyone in the country the same salary but you should probably do some research on other people’s political opinions before you write/talk about them. Furthermore, I do not know why you assume that I am a Democrat (I am a Socialist) or assume that a Democrat would necessarily support everything Deval Patrick does but whatever. Thanks for the incredibly condescending and offensive response I guess? If that was satire then I’m sorry for missing the point entirely.

  6. Andrew Melillo October 14, 2011 at 9:43 pm -

    I am pleased that there is interest and discussion circulating around what has been written.

    I’m familiar with the mission statements of the Occupy groups, and have visited the “refugee camps of corporatist victims” numerous occasions to listen to and observe these protesters. (While attempting to stay clear of the abundance of dirt, garbage, bongo drums, and drugs of the protesters).

    It can be potentially disturbing (especially with an Occupy sympathizer) to become aware that successful workers adapt to the changing forces of an evolving market, or are monetarily compensated for their unique skills and talents, and therefore seem necessary to label such assertions as Darwinian. As for why it may be perplexing to read an argument that is (labelled using the faculties of your own brain) ‘Darwinian’ is something I suggest you meditate on a bit further.

    The only rebuttal that deserves any direct attention is from Mr. England. We are in complete agreement that there are serious flaws within our current system, and they are in dire need of reform. What one could see as corporate profiteering, another could see it as a successful, growing company that will hire more workers and expand market infrastructure to further their mission, and better the advancement of society as a whole, etc. Positivity or Negativity, but in reality the increase in wealth is always accompanied by an increase in pauperism, and here we have the paupers being told they have to fend for themselves now.

    I’m not sure that allowing the our youth to protest their illusions founded from their misguided awareness, with all the irrelevancy and chaos that that implies, will bring Utopia any closer. But there we are, Dan Morrissey and Evan England believe it, but who am I to argue them into common sense and sanity?

  7. Erin McIver October 14, 2011 at 9:48 pm -

    I want to first address a portion of this article specifically…”“Students don’t have lobbyists.”[1] While this is true, when you work for a company, that company most likely will. If your economic interests are tied to the company you work for, and that company is competitive, you will be represented just fine.”
    So what you’re saying is that I will have a voice in the political process if I….
    A. Find a job
    B. Happen to identify with the economic interests of that company
    C. If that company is competitive
    but what if I…
    A. Can’t find a job because the current economic and political structures have made decisions that have resulted in this undeniable economic crisis?
    B. Don’t identify with the economic interests of a company I happen to find a job for? Publicly traded corporations are required by law and the markets to make the maximum profit for their stockholders. Which has resulted in cooking the books, human rights violations and environmental catastrophes.
    C. That company isn’t competitive? So that kicks all small, local businesses out the door.
    So what you’re saying is if my voice aligns with those of the corporations, I’ll be just fine. If the author of this article would like to clarify his statement, please do so, because I’m not sure many Americans would be or are comfortable with being told that are voice is only represented if we are tied to a successful corporation.

    I would like to challenge your feeling that the movement is a bunch of smelly, losers without direction. I participated in the march on Oct. 10th and it was incredible. I saw people of all races, all ages, all political backgrounds, employed, unemployed, students, retirees and more. It was the most WHOLE I’ve ever felt. Before the students left we were given (via megaphone) instructions on remaining peaceful to hecklers and the police, we were told to form a circle around our fellow protesters if someone was hurt to barricade them from being trampled by our mass. Along with us we had clearly marked medics who were there to assist with any injuries and trained non-biased legal observers who were on hand to document any law issues that were to be encountered along the way. We had bottles and bottles of water on hand for those who came unprepared. Your comments of the movement being disorganized seem to come from the fact that you have just seen a bunch of signs that point out more than one issue at hand.

    Also, I’d like to point out that civil disobedience (the active refusal to obey the law or commands of a government or other ruling body) is the cornerstone to inciting change in America.
    Boston Tea Party dumping tea- Civil Disobedience
    Susan B. Anthony illegally voting- Civil Disobedience
    Rosa Parks refusal to give up her seat- Civil Disobedience
    Multiple Sit-Ins and Marches of the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr.- Civil Disobedience

    Wow- what a bunch of frickin hipsters am I right???

    Movements have never instituted change over night, so let’s just wait and see. I hope one day the author sees that all in all- the 99% are just looking to have politicians represent human needs, rather than corporate ones.

  8. Andrew Melillo October 14, 2011 at 10:08 pm -

    To address the only relevant, factual, and important point you made, civil disobedience is a good thing, but unchecked and disorganized petulance is another story.

    The Tea Party, had a clear goal, and was a organized unit who wanted to get rid of excessive taxation upon their lucrative business (they were traders and businessmen) without having proper representation for it in the British government.

    Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks were individuals committing a one-time action to make a profound statement. Susan Anthony, also was a part of organized, cohesive, goal-oriented, and disciplined groups to help shape goals intended to promote women suffrage.

    Martin Luther King Jr again had clearly defined goals, effective communication of those goals, inspired people (not heckled them), and organized cohesive instances of effective protest, etc.

    How dare you compare the Occupy movement with any of these cases of civil disobedience. You have furthered my point by not including the same petulance demonstrated during the Vietnam wars. Thank you for your thoughts.

  9. Frank Marino October 14, 2011 at 10:31 pm -

    Andrew, your continuous generalizations of those involved are astounding. Furthermore, your denigration of them is beyond insulting. Pass no judgement on those we do not understand, rather strive to practice empathy for our fellow human. It feels good, try it some time.

  10. Ryan October 15, 2011 at 5:01 pm -

    So…. Did you actually go and talk to the protestors? Did you sit down and hear their grievances? Because it seems to me that your sitting in your room writing about something that you know very little about and are very disconnect from socially, and financially. You have not quoted a single person from the occupy movement. I think you might be the only person I know who has the ability to just whip up a job these days and pay for all the student loans that we have to pay…..but something tells me you might be part of the 1% who have someone paying for that education of yours. I have never seen such amateur journalism, and am appalled that Northeastern allows such blatant, lazy, and ignorant rhetoric to be put on this website. Also, your not from Boston, and know nothing of the “Old Boston”

    Best Regards- Ryan
    P.S my letter of complaint will be on its way out my door on Monday.

  11. Andrew Melillo October 21, 2011 at 12:37 am -

    Ryan, yes. I went and talked to the protesters, and I even listened to all of their expressed thoughts. There was quite a lot of anti-this, anti-that.

    I have quoted a branch of the Occupy Movement, that calls themselves Occupy Northeastern, and many of those same people currently are participating in the Occupy encampment across the street from the Boston Federal Reserve building.

    It is an opinion piece, so your grievances are duly noted, but not well thought out.

    I am a native New Englander, and Boston has always been a frequent destination my entire life, and has a close place in my heart. As for your assertions against my knowledge and character, well its amusing.

    I think writing a letter of complaint would be a good thing to do. I know opinions sometimes might conflict, just one of those things I suppose.

  12. Andrew Melillo November 4, 2011 at 10:36 pm -

    Sometimes censorship is misguided. The alleged “founded” “generalizations” that resulted in some of my comments to be deleted or altered, turns about to have some serious substance after all:

    http://www.boston.com/Boston/metrodesk/2011/11/three-arrested-for-dealing-drugs-occupy-boston-camp/hUHUmwDYOo0M2x4qm0qreL/index.html

  13. Claire Lewis November 16, 2011 at 11:09 pm -

    Andrew, just so you know, Rosa Parks was not acting as an individual woman pissed off about having to give up her seat to racist whites. By the time she refused to move to the back of the bus, she had been a member of the NAACP for 20 years, fighting for civil rights and an end to the racist system in the South. Certain acts get publicized and glorified and end up in history books 50 years later, while the realities of the long-time struggles often get ignored. I wonder, if you had been around at the time of Rosa Parks act of civil disobedience, what you would have said about it… if I was to generalize, as you have done in your opinion piece, folks in your position (conservative, white, cis, male) were calling Rosa uppity, jailing her, or worse. Please don’t think I’m calling you a racist. I don’t know you personally. But I’m raising the point that it’s easy to look back 50 years and say that the civil rights movement is an example of acceptable civil disobedience.

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