Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I don't know what percent I am

I'm feeling a little lost these days, and I know I'm not alone. A few weeks ago, I was informed that my job was being cut and as of Oct 28 I would become one of too many educated, hard-working Americans who are jobless. It was like being punched in the stomach.

So that day, what did I do? I activated my network of friends and professionals. I ran searches and asked everyone I knew to keep an eye out for positions I'd be interested in. I was active from the minute I could pull myself together. Finding a job right now is hard, but not impossible. It takes a ton of work. It takes diligence and it takes hope...and you know what? I was able to find things and get interviews. Ultimately there was a job for me before that deadly October 28 date arrived. Yes, I realize I was lucky, but I also worked very hard to find a job. I ended up with options.

Right now, a lot of people don't have options. Greed has taken over our country and crashed us into economic disaster. The job I had held for almost 8 years was a casualty, as well as the jobs of so many people in this country who have been laid off.

It's frustrating to see the state things are in. I find this Occupy movement frustrating too, and let me tell you why.

99% is a big number. Within that, there are people like me, who work and do what we can to make enough to survive. We fight for every cent in our pockets by working hard, gaining professional respect and making a name for ourselves...and when God forbid we're a victim of a layoff, we'll be able to find something else. We're frustrated by who has the power and the money (and by what has caused our economic downturn), but ultimately we fight to take care of ourselves in the best way we know how. We try desperately to make credit card payments and cut costs on living expenses whenever we can.

Also within the 99% are people like my parents. They have secure jobs, mortgages and take care of elderly relatives. Sure, their combined incomes allow them to be comfortable, but only if they watch spending and save for things like vacations or new furniture. They drive Hondas, not BMWs. They have a modest amount of debt. They aren't rich, but don't worry too much about money or losing their jobs.

Some people in the 99% have been unjustly evicted from their homes by banks. Some are stuck in a swirling vortex of debt that they can't get out of because of credit card rates, excessive loans, etc. There are single parents struggling with raising children and making ends meet.

For sure, much of what is happening in our economy is affecting those of us who can afford it the least, to all sorts of different degrees.

For everyone in this 99%, there is something about this economy effecting us that sucks.

But at Occupy, all i see is a bunch of the same type of people. I see a display of twentysomethings who look like they have rolled in dirt and smell awful. So I ask these kids, what if it works? What if your section of the 99% is heard and changes happen that herald an economic upturn? Do you really think you can put "Occupy Wall Street drum circle" on a resume?

Yes, the system needs to change in order for things to get better. We all know that. We all know the economy is in the shitter right now, with very little upward movement.

I think the heart of this movement is in the absolute right place, but I think the marketing stinks. If you want to facilitate change, speak the language of those you're trying to get through to. Recognize that the well-dressed broker you're shouting at as he exits the building has probably worked very hard to be where he is, and may be a part of the 99% himself.

I think Occupiers need to pick a new percentage. Those masses of campers are no more put-upon than the rest of us. The difference is that they think causing a ruckus instead of working hard and trying to improve their own situation will somehow facilitate change. Even if things improve economically, things like student loan debt don't go away unless you pay them off. In fact, things won't improve economically unless we, the 99% make it so by showing initiative, working, surviving, and slowly climbing out.

99% covers a lot of Americans. Some of us are motivated to survive. Struggling is a part of life - we shouldn't protest it, we should learn from it and work harder to be better. No country or set of rules or ideals is perfect. Don't expect it to be. Embrace what you can all do to make your own situation better. If everyone does that, good things will come for the country as a whole. There are a lot of good things about living in America. Freedom of speech is one of them. I would never disagree with a person's right to protest, but all I see in these demonstrations is a lost group of people who are asking the right questions but not listening for answers, some of which could come from themselves.

Because ultimately, out of everyone in this world, you have the most influence over yourself.