Oct. 17, 2011 marks the one-month anniversary of the formation of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The group has stolen headlines across the country with demonstrations in Liberty Square and demands for a return to democracy. They have inspired hundreds across the United States and thousands more globally to stand for similar grounds … but "for what exactly do they stand?"
The group's website provides the clearest clue to the group's intentions, but even this is a vague call on Americans to stand up to the government. The revolutionary "Arab spring" protests are cited as an influence for the current demonstrations. Maybe I'm reading too far into this, but is our government's failure to resolve a global economic crisis really comparable to an uprising against dictatorships that sent military forces to quell demonstrations? I'm thinking not.
I understand the Occupy Wall Street protestors are simply borrowing tactics from uprisings that have had success, and that they are not necessarily planning on overthrowing the government themselves. Then again, who knows? It's not as if the group has announced intentions to actually accomplish something. The clearest claim they have made is a desire for "a return to democracy," though they fail to explain just how they plan to do that.
Since the group itself hasn't published official statements, numerous individuals have posted their demands in the name of the group on the site. Though there have been many, ones that have most recently come to my attention are the demands for an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $20, debt forgiveness nation- and worldwide, guaranteed living wage with or without employment and zero tuition for college. I'll be the first to admit the prospect of such is attractive. But then I remember I live in reality.
If these demands were met, our economy would tank. Whether we like it or not, our world is built on a commercialized structure.
The United States is in trillions of dollars of debt, it's true. So are many other countries across the world. Forgiving centuries of debt that have built up would be a disaster for everyone and would destroy any hope of lending in the future. Then, how is every citizen supposed to have a wage of $20 per hour or have a wage even if the person doesn't work?
There are many people that would benefit from these and similar demands. Certainly the job market is down and many people simply can't find work. Thousands of college students would be able to learn without worries of loans and years of post-graduation debt. Then again, there would be little reason to work if one was guaranteed wages. The quality of schools would decrease sharply when their funding is cut to zero. Can we really afford all these losses?
The American economy is not doing well. The U.S. government is trying to solve this issue, believe it or not. Whether or not it is doing a good job is another topic. If we are to actually help our country into a more stable economy, however, we must be based in reality. Reality is harsh.
Unfortunately, we are the ones that must deal with the consequences of past generations' mistakes. Rather than whining about the situation we're in and issuing unreasonable demands, how about we pull together as a country and actually work for change? Collaborating to develop real plans that actually function for the long-term will go much further than squabbling over a few saved pennies for today.