I’m not a big believer in protests, particularly not in the United States. They rarely accomplish anything, and what they do accomplish is often just some small appeasement to make everyone shut up. Protesters are basically like flies on a cow. They swarm around the massive government and corporations and get lazily and easily swatted down. I am, however, a big advocate of movements. And what moves people in this country? Money.
I thought that the whole “leave your bank” movement within Occupy had promise. If you’re pissed off about something, the best way to protest now is by not financially supporting it, if you can help it at all. I think that it should have extended beyond banks to all kinds of corporations. Had there been a more organized effort, wouldn’t it have made more sense to just say “hey, a-holes, we don’t like what’s going on. And we are not going to give any more money to corporations that have shipped most of the jobs overseas, or are making greed-based layoffs,” or whatever your grievance may be.
The economy, as far as I can understand, is still supposed to be pretty circular. Businesses can’t bring money in if they’re not putting money out (in the form of wages). Well, our current economy shows that they CAN do that, at the cost of private citizens. They can do it because they can get cheap labor elsewhere, and people will still pay the same amount for the final product. This is how our country got so top-heavy: people (individuals – don’t even get me started on corporate personhood!) getting richer and richer without actually contributing anything to society. So, if you feel truly passionate about putting this country back together, stop putting money in to businesses that aren’t functioning like good citizens. You can yell all you want, but nothing talks as loud as money. If you cut the money off, they’ll get the picture eventually.
So, this is where we get back to the generations analysis. People in American society really like their “stuff.” For various reasons, we have a really difficult time with the idea of not having a lot of stuff, or using stuff until it wears out, or putting any real thought into what kind of stuff we buy. The last generation in this country that really had to pull together, or really knows what it’s like to live without a lot of stuff, is still around, but is slowly passing on. My grandmother (of the Greatest Generation) knows how to make almost everything she needs to survive, and she knows how to fully use the things that she does purchase. She only purchases items that have real value to life, and ideally they are high-quality items that will last forever. My dad (baby-boomer) retained some of her values, in terms of quality of items, but is mainly interested in convenience, and bigger-better-faster-more. The boomers really created the culture of stuff, and began molding that mentality into self-worth: “you are nothing without your stuff.”
Gen Xers I think are a little less interested in convenience than the boomers (they’ll go the extra mile to recycle, or whatever), but still have enough of the boomer values in them to crave “stability” – a certain level of comfort that is directly related to owning a home and the correct furniture, car, techie gadgets, etc. We still have a bit of the bigger-better-faster-more mentality, and a lot of it is wrapped up in image. We’ve continued to press the agenda of stuff. Now, of course, generation Y is completely obsessed with image. They have grown up entirely indoctrinated into dependence on corporations. How can they create an image if they don’t have stuff? Who would they be? How would they make themselves special and unique?
I guess I went into all the stuff with the different generations as a way to better understand why the hell people don’t just act on their anger. People prefer to bitch, not act, because acting is too hard (and I am not excusing myself from this behavior!). It is inconvenient. It is uncomfortable. It is scary because we might have to actually face ourselves and each other has human beings, rather than image projections. It is scary because we don’t know what to do with ourselves without our stuff. It is scary because we have never lived without. But the totally irrational piece is that there are still people living, like my grandmother, for whom none of the above was ever a problem! It is demonstrably true that we won’t die from the act of financial dissent! Furthermore, unlike my grandma’s time, there are now lots of businesses that make totally cool, totally ethical STUFF! You wouldn’t even have to totally give it up! All you have to do is think before you buy. If you can’t afford the ethical stuff, than just don’t buy the stuff.
This is what I mean by “financial freedom.” It’s not just getting out of debt, getting out from under the thumb that holds you down; it is also the ability to have a say as a citizen (because if you think that our political process works, you have on glasses so rosy you can barely see). I am still hoping that I will see a time where the members of each of the currently-living generations get over their disparate and selfish reasons for not acting, and actually decide to do some serious rebuilding of the country from the ground (individual) on up. You know – old-school American style.