Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An open response to Marybeth Hick's parental advice to Occupy protesters

I must admit that I don't routinely follow the writings of Marybeth Hicks - or most ideological columnists for that matter- but two of my friends have recently sent me one of her columns from the Washington Times (Oct. 20) to review. If you are interested, here is a link to her column.

HICKS: Some belated parental advice to protesters - Washington Times

I won't respond in detail, but I would like to offer my opinion that this column seems typical of the way that journalists on both the right and left of the political spectrum tend to demonize and stereotype people who hold differing viewpoints rather than discuss the specific issues. For example, Marybeth characterizes members of the Occupy movement as young, immature, unrealistic, dirty, smelly, lazy, irresponsible etc. and blames them for their lack of success. She then defends those responsible, successful traders that have earned enough money through their "hard-work" on Wall Street to buy houses in the Hamptons.

Unfortunately, reality tends to be more complicated than she admits. From my experience, a typical Occupy camp consists of a wide range of people. I have met idealistic and informed people of all ages from varying backgrounds who are sacrificing their personal safety and comfort to stand against a system that is destroying our environment and funnelling the profits into fewer and fewer pockets. I have also noticed that there are large numbers of homeless people who are attracted to the movement - perhaps because of the free food and relative safety from police harrasment- and some of them bring their addiction and mental health problems into the camp environment. I have been particularly impressed by the way that the more able camp members tend to reach out and try to support those who have been rejected by our current system - however, in some cases this has not been successful and I suspect that many of the conflicts between police and the Occupy movement have been triggered by the chronic homeless. It's also worth noting how MaryBeth characterizes the Wall Street traders as hard-working rather than considering how many of these traders come from rich ivy league families who were able to get them into the "right" schools where they made the "right" connections that opened the "right" doors and so on. It's also worth noting that many of these wealty traders have made their wealth by gambling with other people's money and while it is beyond any doubt that they were responsible for the major economic crisis of 2008 - where millions of people lost their pension earnings, their pensions, their jobs and even their homes- I am not aware of a single Wall Street trader or bank CEO being sent to jail for their dishonest transactions.

Overall, I feel very hopeful that the Occupy Wall Street Movement will help in bringing a positive change to our current system. Hopefully they will be a part of moving our society back to a place where everyone has a fair chance for success and we can start rebuilding our middle class and our natural environment. In the meantime, you can expect that those who are benefitting the most from our current system will fight very hard to maintain the advantages in wealth and power that they now hold. Much of this will be played out in the media where the elite from both sides of the debate will attempt to stereotype and characterize the movement for their own advantage. Certainly you will see alot of negative reporting - this is because the rich and powerful own most of the media outlets - so I would recommend that you go down to the Occupy camps and meetings to visit with the people personally. During our Victoria Peace Colloquy on Oct 22, we had 3 people from Occupy Victoria come and present their ideas to our congregation. It was a very worth-while event.

I also notice that no matter how much bad press is targetted against the Occupy Movement, the Rich and Powerful said the same things and worse about the early Christians and the early Mormons...

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