Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Is it all about income inequality?

I just got this email:
Research seem to show that while the 99-1% split is there and is sadly unfair, a bigger problem exists among the less educated in vast portion of the population.

The most troubling problems that leave many Americans at a disadvantage have gotten lost in the debate over the top 1 percent of earners vs. the bottom 99 percent. 
One way to glibly summarize that article above is to say "while income and wealth inequality only oppressed people of color and white trash, we could ignore it; now that it affects white college graduates, it's getting attention." And that is itself a worthy concern.

However, I am wary of any attempt to summarize the "true purpose" of the Occupy movement. As a leaderless movement, it has as many purposes as it has participants.

Complaints about income inequality are also expressions of greed and jealousy. "You got rich, and I didn't; that's not fair; give me your money!" That's a difficult position to defend.

hile income inequality in the USA is certainly a factor, it is not the only one that brings people to Occupy. Certainly that would not be enough to motivate demonstrations in 1000 cities worldwide! Pollution, energy, war, food, politics-for-sale, and police brutality, are common concerns among Occupyiers today.

Personally, I am dissatisfied with any messages asking to return to the way things were, to reinstate Glass-Steagall or tax the rich at 1980 levels, etc. First, the way things were is exactly how we got here today. Second, I don't think things were that great then, either. Third, it's impossible - the coal is already mined, the CO2 already released in to the atmosphere, the fish already caught.

I believe that the true purpose of the Occupy movement is still not known, at least not broadly. I think that the issues raised by Occupiers share a deeper common cause that we are not fully ready to address. I think of this movement as part of humanity's "coming of age ordeal", and we still need to go through that ordeal before we are ready.

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