A PSA For Protesters

There’s been a ton of press over the last few weeks over the Occupy [insert your city here] movements… I thought it was time that someone send out a PSA to the people that have taken to the streets. I’m pretty sure that the protesters that are actually out there already know that it’s hard to live this life outside – no matter how many Starbucks or REI products you have – and it’s not very much fun, but I don’t know that they’ve learned the most common lesson for people in their situation:

Just because you protest it doesn’t mean you’ll get your way – hell, it doesn’t even mean that you’re right.

Maybe it’s because I’m from the east coast. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Reagan’s America, where we learned in school that you had to work hard to get what you want. Maybe it’s because I’m simply older than the average protester in the Movement. It could be that simple. I forgot who said it first – likely Dave Berry – but there’s a ton of truth in this notion: “the definition of getting older is when you hear about a prank that you would have laughed at in your 20’s but you now think is punishable by death.” Whatever the reasoning, there are some general issues that prevent me from empathizing with the Occupy movements.

The fact that there’s no clear “rationale” to the movement is part of it is part of the problem. The only common thread we know of is “those people have a bunch of money and we don’t. We should have more money!” Um, and? Honestly, I can’t tell if this is it or not. If it is as simple as this, I have no respect for this movement. I respect that they are pissed and I respect that they want to protest, but not one ounce of respect for what they want. No matter how much money you think a banker is overpaid, it should change nothing. That banker is still working for their money. How is a banker earning $10 million worse than a baseball player earning $15.2 million? They are both working for it. The baseball player is playing a game and has physical demands; the banker has unique talents in the office space. “They made their money on failed mortgages!” you say? Why shouldn’t they if people are stupid enough to borrow three times more than what they should? Sorry, but it doesnt hold water.

Add to this that America has always been propped up as a capitalist society. It’s not 100% capitalist. Hasn’t been for years… not since we started things like welfare and social security, but we’ve also told citizens that if you want more, work harder. Now it feels like we expect the government to take care of more things and we want more for less effort. It’s almost like some people in the public think that we should all work for the good of humanity, a la Star Trek’s Next Generation: we just do it for the fun of it because there’s no concept of money. This is socialism. And that’s fine, if that’s what we – as a people – vote for, but then we really need to stop half-assing it. “People can stop working so damned hard because it doesn’t matter,” but that’s not what happens… right now if you stop working hard, you get demoted, you lose your job, and your quality of life suffers… can’t have it both ways and right now, as a nation, it feels like we’ve lost our way or at least we’re putting a mixed message out there.

As to the protests and crackdowns themselves. Every American has the right to protest, but as with all things, you have to take responsibility for your actions. If the city or state you live in has laws for regulating protests or the sites you protest at, you need to follow those laws. Seattle’s Westlake center is so liberal that there’s always a protest there, usually several causes. Not everywhere is like this. Don’t like the laws where you are? Change the law. Break the law instead? You get arrested and you should be arrested. Simple. Logical. It’s what makes us Americans, actually. The bit in New York City? The protesters were on private property. That’s about the end of it.

Also, be aware that when you march en masse on somewhere public, you are disrupting the 99% far more than you are the 1%. The 1% that you are trying to harass have helicopters and rooftop pads to leave from. You are wreaking havoc on the people that have to drive through these cities to earn a living. Disrupting the laymen of the world will not make your popular and likely won’t get you additional support.

Lastly, there’s been the public outrage about protesters getting hurt by the police as protests are managed and broken up. Will there be cops that are trigger happy or abuse their position at rallies? Sadly, yes. Is it as bad as the media is making it out to be? It might be, but I question it. The media needs to sell content. Their target audience? All the hipsters that are watching the protesters on their iPads and have no intension of getting off their ass except to get another PBR from the kitchen. They see 10 seconds of media-spun video of some poor bastard getting smacked around with a nightstick and start a public outcry on Twitter. What they don’t see is what lead up to that nightsticking. Could it be the guy deserved it? The media won’t include that – it doesn’t sell well. I recall once clip in Seattle news, where there was outrage that a cop would hit this “innocent” girl while he was trying to put cuffs on another – huge outcry. Until two days later when you see the whole clip which broke on YouTube: the girl that got hit tried to grab the cop’s gun, while he was cuffing her friend.

Right now, the media is only going to show you what sells ads and thats not showing you two sides to the story. It doesn’t mean that the cops are perfect and there aren’t problems out there. When you’ve got a mob to control, and the mob gets unruly, tensions will flare on both sides of the street. It excuses nothing but it does mean that you’re likely only seeing half the story half the time. The in 60’s, when protests were running amuck on college campus, they were often painful and bloody, as most change is. We somehow forgot that over the last 50 years. We look back and think everything was a peaceful, quiet sit-in, like an episode of Family Ties. I say bullshit. There was strife and chaos and issues wherever there was a protest. People wanted change and went to the mat to get it. It didn’t happen overnight and protesters didn’t get everything they wanted. We’ve lost these facts when looking back with hindsight.

One thing is obvious with the Occupy protesters: the people involve want change of some sort even if no one is sure what it is or how they expect to get it. They are learning that it’s not going to be a quick thing to fix. They will eventually learn that they get a ton of lip service in the media, but the mass populous will not go to the streets with them even if they do have a common cause; we’re too lazy or apathetic. They have to learn that while they are trying to disrupt this “evil money machine” that they are actually hurting the 99% they are trying to represent.

And if this is all over something as simple as “we want more because they have more” then I look to the wisdom of Neil Peart:

“You don’t something for nothing

You can’t have freedom for free

You won’t get wise

With the sleep still in your eyes

No matter what the dream might be”

Those Canadians might be onto something after all.

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