Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Occupy Wall Street: A Thirst for Balance

What are the protests all about?

The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on since September 17, 2011. The protests began in New York City but spread to over 100 cities in the United States and over 1,500 cities worldwide. I first heard of them from a friend and Project Esperanza volunteer named Adam. In an e-mail conversation about a web project we were working on, Adam let me know that he had been busy with his job, school, and the Occupy Wall Street protests. Here in the Dominican Republic I admit I am out of touch with current events. So I looked up the protests after his mention of being involved. Adam then sent me more explanation, a video, and a document written to explain the purpose of the protests.

“Though the name implies a somewhat focused group that we are protesting, it is merely meant to represent the discontent many people feel with the way our current political and financial system works and the lack of a voice that we have in changing that. Given that the discourse in the country, even within popular media outlets, has gone from making fun of the protests to actually discussing the income disparity in the US, I would say that the movement is definitely having an effect. Unfortunately, since a lot of those popular media outlets are influenced by many of the large corporations themselves, a lot of coverage of the protests still remains somewhat condescending. Often the movement is portrayed as a bunch of dirty hippies who are lazy or young students who are spoiled. It most assuredly is not and represents a huge cross section of those within our society who feel the same discontent and are finally standing up. Two things for further background - a quick video on how the decision process in the movement works (it's really pretty cool). And here is the first official release from the movement, a declaration.”

I reviewed the video, read the declaration, and from all of this, I understand that people are thirsting for balance to an extent. Yes, they are frustrated that with this economic recession things have become more difficult and inconvenient for them personally, but they also seem to be frustrated with an imbalance of power that has gotten out of hand. There seems to be a theme in sociology where when things get too far out of balance, something happens to bring back the balance. I remember first learning about Karl Marx in social studies class...although I forget which grade level he was first introduced. However, I clearly remember the information we were to memorize about him was that he saw society divided into a working class and an upper class who holds the power which he referred to as the bourgeoisie. I also remember his theory that the imbalance caused here would always eventually end in a bloody revolution where the working class basically overthrows the bourgeoisie. I see this as essentially a natural reaction that brings back the balance. To me, the Occupy Wall Street protests mirror this, although things are not violent, there is strong opposition from the working class toward the bourgeoisie.

The Problem: Lack of Balance

One major complaint I understand that protestors have is that there are too many large corporations, too much power and control, they fund political campaigns, thus causing there to not be a real democracy. Along these lines, I have to mention something that was brought to my attention during my last visit to the U.S. While visiting with my uncle, he filled me in on research he has done for many years now. His research surrounds a conspiracy theory, secret societies, and issues that go along with that. Namely, he spoke about the Masons, the Illuminatis, the New World Order, and more. It was quite disturbing but educational for me as well. He told me about documents and videos he has investigated that reveal lots of unsettling things about American political leaders and entertainment figures. I listened but really only had his word to go on until he brought out a book written by a woman named Brice Taylor who claimed to have spent the younger years of her life as a sex slave under the leadership of Bob Hope. She specifically told about the mind control that she was put under, the method that she was brought under the mind control, and the missions that she was sent on by Bob. She wrote specific accounts about her encounters with many big names - political leaders and entertainment figures. She was sent to deliver messages from Bob and also to perform sexual acts in conjunction with that. Some leaders accepted the offer and others refused. Later in life, she escaped this life and now seeks to lead others trapped in the same situation to reverse their mind control.

My uncle explained that this woman, who was raised within this group for this purpose and basically adopted at a young age so she had no family to account of her, would've likely been killed to be kept quiet. Actually, that explanation may not be entirely correct as I now read in this heartbreaking summary of the book that her father was involved in turning her into a robot. The point is that she was raised for this purpose and had no one who would've truly protested her death or taken the risk to do so. However, in writing this book, which is not a best-seller by any means, she drew attention to herself. You would think it would anger her abusers and cause them to retaliate but my uncle explained that if they were to harm her at this point, that would only draw more attention to her book and her claims. Their best bet is to just ignore her and know that not many people will read the book. Interesting... Here is a blog I just found when searching for the book which gives a little more insight.

After reviewing a few of her disturbing accounts in the book, I reflected on the effect that an imbalance of power has on the people in the position of power. Some thoughts that came to mind are no accountability, too much freedom, and a lack of self-control. How much of the control that we possess comes from our societal constraints. What would human beings do if actions were not restricted by societal norms and the consequences that go along with those norms, namely, embarrassment, gossip, etc.? What would human beings do if they knew that no one would find out or knew that those who would find out had no voice?

Here in the Dominican Republic, visiting tourists find quite a large range of freedom. It is said to be one of the leading countries in the prostitution industry. Many tourists come here to spend time on the beautiful beaches, others come and do some volunteer work, but sadly, many choose this country, at least in part, because of the sex industry. I have lived here for the past five years as a local, not a tourist, and pretty removed from the expat population altogether. I have seen the effects that this has on families which are the most basic structure of society. I think of them as the atom with individuals serving as the electrons, protons, and neutrons. If families aren't healthy, societies can't be healthy. How can families be healthy when perhaps the highest paying job for a mother is prostitution? It seems as though in many cases, fathers estrange themselves first perhaps in some cases to protect themselves to the possibility that their wives go and prostitute themselves and they sit at home caring. So living in infidelity first and teaching themselves not to care protects them from that pain and humiliation.

I enter into this example with the Dominican Republic to make the point that expats hold a lot of power here. Where one is middle class, average in their home country, they come here and are in a position of power. Many people do things that they wouldn't do at home where there is more accountability. Situations such as this are most definitely a test of character, but also a large imbalance that seems unhealthy and tempting to many. Rather than allowing such a situation of imbalance to remain so that we can observe who will do what, I would rather the temptation be removed and there be healthy balance. There is value in a time where I leave objects within my toddler's reach and teach him not to touch and there is also value in times when I simply remove objects that are dangerous so that he cannot reach them. I believe the same is true with the figures in the U.S. and other countries who are in positions without accountability. Somehow, balance should be reached. Balance should be the goal.


So my question for the Occupy Wall Street protestors is, what are the proposed solutions? What is the course of action? Do they plan on targetting some corporations and requesting dialogue with their leaders? Or has this been done yet? Excuse me for my ignorance if any of these suggested solutions are already being executed. Would they ask if these leaders would be willing to relinquish their power in order to create true democracy. Would they propose a productive plan and ask for their support. Are any organized boycotts being executed? I know individuals who have boycotted Wal-Mart for quite awhile because they oppose the effect that it has on small businesses.

One thought I have had brewing for a year or two is that the US could potentially split up into a few different countries. This would put many more people in leadership positions and less in the position of follower. I think more leaders with less power is key in achieving balance. I think more followers learning the responsibility of leaders also has many benefits. I can't say that the US being such a collected world power has been a negative thing, necessarily up until this point, or who knows? Undoubtedly great things have happened because it was such a large and collected force. But it may be time to think about splitting up somehwat, again, for the purpose of balance and health. When I ran this idea by my parents, they nodded in agreement to my chain of thoughts, and then added that a similar solution would be giving the states more power and removing some of the federal power. However, I think if such a large and developed body should stay united under one government, it will always be difficult for the one government to have the oversight necessary to govern the entire body with all of it's unique variations.

I thought this when I heard countless teachers complain about the new Standards of Learning put in place by the No Child Left Behind initiative. I thought, well of course that would be frustrating. How can one test or list of standards be put in place as requirements for such a large amount of schools. This sort of leadership and authority is so completely impersonal. If you can't physically visit each of the schools, should you be able to pass a requirement for all of them? They all have their different situations and deserve consideration from leaders who have more time and ability to give them individual attention. Running schools in this way is like running an orphanage with 100 children. The kids receive no individual attention and their unique variations are not taken into play in their upbringing at all. Those who work in the field discovered long ago that the family structure is a much more healthy way for children to be raised. I am not opposing the intention behind George Bush's initiative, which was to improve the performance in schools and make sure that kids weren't passing through the system without meeting certain standards, but the execution of it I think is unrealistic and incomplete if one is to truly desire the improved standards. More individual attention is required, not just overarching rules that do not consider individual schools.

Protestors could battle large corporations by working together to build their own large corporation which would give them the power to make change and have influence. Of course a million issues would come up when executing this idea. What would the corporation do? What would it market? When it does gain the power to make change and have influence, what changes would it implement?

Protestors could work together to develop third world nations, not so that they would have power to be enemies against their mother country, the US, but so that they would be a healthier litter mate. I think a healthy litter mate is the best antidote for a bully, along with wise and loving parents to oversee the interactions between litter mates. I think that anyone or anything that possesses strength, if not kept in check, is at risk of becoming a bully, even if inadvertently in ways that he or she is unaware of.

A New Clothing Brand Doing Just That!

Along the lines of these last two suggested solutions, I have to introduce a new clothing brand created and run by Adam, the same man who brought the Occupy Wall Street protests to my attention in the first place. Robin is an empowerment brand that encourages socially conscientious and adventurous individuals to engage in their community and support positive change in the world. How? By giving away free apparel for good deeds and sponsoring children’s education programs. I encourage you to check out the website and make a purchase!

Final Thoughts

I think that protestors should reflect on ways that they or those before them allowed this lack of balance to come about as a way of keeping it from repeating itself or furthering. People should not sit back and allow others to achieve, others to improve themselves, others to create.. and just live off of the creation and achievements of others without creating and achieving as well. When one sees a successful company, one should not think to get a job within that company for security purposes. In doing so, one is feeding the imbalance – because you are – I'm sorry to say – too dependent, too trusting, and perhaps in some situations, too lazy to allow someone else to control your destiny. At the same time, I think piggy-backing and copy-catting are stupid and am not suggestion that people start companies with the exact same purpose of existing companies, only to create competition. I'm suggesting that people think outside of the box, use creativity, and not necessarily “trust the experts” as if they are always correct, but question the experts. Again, I am not suggesting that people question the experts in an annoying way where the main goal is to play the devil's advocate and engage in endless discussion that leads to no productive action, but just to keep the experts in check and take responsibility over such important matters.

I think that it's also important that people remember history. In the field of health, for example, the practice of hydropathy used to be quite common with several centers devoted to this practice of simply using water as a healing agent. It was quite successful. If it was successful, then why did it die away? Why does everyone go to the hospital when they are sick and trust Western medicine so? Is a successful practice from the past worth bringing back? Yes, midwifery has made a come back, but if more people understood the history of the transition from home births to hospital births, and how it was driven by economic manipulation, perhaps even more people would do home births. Did hospital births become the norm because they were the safer and healthier option or because midwives were bullied by the new doctors. I think this is another situation where balance is needed... this situation being somewhat linked to gender as well. The U.S. is so highly organized..perhaps too organized in my opinion to the point that most forget to consider anything outside of the box/outside of the norm, and accept the norm as the only way. We become afraid of outside of the box, which only gives more power to those leading the institutions that are deemed normal..which, as we have seen, backfires.

What about kids who spend 8 of their 16 awake hours at school and two more at sports practice, also at school, five days a week. Sure, school is a fairly safe place, but such a routine sure does give one place a whole lot of influence over your children. It's something to be aware of, at the least. There are definitely benefits to school in an institution rather than home schooling as far as socialization and the fact that some parents wouldn't make the best of teachers, but at the same time, perhaps there is some sort of an alternative solution that allows for more time at home?

Financially speaking, why has everyone been trusting loans that seemed so easy? Would you ever ride around in a remote control car, driven by someone else who is not inside..who will not be hurt or killed should the car crash? Wouldn't you rather drive your own car and take the safety of your family and yourself in you own hands? Shouldn't banks be left as banks and not given power that they do not actually possess? If they claim to possess it, shouldn't we call them out on it or simply ignore them? I thought that the purpose of banks were to provide a safe place for people to store money as opposed to piggy banks and sock drawers, as well as to loan a little money to get someone out of a pinch, with consequences if they don't pay back. They aren't meant to make all your dreams come true. And when they do... when you don't feel the weight of your pennies earned... well... I think something has to be off somewhere. Excuse my ignorance here again if I misunderstand something with the financial system as I do not have experience with taking out loans in the U.S.

Sometimes comfortable can be dangerous. Sometimes we have to fight against the comfort of our warm bed and hop out into the cold barefoot in order to be alert and therefore wise. Frodo was comfortable in the beautiful Shire but if he stayed there, the discomfort in the other parts of Middle Earth would've ended up destroying the Shire. It is good to listen to advice or at least consider it, but every person should trust in him/herself as well. Every person should be a critical thinker and a problem solver. I am not promoting arrogance and argumentativeness for the sake of having a voice.. that is stupid. Brainstorming and a group submitting to a logically best decision is necessary.. I am just stating that more people need to actively do that, rather than leaving all the problem solving in the hands of few. Everyone needs to take more responsibility over that process and everything that affects their own lives.