The Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) will turn one Monday. Geared toward education, celebration, and resistance, the movement continues to garner criticism and advocates. OWS gained momentum quickly last fall.
It included camp-outs, social media activism, and protester arrests, while it also brought international attention to American economic disparities. Although some question the movement’s form, (no one leader heads the resistance) the camping, questioning, texting, tweeting, Tumblring (mixed media blog site using) participants illuminated financial concerns in a nation still recovering from a foreclosure crisis, rampant joblessness, and uncertainty.
All of these concerns remain and resonate loudly during an election season. Then there’s the cultural impact. As art and life intersect, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons recently made headlines in an open letter in Global Grind when he offered OWS insight to fellow mogul, Jay-Z, after a New York Times article in which Jay-Z questioned the clarity of OWS.
Of OWS and Jay-Z’s interview, Simmons wrote, “Jay-Z’s words matter. He was honest enough to say that he didn’t understand it. A lot of Americans don’t.
“He was also honest enough to recognize that there are some in the 1 percent who (are) ‘deceiving’ and ‘robbing,’ so I know in his heart he gets it. I know he is a compassionate person who cares about the poor, so I’m certain if I had two more minutes with him, I could change his mind.”
For many Americans financial disparities stem from intergenerational histories: poverty, wealth, stability, and/or the pursuit of education. The American dream is idealistically composed of playing by the rules: avoiding trouble, pursuing degrees, working hard, and getting your piece of the middle class pie.
But, finances continue to complicate what was once a seemingly simple formula. Higher education contributes to American debt in ways that credit cards and mis-marked homes did in previous generations.
These are some of the primary concerns of OWS. (There are also same sex marriage, war expenses, genetically modified food concerns, health care complaints and more.) The schooling bit is nuanced because in its purest form it should offset and mitigate harm in other aspects of life.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “Education benefits society by creating a workforce that creates wealth, pays taxes, and stays off welfare.”
Yet the costs of learning pose risks, which perpetuate cycles that knowledge should eliminate.
“State governments—whose schools educate 7 in 10 students—have raised tuition abruptly because of their own financial problems,” Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
Who pursues certain levels of education also speaks to class cycles in America.
Bloomberg Businessweek continued. “…The lowest-income students are more than three times as likely as the highest-income students to be studying for a certificate or an associate’s degree rather than a four-year degree… That leads to lower-paying jobs. Equal opportunity in higher education remains more an ideal than a reality.”
This repetitious caste system is among the OWS issues being rallied against. As critics paint participants as fiscally irresponsible hippies who need jobs instead of tents, the discourse continues.
And while support appears haphazard and inconsistent, OWS participants align their endeavors with financial and ethical motives. “For every crumbling foundation of our society, the cause of the ruin can be traced back to corporate greed,” the official OWS site stated.
Many of these problems predate the protesters, adding to the question of who should foot the bill of America’s habitual over-drafting.
With a significant Millennial (18-to-29-year-old) force propelling OWS, connections to technology, hip-hop, and modern culture remain. These connections were crystallized in Simmons’ letter.
He said, “If we have to occupy Wall Street or occupy All Streets to change the course of direction of this nation, then we must. We must take our democracy off the market and let the world know that it is no longer for sale! Mic check!”