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Occupy Wall Street is a Highlight, Not the Beginning (or End) of a Movement

November 10, 2011 1 comment

Contrary to the current narrative, the public outcry that Occupy Wall St. represents is not the beginning or end of anything. It’s one of the loudest and most visible byproducts from work that has been underway for over a decade.  To understand this larger movement, there are generally three groups, described here in order of public visibility:

1)      The Disempowered and Disenfranchised

2)      The Recently Activated or Newly Impassioned Rebounders

3)      Generation Fix

The larger movement is the acceleration of individuals joining Generation Fix. These three groups, united in their disgust with the decrepit state of our public and private institutions, are committed to restoring a more sustainable and equitable pursuit of prosperity and happiness. The main differentiation is each group’s ability – real and perceived – to change their own circumstances and that of the country’s.

For the disempowered and disenfranchised OWS is the most visible and accessible forum for directing their angst.  Their often sorry state is the result of a combination of the uphill battle they were born into, their own poor choices, and/or societal problems we have tried to sweep under the rug for decades. The most unruly in this category are the minute percentage of effectively feigning anarchists who latch on to many protests, OWS or otherwise, for their own benefit. Like the worst of the Tea Party, they are often the least informed, but the media devotes the most coverage to them.

The recently activated are the ones that in their gut knew something was not right over the years but lacked the vocabulary, understanding, or were too busy working two jobs to articulate it – but (like the first group) lived the struggle every day. Many in this group financed a major life goal, only to have this achievement become a trap (think student debt or homeownership).  For them, OWS has provided the forum to express their disappointment. These people are on the rebound, newly impassioned, and rapidly making the choices in their personal and professional lives to affect the change that this country (and the world needs). But also the change that will make them more happy.

The third group is what I call Generation Fix – they are mostly young-ish people that have been working intensely for a decade in their professional and personal lives in a coordinated, methodical way to dismantle the virus that has corrupted our public institutions and are actively rebuilding our society. This group is the most motivated, strategic, and skilled and have directed their rage into their work on the most important corrective leverage points inside and outside the system.  A decade in, they now occupy positions in every sector of the economy and public institutions. They have made significant progress in laying the foundation for turning the ship around and their work is only going to accelerate, thanks in part to OWS.

To all three groups there are three things to keep in mind:

1)      Accept responsibility. We’re all part of the system and in some form or another benefitted from it until it was broken. Cheap credit, lives of excess, and insulation from the impact of our consumption. Like the dictators we propped up around the world over the decades in short-term self-interest that eventually formented terrorism at home– we are now suffering from economic and democratic blowback from propping up corrupt US institutions and leaders in part genuine ignorance, but in large part willful.

2)      Change what you can, where you are, now. Put your money in a credit union. Vote and be engaged in elections. Vote with your dollars with every purchase you make. Figure out how you can do more with less. While the Wall St.-Washington D.C. cabal got us into this mess, the neighborhood-city connection can do a lot to get us out of it. Do the most good at whatever level is most feasible for you.

3)      Work toward the longer term goals. This means finding a job, making a career, and/or adopting a lifestyle that enables you to dedicate the most amount of your time toward building a more sustainble, equitable and prosperous society. Generation Fix is taking the reigns at all levels – and there will come a day, sooner than you think, that we reach the tipping point.

This is the challenge of our generation. Can we accelerate enough people fast enough up the ladder of learning the vocabulary, to becoming activated, to aligning their personal and professional pursuits toward a better future for all?

Definitely. We are the generation that is strategic and knows this is a multi-decade struggle, and that there is no one policy or law that can fix things. But at the same time we know that our goals are inevitable and that actually, this work can be fun. We also know that we are in a race against time. The challenges we face affect the entire planet. And finally, let us also be the generation that doesn’t forget: No more ignoring your role in the problem; no more fear story capitulation to entrenched interest; and no more waiting for other people to be the change that we are capable of being today.

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