Why I won't OCCUPY Chicago

Why I won't OCCUPY Chicago

My play sister asked if I could visit Occupy Wall Street Chicago with her the other day.

I was not thrilled about the trip to be honest. En route we joked about the weather changing soon and how long the protesters would “occupy” in November and December.   We concluded that maybe Mayor Emmanuel was merely waiting it out knowing that frigid Chicago weather may trump a 24/7 protest.

We arrived around 9 pm. There were 20 or so “occupiers” walking around with signs. They weren’t the most well kept looking individuals but considering the protest, it was understandable.  I wondered if they would be friendly or cliquish. Would we meet someone able to articulate the reason why they were protesting.  What changes did they want to see happen locally or was it a protest in solidarity with NY and nothing more?

As a post grad and without the privilege of getting hired for a job (without merit) due to my ethnicity (one demerit), sex (two) or because I’m someone’s freaking relative with only a high school diploma (three), I had to wonder if I should feel bad or merely blessed that somehow I managed to survive thus far? I’ve been more than thankful the past few years after hearing horror stories from friends or friends of friends regarding cut backs and departmental lay offs, cut class schedules and unaffordable health insurance.

Should I be in the same crowd in solidarity with Occupy Chicago? Maybe I share their concerns and don’t know it?  Hell, my play sister got off work just to see what they were doing and all I had plans for that night was a date with my DVR in hopes that The Good Wife recorded correctly this time, arggh.

I wondered if I was simply forgetting the financial troubles happening all around me. With only faint news (outside of lawsuits) nowadays regarding collateralized debt obligations, mortgage back securities, Government Sachs, the poor ill informed investor, another ponzi scheme or failed hedge fund, did I really forget?

I commend the Occupy Chicago protestors for more than anything, being there 24 hours day in and day out. However, I can’t help but identify and remember in the back of my mind that high unemployment and inequity has always been an issue in my own community for a multitude of reasons.

If we follow Herman Cain’s way of thinking, we should blame ourselves! lol.

I might have been fortunate enough to go to school and rack up a good amount of student debt parallel to the average college student while secretly wondering if I will pay the loans off BEFORE my AARP card arrives or AFTER, but my school debt hardly carries the serious weight that countless Americans feel every single day.   Not only people in my community or of color, but all over.  They carry the real weight of the world.

Occupy Chicago is the mini protest that I have in my mind 24/7.   It is the obvious reminder that things are not equitable, remotely fair or that nepotism definitely exists!  I can’t forget the experience of driving my (MBA toting) best friend to glorious Cook County Hospital because she couldn’t afford health insurance but she had bronchitis along with the flu! Or the sobering reminder that crime continues to escalate while much needed public services diminish.

Those thoughts and concerns and ultimately sadness regarding what will happen next for the many that DON'T have, OCCUPY my mind every single day without fail. It is only different now because for the first time in this country, for countless Americans, (privileged) college aged students and as always the non-privileged, things just aren’t working out.

The dream and hope for our future has diminished.

I wonder what else will change.....

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  • You lament. We all lament. I lament that most of these "Occupiers" are allowing themselves to be used by (actual) socialists, communists, and Jeew-haters, people who are turning this "Occupy" business into an anti-American farce.

    Yet, I also lament my inability to "get ahead" these days, too, and that me and the next generation will not likely have it as easy as my parents did.

    So, aside from lamenting I ask you: what's your idea about fixing it? I have mine, of course, but what do you think would be a good idea to start to turn this all around?

  • In reply to publiusforum:

    No one is being "used." There isn't any neo-pinko or whatever commie/socialist/cult group controlling the OWS as the GOP claims.

    It's hilarious how people like you ask: "Don't you jobs and homes to go back to?" Well, the answer is "no". Many don't. And they've been looking for employment as 15 million other unemployed people have been.

    So, you know, this is beginning to be the act of the last resort.

    Got 15 million jobs?

    BTW--Before you get around to blaming Obama, at least, he's got a plan. The GOP's got nothing but "No" to say to the poor and middle class.

  • I actually edited out the info regarding my actual visit, but yes, many of the "occupiers" wore questionable shirts, flags and insignias. I wondered how could they all be on the same page and if they truly accepted everyone to support their efforts. They were quite young, so maybe they were still formulating opinions.

    There are so many inequalities in this country and in this city. I have a couple areas that I think are key: a quality education as opposed to the lackluster system that we have today.

    2. Improving the quality of life and services not only on the North Side of Chicago, but in challenging areas. Residents on the South & West side of Chicago aren't as transient. They want to stay and live in their communities, but due to crime, poor services and inadequate schools, they aren't receiving the quality services that other communities regularly receive.
    Those are the first two areas that I would target.
    Thanks.

    Thanks.

  • In reply to J. Kay:

    No offense, J. Kay, but OWS issues are much bigger than Chicago-area inequalities.

    Sympathetic to them as I am, Chicago's problems won't get better until the nation's problems do.

    For example, stemming the massive layoffs in corporations, that are doing it strictly to improve performance for shareholders have got to be stopped. Stemming the tide of newly unemployed who then can't afford their mortgages, add to the foreclosure crisis and are forced to rely on overburdened public services has to be a priority.

    The economic problems that the poor and middle class are facing didn't come out of nowhere. And, for as long as they persist, we are accepting the downward spiral into the next Great Depression.

    (I'm not kidding. Read about it sometime. A lot of the situation/rhetoric is very similar to that of the '20s.)

  • In reply to nonsequiter:

    I had the pleasure of seeing Naomi Klein at a local economies convention in May of this year. I was inspired to read her book on corporate greed and the association with government policies. I never thougt I would find a book on economics so fascinating I couldn't put it down. The book is Shock Doctrine and I heartily recommend it. I also recommend you take a look at Brooksley Born, if you are unfamiliar with her. She warned of the melt down caused by unfettered, unregulated monetary implements like derivitives but Clinton listened to Greenspan who later apologized to congress for his short-sightedness (boo-hoo).
    Occupy has been called leaderless, non-directed, etc but the message that resonates is the corporations only concerned with profit need to be revamped. There are alternatives like social enterprise, L3C, B corporations. Capitilism does not need to be a demonic institution. Any time the have nots far outnumber the haves, socieity suffers. Just look at history. Rome is a good example.

  • Thanks Non sequitur. I'm fully aware that OWS spans well beyond local issues, but as a Chicagoan, these are the areas that I know plague so many communities locally. I'm sure there are key areas that have a greater impact in Nashville, Oakland, NYC and across the world now. As well as financial and economic issues that tie us all together.

    However, they definitely seem to tie into inequalities and the lack of fairness that permeates around this country.It appears to be key in why so many Americans are upset, disturbed and bothered by this economic crisis.

    The economic woes in this country are hardly new. You are right. Maybe it is better to say that this it is new to THIS generation of Americans? As a collective group, the country and this city has been changed. The perception that although things are not fair, but there is a glimmer of hope or that we can survive and have a decent quality of life is questionable and far reaching. It wasn't always that way..

    “for the first time in this country, for countless Americans (and privileged) college aged students and as always the non-privileged, things just aren’t working out”.

  • I've tried to investigate the whole "occupy" movement, and I still don't get it. I understand that people are out of work, houses are getting foreclosed, the economy blows, and people are angry about all that. But what needs to change to fix all that, and whose fault is it? Did rich people or politicians create this mess? Do they have the power to fix it?

    Do people really want to get rid of all rich people, all poor people, and have the government provide for everyone? How well has that worked out for other countries?

    It seems like too many people want handouts these days. They want the government to forgive student loans, they want free healthcare, they want banks to not forclose their house, government employees want pensions and raises and healthcare.

    There is no "free" from the government. Every penny they give to one group or person, they take from someone else.

    It's hard to tell what is right and wrong in the "occupy" movement, but I'd still take a crappy economy in a capitalistic society than socialism any day.

  • In reply to BigDMcGee:

    I'm no socialist but there are ways to have capitalism without absolute greed. There was a Netflix video about the southern corporation that basically bailed out Bank America. During the final moments of getting the deal closed, the attorney representatives of the executives marched in with a list of golden parachute demands. The attorney for the southern corporation said they totalled over 17 million dollars spread out to a very few people. He actually stated he was sickned by it. A great number of the 99%, the employees lost their jobs that day. This is happening in many other corporations. In bankrupcy restructuring companies have to lay off people. Why not offer those companies an alternative like becoming cooperatives that focus less on the bottom line and more on staying afloat and keeping people employed and as part owners?

  • I have not been down to the Occupy rally, but I don't mind them protesting and rallying. They are voters and they are peaceful , and they are getting media attention. There is a lot of frustration on the part of the middle and lower classes that we are getting stiffed, and if this is a way to bring that out into discussion, so be it. There is no doubt that in America for the past few decades, the rich got richer and the poor / middle class got poorer , and it's not a matter of taking away what someone has rightfully earned, it's doing away with abuses. One example : Bank of America wants to charge us a $5 fee, but pays one of its fired CEO's a severance package of several millions ( google "Krawcheck" ). That's on top of a 1-year salary payment. How many of us get that ? There's something wrong and it needs to be brought out. The truth is when everybody speaks of "shared sacrifice", there is no equality in how it is "shared". The middle / lower classes are doing TOO much of their share.

  • I know Occupy chicago wants to have a permanent place in Grant Park but this would violate the terms under which the land was given to the City back in 1839. The area that became Grant Park was always intended to be Chicago's front yard and to be Unoccupied. for decades chicago has fought against private interests trying to get parts of this area for their own private , selfish ends. Even the location of the Art Institute was controversial because it took up part of the area for a private limited purpose. An exception was made for the AI because after all , it's Art. Is Occupy Chicago bigger and more important than the Art Institute? I don't think so. OC may be a lot of things (some would call them a piece of work) but I know one thing : OC is NOT Art. Chicago should continue to say No to their request . If the City gives in to this demand , the next proposed Occupant may be Donald Trump with another proposed tower. Chicago's wonderful and open lakefront may start looking like Toronto.

  • It’s time to move beyond occupations and deploy more effective strategies. The links below are to a two-page open letter to supporters of the American Occupy Movement, and a video that summarizes the letter. Their purpose is to offer suggestions on how to carry the movement forward. Whether you agree or disagree, if you find value in them, please forward, post, or link them and help extend the discussion.

    The video may be found at: http://youtu.be/h4K_bwrEeW4

    A Google Docs version of the letter may be found at: www.facebook.com/AmericanOccupyMovement

    Once you've opened the document, you may click File, then Download Original, to open the original PDF version, which is easier to read and distribute.

    Thank you.

  • In reply to johnpgoedert:

    thanks.

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    I have an MBA, $75,000 in student debt, didn't have insurance for the last 4 years (bought it recently) and couldn't find a job out of college. I didn't blame rich people for my situation. I didn't call myself a "victim". But I DID take a $20,000 a year job, lived with my mother (a teacher and widow of a sheet metal worker. She doesn't have money but she survives) for 2.5 years and started my own company cleaning doctors offices (No start-up costs, just put in bids on small offices that I could do myself after my regular job). I got 3 promotions at my 20K job since 2007 so now I make $65,000 and I grew my business to where I know have hired 3 people and have revenues of $30,000 per month. I dressed in a shirt and tie every day despite doing housekeeping at a nursing home. Its not glamorous work but it was a paycheck. The company I worked for eventually made me shift manager, then GM, then District Manager over 16 buildings. I just got health insurance. I pay $207 per month and $35 per month for dental and vision. I pay it 100% out of my pocket. I am not there yet but eventually I will be making decent money to where I will be comfortable.

    2 Questions for these Occupiers:

    1. Who would be willing, right now, to work as a housekeeper at a nursing home for a little over $9 per hour? I GUARANTEE very few would volunteer. I guarantee you that over 50% of the unemployed in this country would NOT take that offer.

    2. IF I turn my own company (that I worked from 7pm-3am and was back at work by 8:30 the next morning without calling out since 2007) into a successful company and IF I make over $250,000 say by 2020, the Occupiers would call me "evil", "greedy" and ridiculed and heckled for not giving up what they consider "my fair share"? What if I already pay over $100,000 in taxes between state, local, property, sales, payroll and income tax, would that be a "fair share" of my income or would they demand more? What about the fact that I employ people through my hard work and sacrifice? What about the fact that Obama now says that I have to pay 5,000 or more per employee to insure them? If my staff grows to 15 or 20 by then? That's $100,000 per year for a small company employing only a handful of people. I would be forced to lay people off because I would be forced by law, under threat of jail, to pay insurance premiums for those people I employ. The other option would be to raise the price of my service to recoup that loss. Now imagine 10 million small businesses throughout the country in the same boat and all of a sudden you force them to choose between massive layoffs OR the price of millions of consumer goods rising exponentially. That would lead either to another depression OR massive inflation. But in the meantime, the Unions and others who gave Obama money for political "favors" would be exempt. They wouldn't have to pay for their employees insurance. You know why? Because the Occupiers and Obama would be demanding that I, making a decent living by then, pay higher taxes to fund their insurance premiums and pensions.

    Occupiers don't understand that higher taxes will decrease the incentive to be successful, therefore reducing the # of jobs available, therefore diminishing the tax base until all of the companies (their jobs included and the cash that helps grow the economy and pays for every single government program in existence) and the people with money will say "screw this, I'm going somewhere I don't have to give 70, 80, 90% of my money to the government". Then what do we do? When companies move with their jobs and rich people leave with their tax revenue and all the "evil" people aren't around to fund the Dept of Education, the NEA, the FBI, the EPA, the IRS, the State Department, The Commerce Department? Do we cut them? Or do we start demanding the class below them to pay for it? The taxes, rules, laws and society that the Occupiers wish for has been tried several times throughout history. Cuba has free healthcare. And Michael Moore says it's better than our system because its "fair". The only thing fair about it is that EVERYONE dies from cancer over there. Here we can treat 70% of cases. But because they have more equal outcomes Michael Moore sees this as a much "fairer" system. Venezuela has the government control the economy. Chavez has so mismanaged the situation that blackouts happen for about 40% of homes every single day!! North Korea's government controls how much people can make and limits the production of everything from consumer goods to food. They have eliminated capitalism just as the occupiers wish. Since then many thousands of North Koreans have actually resorted to cannibalism and eating raw rats because food is so scarce!!

    No wonder this country is going to hell. There is absolutely no incentive to better yourself. Because as soon as you do the government and the Left will be demanding you give up the money you earned via higher taxes. You will be ridiculed and burned in effigy, your children will be traumatized while home alone by protestors assembling on your front yard yelling and chanting. And the many rich on the Left who can, will avoid the very taxes that they helped pass and impose on everyone else like John Kerry did with his yacht. So I hope these Occupiers get their wish and have free healthcare and no more capitalism and let the government control the price of all products and services. I'm sure they will say "those countries just didn't implement it properly". America is the only country in the history of the world where "poor people" have a subsidized home, a cell phone, a television, a car, free food, free education, ability to get a scholarship to college, 24/7 access to the emergency room with no obligation to pay for those services, even clothes and shoes if they want them and where "poor people" are overweight from eating too much. I hope these Occupiers get what they wish for because if they do, all of that will disappear.

  • Michael, your comment itself is deserving of an actual post. Man did you hit it spot on!

    I congratulate you for you hard work and determination to climb the ladder of success. I use the grounds of your path as my argument and Occupiers still can't fathom that hard work trumps all.

    God bless my man!

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