Don’t know if you’ve noticed but people have stopped paying attention to the occupy movement. This turn of events both saddens and frustrates me. In the beginning, the movement appeared to have so much potential to draw attention to the single most important problem facing our society: the corrupting influence of money on government and culture. Many of the seemingly intractable problems we face can be traced to the influence moneyed interests have on governance. Solutions evade us not because they don’t exist, but because they threaten entrenched interests. Similarly, the “get mine” attitued that pervades our culture prevents people from thinking outside of their own narrow interests. Rather than being chided for selfishness, we are perversely incentivized to focus on the bottom line without caring whether or not our actions add value.
In the early days of the occupation it appeared we were ready to confront the threat posed by money, or more accurately the threat of unmitigated greed. Brave young people took to the streets to express their frustration with the financial institutions which wrought havoc on the economy and greatly diminished their opportunity for gainful employment. They were joined by middle aged people who saw their life savings and home values evaporate. Even the elderly participated. Older Americans like the very young are disproportionately effected by the increasing cost of food and healthcare. Inequality caused by income disparity cuts across demographics that are usually divided against each other. As a matter of simple fact we are the 99%.
However, since those heady days the Occupy movement became distracted and has lost much of the support it originally enjoyed. Occupy Chicago in particular seems to have been hijacked by angry young people who focus much of their effort on clashing with the police. Now, with presidential election season in full swing, the occupiers are lashing out at both parties over a laundry list of issues ranging from war crimes, to immigration and Bradley Manning. Whether or not these issues represent worthwhile causes is beside the point. The strength of the occupy movement grew out of its singular focus on an issue that united a broad coalition of people. No real change will be possible without a broad base of support. If the occupiers are serious about bringing about change I suggest they refocus their efforts on the issues that brought us together in the first place.