I really have virtually no sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Maybe that makes me a bad person; maybe if Jesus were around today he'd be standing out there with them--I honestly don't know. The problem with asking "What would Jesus do?" is that in actuality, Jesus would probably do something unexpected and surprising to everyone.
But about the Occupy Wall Street people: if they had a coherent message and purpose, I might be out there with them in downtown L.A. right now. But they don't. Or rather, their only clear, unified message seems to be, "We blame the wealthiest less-than-one-percent of people for our economic woes. Down with the rich!"
This bothers me. It bothers me a lot. This is not responsible citizenship; it's scapegoating.
Contrary to what some believe, we actually do have something like a democracy. I saw a video of an Occupy Wall Street protester saying we need to get rid of all our elected officials. Yes, all of them. She was very clear about that when the reporter pressed her. So, we should get rid of all our elected officials and replace them with ... more elected officials? Or perhaps we should appoint a dictator? I don't think she had thought the idea through very well.
If something has gone wrong in our society, we ought to diligently search out the reasons why, not demonize a sub-group of the population and punish them.
Let me put it this way: of course the wealthy often steal from the poor. They typically do it by exacting labor without giving fair compensation. There are all manner of ways to do this, some legal, some illegal. This problem should be addressed by finding out how, specifically, employers are cheating their workers and then by amending and enforcing legislation to prevent that from happening.
More importantly, however, as we start delving into these problems, we will discover that exploitative business practices are not easy to fix, and that, in fact, they implicate us all. Take the problem of the federal minimum wage. The real value of the minimum wage has been steadily dropping for decades because of inflation, allowing employers legally to pay their workers less than fair compensation. It has not been increased because people are afraid that doing so would push more low wage jobs out of the country.
Well, let's just stop for a moment and consider who is to blame here. It is common knowledge that most of the clothing we see in stores was made in sweat shops overseas. This not a secret. The general population has some awareness that factory workers in China, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc. are expected to work in hazardous conditions, for long hours, for unreasonably low wages. But we continue buying clothes that, for all we know, may have been sewn together by a nine-year-old girl with an ulcer during the twelfth hour of her shift, earning her ten dollars a week to bring home to her starving family.
So, when we talk about the problem of factory jobs going overseas, where employers can pay ridiculously low wages, should we place all the blame on exploitative business persons and foreign governments? What about the consumers who create an on-going demand for these cheap products? Oh, wait ... that's all of us.
So let's all blame the rich ... because it's easier than taking responsibility for our own choices.
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