Our Generation Sucks: Occupy… Something?

December 7, 2011

Political Theory


Photo by Michael Zanger


On December 1st, hundreds of politically attentive characters flooded into The Michigan Theater to be enamored by one of the few remaining influential, far-left, fire starters. Michigan native, Michael Moore, took the stage with a University of Michigan hat (a change from his Michigan State hat, made famous in his highly acclaimed documentaries including Bowling For Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Capitalism: A Love Story). The documentary filmmaker came to the Michigan Theater to promote his new book, “Here Comes Trouble” on the last night of his book tour; Michigan the final, bittersweet stop on his journey. But he did not pay much attention to the book as expected. Instead, Moore focused on a topical passion that is driving Americans further into political involvement and activism: Occupy Wall Street.

Today, average, politically ignorant Americans speak of Occupy Wall Street with the same tone: “There is no leader, it is not organized, and it will fail.” And “It’s a group of bratty, graduate school students who feel like they’re privileged and should be handed jobs.” But what these individuals are missing is the point Occupy Wall Street is trying to make. As Moore put it, “It’s in the fucking name: Occupy! Wall! Street!” As the crowd cheered, I looked around and noticed the majority of individuals in the Michigan Theater were old, politically active liberals who have watched America change throughout their lifetimes.

I thought to myself, “Does my generation feel entitled? Privileged?” This was a group of Americans who watched the Civil Rights Movement take the streets and change the way race is viewed all over the world. This is the same group of Americans who fought for a woman’s right to vote. It seems almost unreal to think our parents and grandparents were involved and watched these events unfold and shape modern America.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is 11 weeks old and has already made a mark in American history. This is one of the first, massive movements in our generation’s history, and a chance to prove our worthiness to the world (I am happy to know there is still a group of America that actively contributes to politics). On the other hand, I have listened in and bitten my tongue as students in discussion sections discredit the protestors and news networks publicize all the negatives happening within the Occupy camps. I have heard students state, “The rich made their money, they deserve to keep it.” Really? I don’t have time to write out the value of taxes and economic stimulation in America, but read one (or two if you’re feeling brave) article on the importance of taxes and how they maintain America, and you will (I can only hope) understand.

Please do not read this blog post as: “We are only Occupying to please our parents and preceding generations.” That is not what I’m saying. To summarize my feelings, I do not think the American youth are taking political activism as seriously as they should. This movement is aimed at a deserving group of pigs who hoard billions of dollars, causing a further expansion of the greatest income gap in American history. I do not think America’s youth has experienced enough systematic oppression as a group to appreciate the value of Occupy Wall Street and movements that have changed America.

Do you think our generation values the right to protest and free speech as much as preceding generations? Do you think our generation is as politically active as preceding generations? Why or why not?

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About Michael Zanger

Student at the University of Michigan studying political science and philosophy.

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15 Comments on “Our Generation Sucks: Occupy… Something?”

  1. afadel Says:

    By “hoard billions of dollars”, what do you mean? Do you think these people stuff that money under their pillow? Where do you think capital to invest in things like factories and equipment comes from? It comes from savings, something the government doesn’t like and continues to stimulate away, since the idea that consumerism drives an economy continues to be the economic strategy of choice for politicians.

    http://blog.aynrandcenter.org/don’t-be-confused-by-the-occupy-wall-street-protesters/

    http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/blog/index.php/2011/10/how-to-actually-separate-government-from-the-corporations/

    • Michael Zanger Says:

      By “hoard” I mean hold captive in private bank accounts (unregulated bank accounts in most controversial of common situations). These “billions of dollars” are causing a great income gap in America when they are not being spent and invested as the “job creators” say they would do (maybe you’re one of the privileged individuals who are on the top of the gap, laughing at the bottom-half… who knows?). “Billions of dollars” that should be going to the individuals who make up the majority of American and for whom America’s Constitution and values were founded to protect. I suggested reading an article on taxation. Here, I found one for you: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/raising-taxes-on-the-rich-not-whether-but-how/

      “Unfortunately, when activists on the left say they want to limit corporate influence in government, often they mean they want government to forcibly muzzle the free speech of the individuals who form a corporation.” This made me laugh. This article is making false assumptions and using them as fact (like a majority of other conservative blogs). Occupy Wall Street actively protest for stricter regulation of Wall Street. Liberals want fair capitalism, not the destruction of capitalism. The reason why we had to bail the corporations out is because WE let them take advantage of us for too long.

      “Just as government should respect the rights of individuals to profess the ideas they want and voluntarily organize into religious and ideological movements, so government should respect the rights of individuals to produce what they want and organize into corporations.” Frankly, if a religion were interfering with the livelihood of the majority of Americans, the government would step in to protect its people (what about cults who consider themselves religions?). And because Wall Street is threatening the economic prosperity and livelihood of America, the U.S. Government has a justified reason to step in.

    • antuck Says:

      -1 to afadel for posting only Ayn Rand-based sources. (Before you knock the idea of a consumer-driven economy, try reading Keynes instead).

  2. jrphilli Says:

    I do not believe our generation values the right to protest and free speech as much as preceding generation because we have not had to fight for the same things. Our generation was born into the aftermath of our preceding generations work. Our parents, their parents, and their parents fought for us to have the privileges we have now. We do not have to fight to vote, to go to school, to get a job, to be treated equal. So, seeing as to how everything our preceding generation fought for, we have, we do not have a drive to fight. Now, even though we do not have to fight for the same things, we do still have things to fight for. Everything is not perfect, there are still many injustice things going on, but we as a generation do not seem to want to fight as hard as previous. Maybe previous generation fought for things that everyone was affected by, where as now-a-day everyone is not affected by the injustice being done. In our generation if it does not pertain to that person, then they do not care. I do not wanna say we have it easy, because there are still many inequalities in our world, but we do have it kinda easy. So, that has in turn caused our generation to never have to fight for something.

    I believe it is up and down on politically active generations. I do believe that our generation is politically active, but not enough of our generation. I feel the younger you go in our generation, the less politically active you get. But our generation is involved. With this last presidential election, the majority of the people campaigning where young people. Our preceding generation are not the ones hitting the pavement anymore, our generation is. Now, I do believe it is the older part of our generation rather then the younger part, but we are having input in our political system.

  3. ianbaker2041 Says:

    I am one of those students in your discussion section who is fiscally conservative and is proud to admit it. I speak out against Israel, and I speak out against Obama’s economic proposals. I’m not necessarily right or wrong; I’m just looking at it differently. College is a very liberal environment both socially and fiscally, and that’s fine, but just as us few conservatives (at least fiscal conservatives; I’m also socially liberal) have to respect your opinions, so you should to ours. That gets me to my first point.

    I’ll begin by saying that I am not politically ignorant. Just because I do not support the views espoused by the Occupy protesters does not make me ignorant. I do my research, I understand how my government works, and I know the value of taxes (I do realize that taxes are essential). Just because I do not agree with you does not make me stupid or less qualified to comment on Occupy Wall Street in discussion section. It’s GREAT that you support these movements; that’s your right as an American citizen, and I’m sure you’re very well versed on politics and have formulated your opinions based on your personal views and relevant information. Just because I have not reached the same conclusions as you does not make me stupid or, as you put it, “politically ignorant.”

    As for taxes, I’ll say that I’m NOT opposed to raising taxes on the super rich. They make a lot of money, and there are Americans in need. I get it. My ex girlfriend’s mom was long-term unemployed when we dated. I am not a heartless person for wanting to roll back government. What I do oppose is hiking taxes on the rich exclusively to fund programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, welfare, and inefficient government. I’m all for “shared sacrifice,” but it’s not sharing the sacrifice to raise taxes on the rich and not cut anything out of the budget. I want to see tax increases AND spending cuts on the table for discussion when talking about debt reduction.

    More importantly, I want a smaller government. I want my government to provide primary and secondary education, infrastructure, national security, and I want it to regulate the economy moderately. I do not want a bunch of safety nets because I really believe in the concept of “sink or swim.” My grandfather grew up in massive poverty (seriously) in the south, was dyslexic, and managed to work his way through college, eventually graduating with a master’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT. If he can do it, pretty much everyone can. I understand that there are needy people out there, but there are also a lot of people simply eating from the public trough and forcing those who do have good, stable, paying jobs to provide for the rest. I’m not talking about the top 1% here. I’m talking about well-off Americans; the type of family most U-M students come from. Middle- upper middle class America. Please explain to me what is fair about punishing those who have worked very hard for their money, such as my parents? A smaller government that ensures basic things like defense and education are covered can make sure that while all Americans have access to a better future, we don’t have freeriders climbing on for nothing.

  4. elotis Says:

    Like the person who left the comment before me, I am fiscally conservative and I do not agree with the OWS movement. You think you’re biting your tongue when kids bring up their opposition to OWS in discussion, try biting your tongue all the time. You and I have every right to say what is on our minds, yet I have endured my fair share of criticisms from friends and classmates about my opposition to the OWS movement. Let’s be frank, no one really gives a shit what conservative thinkers on this campus have to say, I feel like I’m always being shut down when I bring up the other side of the argument. I’m simply trying to make people think the other way. It’s more beneficial if you see both sides to an issue, even if you only agree with one.This campus is so liberal sometimes, it forgets to even consider the other side. At first, I did not understand the OWS movement, yet I thought “sure, why shouldn’t they protest, they have every right to.” However, the more research I did into OWS, and the more I have watched the news regarding this topic, I have become much more opposed to the movement.

    If you look at the list of things that OWS is protesting, you would probably stop about 1/4 of the way down, because there are simply TOO many demands that OWS is projecting. Pick one! No one can understand your platform, let alone solve the problem, if you can’t even pin it down in the first place. Yes, I agree that the overall practices of Wall Street and banks have been unfair in regards to insider trading, morgatges etc. There is no doubt that they have done some shady things. However, shouldn’t we be protesting authorities to go after these people, as opposed to just shouting and picketing, which is not going to get anything done? I agree with the person who made the above comment in that anyone can do anything in this country. That is the beauty of America. While I acknowledge that the economic situation of this country is worse than it’s ever been and it is harder than ever for those well-qualified people to get jobs, I think that these people need to stop protesting every single thing that every single person has done wrong and actually be productive. Why waste time protesting when you can continue to look for a job? I agree that our generation has no clue how to utilize our freedom of speech; our protests today cannot even be compared to those of the Civil Rights Movement, or the Vietnam protests. Frankly, in comparing today to the past, we look like a bunch of whimps. Call me conservative, call me ignorant, I don’t care. Hard work pays off.

    • ianbaker2041 Says:

      I literally could not agree with you more. I really can’t tell what Occupy Wall Street’s most central aim is. Do they want the big businesses gone? Do they want the 1% to give up its wealth? Do they want a liberal democratic party? Do they want all of the above equally? Who knows; I would love for someone to fill me in.

      College is liberal; that’s just how life goes. Most college kids don’t pay taxes, so they are inclined to want others to pay taxes to help them. Although I know a few conservatives on campus, I admit that they are few and far between. Sometimes, I feel like I am the 1%-not even kidding. But even so, don’t be discouraged. When I speak in section, I know that 5 or so hands will go up to shoot my argument down, and that’s fine with me. If I have at least made people consider the conservative side of the argument, I have done about as much as can be expected on a college campus. I’ll stand behind fiscal responsibility, wise spending, and a “hard work pays off” attitude until I die. I will not stand by and allow the government to tax suburban America at 35% PLUS state taxes on top of that. My dad’s salary is a little over $300,000 a year (note that this is split between two houses, and he’s paying college tuition), and last year he paid $122,000 in taxes. $122,000! We don’t live luxuriously; we save money to pay for education and cover retirement. My dad has three children; he’s paying for all three to complete a bachelor’s degree. Greatest gift he has ever given me, bar none. Absolutely amazing gift. That’s not the work of luck; it’s the work of effort. My parents lived in a cheap apartment in a bad neighborhood near Boston for five years, then they lived in a variety of equally awful places for years just to pay the bills with their salaries. My dad worked his way up to his current salary; three years before I was born, my parents were making a COMBINED salary of around $50,000 when corrected for inflation, not a lot of money to life off.

      I am proud of what my parents have done and the lives they have created for my siblings and myself. I’m proud that he works as hard as he does. I don’t think that making that much money is necessary to any extent, but that motivates him in life, and whether you think that’s good or not, that’s how his life is focused. He has EARNED that money; why should he pay it all in taxes? $122,000 is absurd for a man who works easily 60 hour weeks at hard work.

      Thank you for commenting on this. I love it when my fellow conservatives chime in and save me from what seems to be a never-ending wave of government spending, high taxes, and restrictive economic conditions. Want to know why our companies keep moving their headquarters to Switzerland? 35%. That’s why.

      • antuck Says:

        There are a few things I wanted to say.

        First, I want to say that I enjoy your stories about your parents and your grandfather, and it’s exciting to read about people who have been able to become successful despite challenges. However, you should know that these are merely anecdotes describing three people. You want to know what anecdotes mean in psychology or other scientific studies? Nothing. Only statistics matter.

        Also, to answer your questions about Occupy Wall street, I would be glad to fill you in on their goals. Obviously, they want higher taxes on the wealthiest members of society. They also want to end corporate personhood. Also, they want the government to more tightly regulate the finance sector (for example, reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act), which they perceive as being responsible for the recession (via the sub-prime mortgage crisis).

        If you are generally interested in learning the goals of OWS, the simple paragraph above should be more than enough. Generally, though, when someone makes the claim that OWS has no goals, they are simply arguing for the sake of arguing, and will continue making the claim that OWS has no goals in the future.

        Lastly, this is an excerpt from your post:

        “My dad’s salary is a little over $300,000 a year (note that this is split between two houses, and he’s paying college tuition), and last year he paid $122,000 in taxes. $122,000!”

        This should be submitted to this website: http://first-world-problems.com/

        So your dad has two houses and makes 178k a year? Forgive me if I’m not overwhelmed with pity. There are hard-working people whose houses have been foreclosed and who live on 15% of what your dad makes.

        I’m quite conservative as well, but I can’t stand it when people don’t understand the necessity of taxes. All they talk about is “fairness” and having “EARNED that money.” They never talk about the economy in terms that show me they understand taxation.

  5. nluongo Says:

    I think that if you had asked me a year ago about whether our generation was politically active, I would have said no way. However, I think that the OWS movement has shown that young people these days are still ready to get involved in the political process. I think that for most of our lives there wasn’t a strong, unifying cause that lots of people could support. That isn’t to say that everyone supports OWS, but it has attracted more support among young people than anything else in recent memory. I think that this movement will have a ripple effect in that it will encourage young people to get involved in whatever causes they support because through OWS they have seen that activism gains attention has an effect on the political process.

  6. mrau188 Says:

    I think that it imbodies our right to free speech with this whole occupy wall street fiasco. However, i think that the people that are participating in the protest do not completely understand what they are doing there. They are simply saying we want more money and that they rich have too much and they should give some to us. This is not how the world works, they should have a plan for how we can fix the problem that we have here in the united states but the people that are protesting are not smart enough to make a thought of how to fix it. A couple of months ago i saw a video online that was from the occupy wall street movement and the person just said i deserve free college not stating why he deserved it or what it would mean to him if he got it. he didn’t know where the money would come from and was overall just extremely confused. I think our generation is more politically active because there are a greater amount of well educated individuals in todays society but they do not know how to solve problems they just want to be the ones to go ahead and point them out. We lived in a messed up world and need to make changes to the ways we go about things if we are going to fix the problems that our country is going through economically.

  7. Patrick Biondi Says:

    This is well written, but I don’t necessarily agree with the points you are making. First of all, the whole “Occupy. Wall. Street.” quote you through out there from Michael Moore, really doesn’t explain the purpose of the movement at all. If you mean literally to occupy wall street, you’d have to then explain what point that proves or what goals that aims to meet. If you mean they are intending to occupy wall street positions, then you are essentially becoming the same ‘pig’ that you criticize.

    On the flip side, I would say that this generation places very little value in protest, and I think the reason for this is a majority of college students don’t care–they think that it doesn’t apply to them, and they are content living in their little bubble (I can be guilty of this too). That being said, protesting just to say you protested something doesn’t really mean anything. The civil rights movements that we have talked about a little in class had a very clear purpose, a great leader, and an extremely organized plan that detailed how to attain their goals. The Occupy Wall Street movement does not have any of these things. I think our generation needs to take more of an interest in current events, but I think in order to make a difference and be affective, we need to protest in a well thought out manner.

  8. beaurh Says:

    Preceding generations definitely value protest and the right to free speech much more seriously than we do. This is not caused by a flaw in our generation, but by the discrepancy in social issues worth protesting. They had counter-culture, a culture encompassed by protest and social liberal thought. Our parent’s era was ridden with ideas of freedom (i.e. sex, drugs, music, attire). I believe that to compare our value in protest to theirs is impossible.

    Where I do see flaws in our generation concerning protest is ignorant protestors just trying to be a part of something. So often will I see a protestor picketing the Diag, interrupting my walk to class, and I’ll ask a basic question concerning their position. Too often do I get blank stares and a point to the signs. In my opinion, this destroys any legitimacy that the protest has.

    Our generation needs to learn from past generations about the value in protest. It is not a superficial gathering of friends to yell at others for fun. It is a right of ours, that many are not fortunate enough to have, that should be respected and treated as a privilege.

  9. lukeythekid Says:

    Occupy Wall Street is a pretty worthless movement – it has done nothing positive for those in need, but it has just made people either apathetic or even hostile towards their cause. I was raised in a very liberal household and always believed in helping out those in need, but actions like this have illustrated how so many Americans are just a bunch of whiners. These “99 percent”ers feel that they’re entitled to have the same benefits as people who are actually successful and have accomplished something amazing with their lives. They did it with work and with intelligence – I absolutely believe that they have done so in some ways that are immoral and illegal, but even that is better than being so childish as to clog the streets in an effort to do nothing more than annoy business men and women. Technically I am part of the 99%, I’m not even in the top 10%, yet I know how important it is to work for your own money. The people behind Occupy Wall Street are blind protestors who would take any excuse to get out the picket signs, and they’re absolutely sickening.
    All of the greedy, immoral CEOs and higher-up who the OWS movement have identified are absolutely pieces of shit, but a bunch of smelly hipsters sitting around not contributing to society are not going to solve the problem. They complain that the rich get away with murder, yet apparently these people have not heard of a graduated tax that takes away about half of these people’s incomes. If you want to help fix the economy, how about you get a job and start spending money instead of insisting that you deserve a handout like a spoiled 9-year-old who wants a chocolate bar. Earn it yourself, or what’s the point of getting it in the first place?

  10. JoshH Says:

    You argue against the widely held belief that the Occupy Wall Street movement has no leader, purpose, or general organizational structure; however you result in an ad hominem style argument with no real defense to your claims. While I do agree that the exponentially expanding income gap poses a real danger to America’s economy and society, the Occupy Wall Street movement truly has no idea how to change this. The reality is that it is an unorganized movement with no goals, and as long as it remains in this state, no real changes will happen. What is the point of social movement without a goal? Women’s Rights had tangible goals, so did Civil Rights; what tangible goals does Occupy Wall Street have?

  11. masonbear Says:

    Scrolling down to find this text box I got distracted by an emerging debate and ten minutes later had read every comment. I think that our generation is less involved with politics than those before us. In previous generations kids were brought up faster and in the absence of technology (such as social media networks) took an interest in topics important to America. I very much include myself in that group as my knowledge of current politics is limited. However, as the Occupy Wall Street movement became more prevalent in the media I found myself beginning to question what political party my values match.

    My Dad is a Cardiologist and as some of you interested in medicine may know the road to becoming one is a long one. After four years of undergrad, four years of medical school, three years of residency, and three years of fellowship (a total of 14 years) he was a certified cardiologist and his finances weren’t in the best shape. The hard work paid off as he is now a partner in a successful practice, and is in a high percentage tax bracket. That being said, both of my parents generally vote liberally even though it means a lack of tax cuts. I even remember hearing the words “voting with their checkbook in mind” around my house during. Naturally college kids tend to carry the same political ideals they grew up around but lately the OWS movement has (in opposition to the protesters hopes) been making me contemplate the positives of being a fiscal conservative. It begins when I try to answer the question, “why should some citizens pay a higher percentage of tax than others?” I don’t have an answer. Telling everyone to pay $30,000 a year is unfair but is telling everyone to pay 30% unfair? People often ignore the work behind it and look straight at the income check. While an individual may be at the top of the tax bracket now at some point they were stuck at the bottom of the pyramid on their way to the top. After eight years of tuition and a residency/fellowship where you work absurd hours and get an average salary that same individual is flattened beneath the socioeconomic pyramid. While I consider myself liberal in social issues I wonder whether my perspective of big business and taxes is changing. Is there anyone else who finds themselves very dualistic in certain areas of politics?

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