I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole Occupy Wall Street…thing since it hit the internet a couple weeks ago. I say “thing” because I’m not sure what else to call it. Is it a protest? A revolution? A movement? None of these words seem to completely embody what OCW has come to mean in our cultural consciousness.
The most fascinating thing to me about OCW is the strange disparity between what it looks like, and what it is. What it looks like is a movement driven by pro-socialist, anti-capitalist, nut-job hippies who want to take away all the money from the “one percent” and transition to a system where no one buys anything, and we all live off roots or something, right after Tyler Durden blows up those pesky credit card companies’ headquarters.
But what it is, is something far harder to easily classify.
What it is is people. People who are looking at a their own country, a country that used to be something, a country where hard work and determination paid off, and wondering what happened. Some of those people are indeed, the far-left anti-capitalist nut jobs I just described. But from what I’ve seen the members of OCW as well as those who have joined with them in solidarity across the country are far more diverse than that.
The protesters’s lack of unity has been the source of much derision in nearly all of the OCW media coverage in recent days. But in my opinion the lack of unity is precisely what makes this movement important. We’ve been told over and over about the widening partisan divide in America, and yet here is a group in which people from all political walks of life are coming together with the understanding that something is wrong.
Which is why I am somewhat dismayed by how some of my fellow conservatives have reacted to this movement. It seems that in their minds OCW is a symbol of the terrors of liberal thinking, the absolute extreme of left-wing evil. But they’re only looking at the surface of the movement, rather than trying to understand the underlying force behind its success.
Need we remind them that the same fear that the country was screwed up beyond recognition was the reason for the success of the TEA Party? I’m sure I’ve raised some liberal hackles with that last statement, but in my mind OCW and the TEA party are two trees grown from the same roots.
Take these quotes for instance:
“Remove all loopholes and bring the corporate rate down to something like 15%. This would actually INCREASE tax revenues by luring in more corporations as well as having all corporations pay something in taxes.”
“I’m learning more and more about how regulation actually squeezes out small businesses, and is often driven by the very companies that we consumers want to regulate.”
“We wouldn’t need subsidies for renewable energy if petroleum had no subsidies. I support this.”
And It does my little conservative, Adam-Smith-loving heart good to hear some of these guys protesting government bailouts of big banks and calling for the abolishment of the Federal Reserve. Take that John Maynard Keynes.
And these comments aren’t from ultra-radical anti-government conservatives. These statements, and many more, came from this comment thread discussing the focus of the OCW movement. I’ve only provided a few snippets, but you should click through and read as much of it as you can. It’s fascinating stuff, and it really helps to illustrate my point. Most of these people would probably identify themselves as some variant of liberal. In fact there are several derisive comments to the tune of, “keep this up and you’ll attract the libertarians, hur hur.”
But as a conservative who often feels very very alone when I step across the threshold into cyberspace, it’s revealing to see that there are no shortage of people online who think in much the same political direction as me. They likely have very little love in their heart for the Republican Party, but that is because they see Republicans as the mindless supporters of all corporations to the detriment of everything else. And now that many of the Democrats have jumped onto the “too big to fail” bailout bandwagon, no wonder they’re protesting.
OCW has the potential to be something good for our country, but only if we accept it as an opportunity to understand that our political enemies are not the mind-numbed robots we would like to believe they are. It’s easy to develop an “us vs. them” political mindset and immediately discount anything coming from the other side of the aisle.
And it’s worth noting that there are things worth fighting for, principles worth standing up for. This post is not about compromising your beliefs. Rather it is about looking across the aisle and realizing that the person you’re fighting with may not be as different as you first believed.
It is an admonishment to look past appearances and political cliches, and to see what is.