When Americans talk of freedom, we speak of democracy and capitalism. Yet, our concept of freedom is distorted, for democracy and capitalism are really just a means to an end. We use these ideas as best we can to find the freedoms that are given by God, but that are both desired and hindered by mankind. All people want the same freedoms really, to raise their families in peace, to have the opportunity to pursue a living with their talents, and to be able to assemble with others to share ideas or to worship. America’s ideals have been the world’s standard for pursuing these freedoms in the 20th century.
When the test of freedom seemed momentarily broken in our latest economic crisis, a wave of young freedom lovers took to the stage in the Middle East, Europe and America. The Middle East was most dramatic as they fought their way out of a dire future, yet Europe and America’s youth made their voices heard as well. The young voice is an emerging force rebelling against economic and social structures from which they must now begin their income generating years.
The Occupy Movement was a modern Constitutional Convention, even if that comparison makes one scoff. The dissimilarities of wealth, race, education, and economic drivers do not disqualify either historical group’s attempts at a better life. Those that travelled to Zuccotti Park convened against what they saw happening in America, the monetary implosion, credit evaporation, foreclosure epidemic and the like and the exacerbating effects that would stifle their futures.
We tended to dismiss the Occupiers as they chose briefly not to follow the normal paths toward economic security that we had found successful in earlier times. It was easy for most to be at first curious and then increasingly frustrated by these “oddballs” in Zuccotti Park. Yet our views did not deter their attempt to peacefully find a way around the dystopian path they saw for their generation.
On the downside, as they sought a way forward, they left a little crap in Zuccotti. On the upside, an entire nation of young people, 99ers, and others engaged in civil governance, attempting to sort through a broken historical paradigm to decipher what made it unworkable for them. Our frustrations did not deter this grand opportunity to have an entire generation bubble up their vision of economic participation. Yet, it was temporarily trampled by a few batons, pepper spray, gas canisters, concussion grenades, horses, barricades, riot gear and shields, rubber bullets, hand cuffs, German shepherds, police vehicles, holding cells, civil courts, public administrations, media outlets, investment banking funds and political leaders.
Nonetheless, the catalysts that drove our youth into Zuccotti have not diminished. The lack of investment in America, the baby boomers clogging the remaining jobs pipeline, a polarized government run amok on deficit spending that will not repair our social security, and Medicare programs, out of control school costs that have saddled the youth with life long debts, a lack of credit to start their own businesses, no real governmental plans to aid trade imbalances or domestic growth, and growing corporatism among other factors has led to disillusionment from college grads to high school drop outs that still impedes their future.
While there may have been too many symptomatic issues to quickly understand root causes and solutions before being removed from the park, occupiers remain under the surface a socially interconnected, eclectic group that showed up as a voting bloc in 2012. These folks sense desperation with the status quo, are socially connected and, and still want an outcome they can rally around. In the scheme of things, the OWS movement has just begun its first round of a long boxing match.
In the beginning of a fight, opponents mix it up, jabbing and dodging, in attempts to find each other’s weaknesses. Only then, will they plan and implement their strategy for a knock out. OWS was a first round. Sure they got their heads beat with batons and their eyes a little bit burnt with pepper spray, but they learned a lot about how the alpha male baby boomer deals with the millennial that will help them succeed in coming rounds. And at the end of round one, Millennials ran to the side of Obama and pushed his agenda forward, a sort of Pyrrhic victory for the time being as they lick their subservient, quietly waiting and assessing, wounds. At some point, baby boomers will be supplanted, our policies will be replaced, and the hand fluttering variety of capitalistic democracy begun with OWS will have found its way.