“We are the 99%! This is what democracy looks like”

| November 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

It seems that young Americans – some of them, at least – have finally found their voices, reports teacher Kevin Wolfman for Educationnews.org (‘Why Students are “Occupying” Wall Street’, October 05, 2011). Writing about the hundreds of arrests that have occurred since early October due to the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests, Wolfman observes that young American college graduates feel cheated by a system that promised them job security in a middle-class paradise.

Wolfman cites a 1986 study to explain why certain people protest certain issues at certain times. The study reached the somewhat obvious conclusion that college-educated people will, in the name of self-interest, protest ‘white-collar’ issues, rather than championing working-class causes.

The current economic crisis in the US, however, says Wolfman, has blurred these socio-economic distinctions for young people. “Due to the lack of quality entry-level employment and the stress of skyrocketing student debt, [they] are generally poor and financially unstable, causing them to identify with traditional blue-collar grievances – the education ‘vehicle’ has failed to drive them up the socioeconomic ladder. At the same time, they have spent years in college (and often graduate school), and therefore have high professional and financial ambitions – causing them to identify with white-collar grievances, too.”

Unchecked global environmental degradation and America’s continued military presence in Middle Eastern countries are also causing young people from different backgrounds to embrace their right to protest. It is, says Wolfman, “a perfect storm of dissatisfaction”.

By October 15, 2011, the ‘Occupy’ movement had spread not only to most parts of northern America, but around the globe as well. On that day, and on the days that followed, in a total of 900 cities around the globe including Toronto, Seoul, Frankfurt, Paris, Athens, London, Taipei, Manila, Tokyo, Sydney, Auckland, Rome, Madrid and Jakarta, ordinary people marched in solidarity against “imperialist plunder, repression and war”.

Category: Summer 2011

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