As protests continue to rise up and spread across the country, there has been an awful lot of heated banter on Facebook, much of which has been getting under my skin. There sure are a lot of painfully self-righteous blowhards out there complaining about the protesters, accusing them of being whining, disorganized, entitlement-hungry bandwagon hop-ons. While that may be true of some of them, as with any mass-movement, what surprises me is that many of these same people griping about the protesters have, themselves, been hurt just as much, if not more, by the economic crises around which the protests are based. People who still have jobs are attacking the people who are pissed off about having lost theirs. And yet, these people are working harder, longer hours for less and less money, and even fewer benefits. The middle class has turned against the lower class, it seems, which, I would argue, is precisely how the upper class wants it. Smells like conspiracy theory? Yeah, maybe. But that doesn’t make me wrong.
The following picture has made the rounds on Facebook to the tune of several thousand shares. Many of the comments fairly reeked of Right Wing-manufactured bias against the poor. To say the least, I was dismayed by the almost complete lack of rational, critical thinking applied throughout the chat thread. I had some thoughts to share on the matter…
If this guy’s not blaming Wall Street, he’s not paying attention. Hasn’t he stopped to ask himself WHY he has to work 3 jobs to pay for astronomical insurance costs and a house he can’t sell? Why are regular, honest and hard-working people being forced to work more and more, for less and less? It’s not because a bunch of people are protesting on Wall Street, that’s for sure. Many of those protesters, by the way, are working people who are doing what they’re “supposed” to do. Many of them show up after work, still in their suits and uniforms. Clearly this guy isn’t happy with his situation. Why not get mad and do something about it, rather than deride those who are trying to affect a change, vague and somewhat misguided as many of them may be. At least they’re fighting for a better bargaining position, rather than just slumping over and taking it up the ass like this guy.
I’m a self-starter and an entrepreneur, and I work really, really hard. Nobody hands me anything, and I’m not expecting anything from anyone. Except justice and fairness. I refuse to just accept it as gospel that it’s OK for Corporate America to keep running amok, corrupting the system and making it harder and harder for me to eat. The market crash cost me my job, my house, my car and most of my dignity, but not enough to break me. I re-emerged from the ashes with a whole new outlook and taught myself what I needed to know to start over again. Now I’m doing fine, but that doesn’t mean I’m not pissed off at banks, politicians and Wall Street brokers who manipulated and raped the system to the point where it became unsustainable and ultimately collapsed…only to get bailed out by all of us. Nobody cut ME a bailout check! These guys fucked up the whole system and created this unholy mess, and then WE (as in, ALL OF US) paid them bonuses. THAT is what people should be yelling about.
What about personal responsibility? What about the people who ran up their credit cards on TVs and boat drinks and Internet porn? Those were choices many people, including myself, made. We all share in the responsibility. However, we did NOT choose to allow these guys to fuck around with the foundations of the entire economic system. That part was out of our hands, and I would argue had a significantly larger impact on the overall outcome. When the crash happened, I was living perfectly well within my means. Sure, I owed money on my car and my house, but I made enough to cover the payments. My debt went through the roof almost overnight because my income vanished in an instant. I couldn’t just suddenly give back my expensive car and my expensive house simply because I couldn’t pay for them anymore. In fact, the first thing I did was try to sell my house, but it was already too late. The market had already fallen to the point where I was underwater on my mortgage, which of course meant I would have had to PAY to sell it…a move not easily made when you’re unemployed. None of that was my fault. None of that happened because I, personally, was irresponsible. The real estate market crash cost me my job. The market crashed largely because of wild and unsustainable mortgage-backed security schemes that were predicated on a very deliberate and calculated effort from large banks (and their investors and brokers) to lend as much money to as many people as possible, without regard for stability or security in the long term. THEY lowered the rates, THEY created the zero-down loans, THEY wrote up fraudulent docs for people with 500 credit scores. Sure, consumers were complicit, in that they agreed to those terms, but they were, by and large, ignorant of any potential downside, and they TRUSTED the so-called professionals who told them “Hey, don’t worry about it. Sure it’s a lot of money, but the market will never go down. In a couple years you can just refinance and reap a HUGE cash bonus! No problem!” Wall Street manipulated the ignorance of middle and low-income consumers and sold them services that were NOT in their best interests…and they made billions in the process. And then it fell apart. And then we paid them bonuses. And now the people are figuring out what happened. THAT is what these protests are about.
So think about that next time you hear somebody griping about “Entitlement Generation Slackers” complaining about not getting their cookies before bed. Think about that when Fox News jokes about a lack of a coherent message among the protesters. They’re angry, about a lot of things. Their lack of a unified platform is their weakness, but it doesn’t make them wrong. Revolution always begins with popular anger and resentment. The momentum is building, so let’s just hope a dedicated, well-spoken and charismatic leader takes control of the ship before it veers irreversibly off course and vanishes, once again, into the fog.
Douche-tastic, but not totally surprising update:
So, it turns out that the guy in the picture is, in fact, a relatively prominent Right Wing “personality” named Erick Erickson, who clearly had innovative, clever parents. His “3 jobs” include paid gigs on RedState.com, a radio show that purportedly pays well into 6-figures, and a contract with CNN(!) that no doubt helps quite a bit with that pesky mortgage*. Oh sorry, both pesky mortgages. According to records, Erickson owns two homes, one of which was purchased just this year.
Erickson now says he is a winner of the failing economy. The second house ThinkProgress revealed, which Erickson bought for nearly $400,000 this year, was “originally for sale for over $600,000.00″ and Erickson says he “benefited from the misery of others in the market downturn.” Erickson adds, “it was tasty misery at that.” ThinkProgress.org
If I gave out awards for Douchebag of the Week, this guy would take it in a landslide. What kind of asshole brings home hundreds of thousands of dollars and then mocks people who lost their jobs, homes and…oh…right. He’s a Republican. Empathy is not their strong suit.
* I currently have 4 jobs. I work what feels like 24-hours a day. I don’t make shit, but I believe in what I’m doing. I am an entrepreneur. I DREAM of getting paid to talk about this stuff on sponsored websites, radio shows and television. I may not have much, but at least I have principles. You can’t buy those with any amount of money.
And another thing…
A lot of people have been writing to me to point out the apparent lack of a clear message among the protesters. That is a concern of mine, as well. Hence, my point about there needing to be a leader who emerges before the momentum is lost. They’ve succeeded in rallying the troops and getting global attention…now they need to focus on a set of key issues. Roosevelt’s 2nd Bill of Rights would be a good start. Banking reform…tax reform…reinstatement of regulations…prosecution of at least the most flagrant of the Wall Street cheaters… Any of those would be fine. The important thing is that the voices get louder and louder, and that they begin to speak in unison…preferably echoing the words of an intelligent, charismatic and dedicated leader who carries the best interests of the people in his heart. Who will that be?