Is Occupy Wall Street bad for the American Dream?
By Kate Dailey (BBC News)
Conservative groups responding to Occupy Wall Street argue that hard work, not protests, will bring people out of poverty. Is that true?
As the Occupy Wall Street movement has grown, more and more Americans are stepping up to share their stories and air their grievances.
But not everyone is angry at Wall Street. Conservative reaction to the movement has resulted in counter-protests and new memes, like conservative columnist Erick Erickson’s new site, We Are The 53%.
The site is a reaction to We Are The 99 Percent, a website that allows citizens to upload photos of themselves holding a sign with their story – such as too much student debt, trouble getting a job, or no health insurance.
Contributors claim they stand in opposition to the 1% of Americans who control the majority of the country’s wealth, as well as the big business and government systems they say allowed the economy to flounder.
The counter site doesn’t defend any of those institutions. It’s doesn’t defend bonuses for bankers or justify the rich’s low tax rate. The 53% refers to the percentage of Americans who currently pay federal income taxes. The unifying theme of the site is of a rejection of entitlement.
Both sites showcase stories of working long hours, declining home values and shaky economic futures, of people working multiple jobs to get through college, and finding themselves saddled with burdensome debt.
Contributors on both say that they find value in work and want to be part of a productive society.
For the 99%, those stories exemplify the current problems with America’s economy. “Those who are protesting say ‘it’s not anything I individually have done’ but a larger systematic reason,” says Lauren Duncan, professor of sociology at Smith College in Massachusetts.
Those 53%, however, see their trials as part of a character test, and have either come out the other end or believe that with enough hard work, they will persevere.
To them, “the system is fundamentally fair, and you people have done something wrong and need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” says Ms Duncan.
The idea of bootstraps – or that individuals are responsible for their own economic success and failures – is one that’s deeply rooted in American culture. The notion that if one works hard enough, one will reap the rewards is one of the basic tenets of the American dream.
And it’s the future of the American Dream that’s being defended by both the 53% movement and the 99% movement it criticises.
Category: World News |