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Occupy movement and simplicity

Occupy meals

I've been trying to think through why I'm so uncomfortable with the Occupy movement.  They're definitely "my" people, and I certainly agree that the way our nation kowtows to big corporations and the ultra-rich is just plain awful.  However....

What do you think?  Do you believe in voluntary simplicity and still want to Occupy?  Tell me how I'm wrong.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I have 2 main issues with the entire thing.

The first, you touched on. To have a successful protest, you have to know what you are protesting for. In the various interviews, I've heard that "they" are protesting for everything from ending the FED to getting college loans forgiven. The protesters have to be on at least the same page. Unfortunately many of them seem to be calling for their own personal gain.

The next is that it seems like it is not meant to be a peaceful protest. Using the term Occupy is the first clue for me. Occupy is what an army does, not a protester. It seems to me like the goal for many people is to ensure that the powers that be get violent. For instance, the park they are occupying in New York is private property. The owner wants them out, they need to get out. If it was a public park, it would be a different story. It just seems like the goal of the "leaders" is to bring on violence.

Comment by Fritz Mon Nov 21 08:53:39 2011

Some very good thoughts - reminds me of another blog post I read recently

Comment by John Amrhein Mon Nov 21 08:59:04 2011

Fritz --- Yup, I forgot the student loans issue. Personally, I'd be thrilled if we decided to support universal education and make all schooling free in the U.S. But to make that work, we'd have to have a testing system like they do in Europe where you can't just go to university and party for four years. Given the current system, I don't think it's fair to forgive all student loans --- that feels a lot like the foreclosure issue.

I know that I was well aware of student debt when I was in school, so I pinched every penny and almost never spent a dime except on (used) books and putting quarters in washing machines. While my friends were ordering pizzas, I was eating in the dining hall. While my friends were flying home for Christmas, I was taking Greyhound. And my miserliness meant that I didn't have to ask my parents for their recommended contribution and that each year, I was able to repay part of that year's recommended loan before I'd had to pay any interest on it --- the school just assumed I needed all that extra cash so I could live the life of riley. I was able to pay off my debt within two years of graduating. Which is all a long way of saying --- a large part of most student loans is not directly tied to education....

In response to your second issue --- I agree and I disagree. I totally agree that the protests are designed to get people arrested and get them in the news. That's how you get your message seen when practicing civil disobedience. It's not entirely fair, but it does seem to be par for the course.

John --- I liked this part of that blog post the best, "My problem with the occupy movement is that they want something for nothing." That's part of my problem with the movement too.

Comment by anna Mon Nov 21 09:20:11 2011

It seems to me that the protest is very clear that they are saying the system does not work for all the people and why should we be protecting the super rich instead of taking care of the rest of us including the homeless. I think that it would be very unwise to say that some real homeless people would be a part of this. I don't see that people are professional homeless people. Most people who are homeless are sick or have some emotional problem that does not allow them to work. Also once you become homeless, it is harder than ever to get work because you don't have access to bathrooms, nice clothes, and transportation. Some people just can't handle the requirements of a job. Most of them do not have family or friends who are able to give them a step up so they can help themselves.

I think the people of the Occupy Wall Street movement are speaking loudly about the inequality of government. On one hand you say you do not approve of how government helps big corporation and then you say that if people will just say what they want, the government will give it to them. That does not seem to fit. Clearly people are saying that government is controlled by big corporations and the spiral down of the rest of the people will continue to happen and, thus, they will be unable to create jobs or get the jobs they want. The super rich are not creating jobs now. They are sitting on their money.

There are a lot of people who graduated from college and professional schools this year who are unable to get a job. Middle class people did not get help with their education. They had to take out loans and are now responsible for that. Maybe their parents even went into their retirement plan to help them. If you come from a poverty level homes, you get a whole lot more help with obtaining services and an education.

There are complicated issues facing our country now, that demands some tough solutions. I think the protest people are saying a great deal by their being there. My experience in the past is that if you articulated specific things you "want" that you then get tagged as selfish and not caring. The protest becomes about you and not about the failures of the system. If you start asking for systemic change in government, then your identified leader(s) gets killed (MLK). We have been moving away from the compassionate government for over 30 years. I grew up so poor that we worried about getting a cold or sick because there was no doctor. There was no such thing as welfare or food stamps. My Dad was sick and no job for my mother. I cleaned houses for people to make enough money to pay the utility (lights only) bill and for our school lunch. There was no Christmas present and very little food. We always had soup beans and corn bread every day of the week. If it was not for commodities (government food) we would have had a very limited diet indeed, and we grew large gardens. We did not have a freezer, we canned, dried and salted everything. I don't want to go back to that. We did not have free lunches and that $1.00 a day for the four of us for lunch was hard to come by often. Without school lunch, with the only milk we got, I can't imagine what my health would be now. The medical problems I have now are the result of growing up poor.

I am unable because of my health, to grow big gardens or even much of a small one. I have always worked hard and been generous with the resources I have been lucky enough to earn. I know there is a lot wrong with the middle class, but I think the right wants to do away with any entitlements. I also think the middle class knows that if there is not systemic change, we will go back to people not having a safety net. Not all people are really smart about money. I wish I had your skills. I admire them very much.

I have paid into Social Security all my life. My age group represents the largest baby boomers who paid into the program. To say we are a drag on the system now is very unfair. I know a lot of people who only have that check and Medicare to live on.

The right even wants to do away with child labor laws. Maybe we could have them pick the crops instead of the immigrants. My Dad started working in the mines when he was 14 years old. He never had an opportunity to get an education although he was intelligent. I see the right wing path going in that direction.

also, our infer structure is crumpling. The schools are crumbling as are the roads. Our public libraries are suffering as are community health clinics. It appears to me if the right gets their way, all of that will be lost and we will be back to the 1950s. I have very rich friends and they think they should pay more income taxes. They live off wealth and only pay 15% when they sell stocks, etc. My husband and I pay full taxes which is much more than my rich friends. I don't mind paying my fair share, but I think my ultra rich friends should do so too.

I don't know what the chefs were thinking, but I am sure the homeless people really appreciated the hot brown rice. I never met a homeless person who wanted to sleep on grates and door steps. Being homeless is hard work and really limits your potential for a healthy life style.

I remember when the mental health system emptied the facilities to let the people go to God knows where. They went to the streets. We did not have a homeless problem before that happened. There were problems with some of the mental health facilities, but putting a light on that changed them a lot.

I know I go on and on and I do not wish to be unkind. I am glad you are able to live a gracious and happy life with the decisions you and Mark have made, but out here there are a lot of hurting people. We will never stop or at least slow down the military industrial complex until we create systemic change in our government and our way of thinking. I suspect that you would agree with that. It is very good that you can be so independent, but a lot of people cannot do that. I am sorry, I did not mean to be unkind if I am, but you ask for a response. I grew up very poor and can live that way again, but I don't want to; there is a lot of pressure being poor especially if you have a family to worry about.

Comment by Sue Ella Kobak Mon Nov 21 10:02:43 2011

As someone who is not directly part of OWS, nor a homesteader, here's my view:

It's not about "getting something for nothing," although there may be many individuals who identify with OWS who would like to see that happen. (As an aside, I would like to point out that if a person files for bankruptcy, student loan debt is exempt. If you have to go to court because you cannot pay your bills, student loan creditors can still come after you.)

From what I've seen, it's about holding the people who caused the economic collapse responsible. Many of the banks that issued those bad mortgages knew they were loaning money to people who wouldn't be able to pay it back, but they did it anyway. Having gone through the home buying process, I can tell you that to someone without a background in finance the how's and why's of getting approved for a mortgage are nowhere near transparent. You expect people who don't know any better to turn down the American Dream of owning a home when the people who are supposed to know better tell them it's possible?

Sure, they don't have a plan for what they'd like to see happen. They want things to get better, but they're not sure how to go about making them better. They're frustrated because our elected officials, the people we all voted for because we thought they could make things better, are too busy in-fighting and trying to prevent each other from getting re-elected to actually fix the sorry state we're in.

As for the protesters all being "middle class," that may be the case, but if things don't change it won't be long before the middle class in this country no longer exists. Making things better for one class of people does not preclude improving the lives of all classes of people. Also, many poor people probably support the Occupy movement, but they're either A.) not getting media attention, or B.) too busy trying to survive to speak up.

I think we can all agree that this country is very, very broken right now, and the people in charge need to put on their grownup pants, do their jobs, and fix things. I also think we can agree that this is something that should never happen in the United States of America:

Comment by Anonymous Mon Nov 21 10:05:06 2011

Regarding your third point: I explained this to a friend the other night. The Occupy Movement is simply a group of people who are upset enough with the status quo and agree it needs to change. The basic tenant people in the movement DO agree upon is that the entrenchment of money in government needs to change. That is the goal. However, it's very difficult to know HOW that can happen! So the movement makes small goals along the way: Bank Transfer Day on November 5th, and marches, and other issues.

In two months, it's also become concerned with the erosion of First Amendment rights in our country.

Comment by Cat Mon Nov 21 10:07:17 2011

Sorry, another comment. :)

I'm sort of sad to read some of the opinions here. It seems like you are painting much of the Occupy movement with one brush. Many of the Occupations are VERY concerned with the homeless people joining them -- not because they are annoyed but because they are understanding them in a new way. Our camp in Des Moines has done a very good job of trying to include everyone -- and there are many homeless who've moved away from river camps to Stewart Square, where the camp is happy to have anyone who contributes to the movement.

Also, I have not met -- or even followed online -- a single member of the movement who "wants something for nothing." Most of us just think the system is broken, and rigged against us because we DON'T have money. No one wants a movement that will make them rich. We just don't think money should be so necessary in getting a voice heard.

If you're interested in recommendations of good Occupy sources, I have plenty. :)

Comment by Cat Mon Nov 21 10:12:04 2011

The heart of the protests is a lament about widening income inequality in the U.S., brought about, in part, by a government that seems to favor disproportionately wealthy interests. The Occupiers have focused their outrage on the bailout of banks that reaped huge profits on mortgage-backed securities and are now profitable again, while millions of homeowners have been foreclosed upon or lost their jobs.

Read more:

Comment by Anonymous Mon Nov 21 11:03:13 2011

Sue Ella --- I think your main point is "I grew up very poor and can live that way again, but I don't want to." I can understand that, but I also think that our middle class has been leading an artificially wealthy life for decades. I say artificial because a lot of that wealth is due to things like cheap oil, which are basically the result of us taking from countries who can't fight back. Some of that artificial wealth is the result of our "growth economy", in which we push all of the environmental side effects onto the future rather than paying for them now. I suspect that if Americans' wealth wasn't artificially inflated, the way Mark and I live would probably equate to middle class America. That's why I believe that we all need to start living a little more simply --- maybe not going back to the poverty you knew as a child, but not thinking that the current middle class American norm is the bare minimum we're all entitled to. I'd be a lot happier with the Occupy movement if they were protesting our broken healthcare system, were trying to make it possible for the real lower class to get a quality education, etc.

Anonymous --- "You expect people who don't know any better to turn down the American Dream of owning a home when the people who are supposed to know better tell them it's possible?" I do. I know it's tough when that's the mainstream belief, but as I mentioned in my comment to Sue Ella, I think it's an unrealistic dream that we all can have a huge, modern house.

"From what I've seen, it's about holding the people who caused the economic collapse responsible." That does seem to be part of the gist of the movement, and is something I suspect most Americans could get behind. So why not make that their platform and actually make solid requests to that end?

Cat --- "Many of the Occupations are VERY concerned with the homeless people joining them -- not because they are annoyed but because they are understanding them in a new way." But I would think that if they were truly concerned, living with the homeless would make the Occupy participants feel like their own woes paled in comparison to those of the homeless people. They'd be looking at the way our society is broken to cause all of these homeless people to be living on the street --- for example, our mental health care system (as Sue Ella mentioned) rather than focusing on Wall Street.

Comment by anna Mon Nov 21 11:03:23 2011

Great points Anna -- #2 really gets to the heart of the problem. We’ve been living beyond our means, individually and collectively, for a while now. The scary thing is that we’re still doing this today. We’re still trying to prop up housing prices and so they haven't been allowed to fall to sustainable levels. The same goes for education. Yes, the government is trying to help students, but in the process it has driven up tuition to obscene levels in many places, just as we’ve seen in the housing market. It has also fed the cultural expectation that everyone get a college education -- we’re almost at the point where you can’t get a decent job without one.

Then there’s the national debt -- when you include state liabilities, our debt-to-GDP ratio falls between that of Portugal and Greece. We’re getting the benefit of the doubt now just because we’re the US and we’re not Europe, but the idea of the debt bubble bursting (a fiscal and monetary collapse) would be truly scary. When you step back and look at the situation, it’s the developing world that has been financing the unsustainable spending of the developed world (America, Europe, Japan). It’s hard to remember the days in which we were the ones investing in the undeveloped parts of the world.

I think there are some on the Republican side -- Gary Johnson and Ron Paul -- who correctly identify the problems of unsustainable consumer and government spending. We’re not going to begin a real recovery until these bubbles burst or deflate completely.

Comment by BeninMA Mon Nov 21 11:03:58 2011

Anonymous #2 --- "The heart of the protests is a lament about widening income inequality in the U.S., brought about, in part, by a government that seems to favor disproportionately wealthy interests." What you're talking about is the gap between the middle class and the rich, though. What about the gap between the middle class and the poor?

BeninMA --- "It’s the developing world that has been financing the unsustainable spending of the developed world." I couldn't agree more. I think that if the U.S. wasn't built on the backs of poor people the world over, our middle class wouldn't be living like kings. That's the real social justice issue, in my opinion.

Comment by anna Mon Nov 21 11:10:35 2011

So, out of the three typical criticisms of Occupy that I've seen in the media, I think you've hit two, although from unusual directions.

  1. Overprivileged.
  2. No goals.
  3. Dirty hippies. You missed this one. :)

The third of these came to mind when I stumbled out of BART in San Francisco and into the tail end of the encampment there. Long haired guy with guitar singing protest songs? Check. Grime and cardboard signs? Check. Hammock, tent, and tie-die? Check. But we have some historical perspective on the "dirty hippies" epithet, and are a bit resistant to it. (More than people watching Fox News at least.)

At the point where "no goals" was at its media height, Occupy NY had just released a 10 point list of goals. Which again makes me think twice about media portrayals. Some of the tail end goals were local or not broad enough, but I've consistently seen messages like "abolish Citizens United" and "universal health care". On the other hand, I've seen some indications that the lack of a neat package of 5 goals for politicians to pay lip service to is an intentional, and radical attack on the broken state of politics. It's not a bad thing to have a movement growing whose message cannot be summed up in a sound bite.

I'm most uncomfortable about the class stuff; wish they had a slogan that was not about 99%.

Comment by joey Mon Nov 21 11:24:28 2011

I like dirty hippies --- that wins them points in my book. :-)

In terms of no goals --- I actually didn't read any media reports criticizing them on that point; it was just my gut reaction after reading a few of their websites and not coming away with anything solid to sink my teeth into. Clearly I should have visited the Occupy NY website to get a solid list.

I suspect you're right that they're purposefully keeping their goals vague. But why? You say, "It's not a bad thing to have a movement growing whose message cannot be summed up in a sound bite." But a major movement I see people comparing Occupy to --- the Civil Rights movement --- could definitely be summed up in a soundbite. ("All kinds of people are equal. Let's treat them that way.") I don't really see what the problem would be with hashing out a solid mission statement.

Comment by anna Mon Nov 21 11:37:35 2011

I don't feel qualified to talk about the civil rights movement.. but perhaps the difference is between such a movement to fix a specific injustice, and some sort of broader political party. (Of course the Democratic party is trying hard to absorb/coopt Occupy.)

Or perhaps the difference is that the civil rights movement didn't directly conflict with now the nation is governed -- anyone in the political machine could just roll with the change, use the soundbite, appeal to the new electorate, and remain in power -- while Occupy is questioning fundamentals of the current political power system, like where the money comes from.

Comment by joey Mon Nov 21 12:05:15 2011

I could not agree with you more Anna! The Occupy movement has been bugging me for a while now. I am normally a huge fighter of big government and it seemed like these should be my kind of people but I just can't get behind them. I feel like they are missing an important point about personal consequences. Show some responsibility for the decisions you made in your past that got you where you are today. I just don't see that attitude from them. I was recently told that since I am not an Occupy supporter that I am obviously a big gov supporter and part of the problem. I don't think so. This is not an issue with just two sides and I am not all together sure of what exactly their side is. I am on the side of living within your means, personal responsibility, and the constitution. Sorry for the ramble. I am in the middle of a few things this morning and my head is in multiple places at once.

Comment by Jenn Mon Nov 21 12:26:58 2011

I just wanted to say thank you for writing these words about OWS. I couldn't agree more. Even though I consider myself liberal-minded, green, progressive... I also believe that personal responsibility and self-sufficiency are very important but often forgotten values in our current society. It's nice to know there are other people out there who feel the same way!

Your blog has been very inspirational to me and in 2012 (maybe spring - depends on when all the bills are paid :-) I'm going to begin my own adventure in homesteading - although mine will be of the urban variety. Your comment about most OWS protesters not wanting to live in your trailer made me laugh - as it's the response I've also received from people when I show them the foreclosed property I purchased in Pittsburgh. :-) But it's all about living free and feeling good with your choices and I'm looking forward to it.

Thanks again for all that you do! Laura Laura

Comment by Laura Z. Mon Nov 21 12:42:24 2011
Let's keep in mind that the homeless are usually those with severe mental illness or addiction issues. I feel for their plight and want us to support them much more than we currently do as a society. But it is difficult to allow people with such severe issues to join your movement and not have it turn into a real disaster.
Comment by phreak Mon Nov 21 12:43:09 2011

"What about the poor people?" is a straw man. No one is arguing that nothing should be done to help poor people. (Except for perhaps certain Republican presidential candidates, but that's another argument.)

Just because there are poor people doesn't mean that other people's problems go away. Even just being born American means that you have it better than a large percentage of the world's population. Does that mean that you have no right to complain about anything, ever?

As for the "American Dream" of owning a home, my point is that many of those people were outright lied to. They were told that they, too, could afford home ownership. They had no reason to believe otherwise, and therefore no reason to turn down the opportunity. I'm sure some of them are to blame for their situation, but I think the greater blame lies with those who instituted irresponsible lending practices.

Comment by Anonymous Mon Nov 21 13:44:08 2011

Joey --- I'm not qualified to talk about the civil rights movement either. :-) But I think that who can vote is an even more fundamental part of the political power system than where the money comes from. And even though it's politically dicey to ally yourself with the Occupy movement if you're a politician who gets a lot of money from big business (ie any politician), you're not going to be assassinated the way you might have been for joining with the civil rights movement. But maybe I'm misunderstanding your argument?

Jenn --- "I am on the side of living within your means, personal responsibility, and the constitution." You said it much better than I did and more concisely --- thank you!

Laura --- I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who sees the value of living free of debt, even if means living simply. Good luck with your adventure!

Phreak --- It is very difficult to work with the mentally ill or addicted, but don't those issues seem larger to you than whether a middle class person can live in a 5,000 square foot house instead of a 1,000 square foot house?

Anonymous --- I don't think it's a straw man to argue that we should spend our nation's resources on services that aid the poor rather than on those that aid the middle class. There's only so much money to go around, and if we did talk the government into changing laws so that the top 1% were taxed fairly, I suspect that the Occupy movement would have that extra government money go into services for themselves rather than for the truly poor. At least, that's what their treatment of the homeless suggests to me.

"They had no reason to believe otherwise [about their ability to own their own home], and therefore no reason to turn down the opportunity." I disagree. Everyone knows that if you borrow money, you're eventually going to have to give it back (probably twice due to interest.) Even if people were lied to about how they would have to give it back, they still knew they were getting into a situation in which they were borrowing something. They knew that if they couldn't pay the monthly payments, they would lose all of the money they put into it. I avoid situations like that because I know that things can happen to make those monthly payments hard to handle, and I think other Americans need to start to realize that too.

Comment by anna Mon Nov 21 14:08:52 2011

I hear you on everything you are saying. I've tried to avoid a lot of the negativity that has emerged from the movement. I don't agree with the whole "we are the 99%" slogan because, well, most of the true 99% will never even be heard. Never. Ever.

I read Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful" about human-centered economics, and I remember a statement he made that it takes the work of 30 peasants to keep one student at university for a year, consuming 150 years of peasant work in a 5 year program. I don't know his methodology and I take that number with a grain of salt, but the underlying truth remains. The freedom to stand on a street corner and cry out about the high cost of education is bought at the expense of people who will never get the opportunity to speak. The people whose labor and resources have been stripped to create the illusion of capital and the many opportunities that we enjoy here in the US.

Yet, I am still humbled by the movement in many ways. I think there is a lot of beauty in people coming together, cooking for each other, sharing gifts, sharing clean clothes and blankets, and just opening up dialogue about injustice. People should be doing this. They need to be doing this, and I think that's why the movement is enduring. That's what it is about. Yeah, there is a lot of entitlement and freeloading. I think there are a lot of people who just want to see society break down, and they are out there to incite and provoke people. But there are many other things that are going on out there, and that's what I am paying my attention to.

Comment by Sara Mon Nov 21 14:40:07 2011

Sara --- Thanks for such a thoughtful and thought-provoking comment! Fascinating statistics on the 150 years of peasant work for a student to get a 5 year degree.

And I agree with you about the beauty of the movement itself. I think they've done a very good job of creating a community and provoking media exposure without provoking outright violence. (Well, not fatal violence.)

Maybe that's why I'm so disappointed in the movement? Because I feel like it has such potential to do good, if only they could settle on a firm mission that is really going to help the whole 99%.

Comment by anna Mon Nov 21 14:49:03 2011

Saroyan: those who don't study history are condemned to repeat it.

The civil rights movement gained traction when, after decades of attempts, some students occupied a lunch counter where their race prevented them from eating. And a woman in Birmingham occupied a forbidden bus seat in Birmingham.

The antiwar movement got traction when large groups of students began demonstrating in prominent public places.

Preceding these events, intellectuals spelled out in great detail what was wrong and what needed done to remedy it.

Is it not enough, in the beginning, to say THAT is wrong and I'm going to stand in its way?

The facts are, a greed amassing class of people precipitated the Great depression in 1929. The Roosevelt administration instituted reforms, like a progressive income tax, to even the playing field, and government oversight of banking. From the end of WW II until the 1970s, most Americans were able to live comfortably, with health care and assured retirements. In the 70s, financed by some rich and powerful people and corporations, our government tilted the playing field back, reducing taxes for the well to do, removing oversight. More and more money went to the top, and rich gamblers crashed the economy.

The rich now control the government. Most in Congress are multi-millionaires themselves.

The upper echelon greed has prevented real solutions to environmental problems. It has increased the nation's poor by shipping jobs to nations without environmental laws, decent wages or worker protection.

This is what the Occupy movement wants changed. Hard to fit this in a thesis statement or a sound bite slogan.

To create change of this magnitude, one starts by stating the problem loudly. Time for new politicians to step forth with suggested solutions.

I wholeheartedly agree that Americans are living, as Dad used to say, too high on the hog. We as a nation consume too much. To keep a growth economy going, we need throw-away commodities and non-essential essentials. The Occupy movement hasn't begun to think about these issues, I don't think.

Comment by Errol Mon Nov 21 15:57:53 2011

I'll give you a couple.

  • Ban bonuses and stock options for people in the banking/finance industry. Those give people the incentive to take big risks without penalties.
  • Ban derivatives.
  • Limit mortgages to 5x gross yearly income.
  • Limit or ban computer-based trading of stocks and securities.
Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Nov 21 16:27:16 2011

Daddy --- "Is it not enough, in the beginning, to say THAT is wrong and I'm going to stand in its way?" Maybe. But I think the clearer you say it, the better. Black people sitting at a counter to protest the fact that the restaurant won't serve black people makes a very simple point. In contrast, the Occupy movement seems to be trying hard not to make any one point. They have a lot of different websites, and most of the websites don't give any firm definition of what they're protesting against. As a result, it's left to each person's imagination. You imagine it one way, but who knows if the average Occupy person agrees with you? I'm not asking for a soundbite --- I'd be happy with a 100 page document.

"From the end of WW II until the 1970s, most Americans were able to live comfortably, with health care and assured retirements." I'm not so sure that's true for the lower class. According to the National Poverty Center, 22.4% of Americans lived in poverty in the late 1950s. That number declined through the 60s and early 70s, then rose again beginning arond 1980.

Comment by anna Mon Nov 21 16:29:07 2011
Roland --- Individual people in the Occupy movement definitely have concrete goals for the movement, but if the group can't agree on one set of goals, that waters down their strength. If a politician doesn't see a united front, he's going to ignore lots of individual goals.
Comment by anna Mon Nov 21 16:31:39 2011

"I suspect you're right that they're purposefully keeping their goals vague. But why? You say, "It's not a bad thing to have a movement growing whose message cannot be summed up in a sound bite." But a major movement I see people comparing Occupy to --- the Civil Rights movement --- could definitely be summed up in a soundbite. ("All kinds of people are equal. Let's treat them that way.") I don't really see what the problem would be with hashing out a solid mission statement."


By that logic (that a little chant such as the one you mentioned is a soundbite by which the entire Civil Rights movement could be summed) then haven't there been plenty of those? "End and/or audit the Federal Reserve?" "Get money out of politics?" Have you NOT seen/heard these? I'm beginning to think most critics of OWS or the Occupy movement itself (especially the ones who've never even BEEN there, such as yourself) don't even research the subject before looking at a clip of CNN showing well-dressed hipsters smoking and drinking lattes while standing with the protesters. If you would talk to people who have actually been there or read good sources (no, Fox News' website doesn't count) then you would find an ABUNDANCE of your precious soundbites for your short attention span.

Secondly-- a lot of good the Civil Rights movement settling for just voting rights did, huh? Yup-- certainly killed racism, didn't it? Almost none of the things most sane protesters (who are not hippies) would fight against could be fixed by the institution of the Federal Government. It's a conscious uprising. You think a piece of paper does anything (I refer you to the Constitution and Bill of Rights and then to the Patriot Act and arrests of dozens of reporters merely doing their duty as journalists in Wall Street or any other occupy movement). A piece of paper means nothing without everyone knowing the reason that it exists. A concise little three-syllable messages didn't help the cause of Civil Rights-- police brutality and government fighting it, did. It was the civil disobedience. It was action, not words. And you want them to give a few little things they would like so some new politician can come out of the woodwork, promise these things, and then when he's elected people will be telling the protesters to "let it go" because the dude was elected? Bush V. Gore, anyone? All you need is for the media to make it look like your movement is full of whiners and BAM! People will tell them to shut up, take their prozac and get back in the line, and to never forget that they are free.

Thank you so much for listening to any old crap you hear on TV, Anna/Author.

Btw author, a lot of people within the movement are for off the grid and self-sustainable lifestyles (I saw members of mainstream media consistently being selective about the people whom they choose for interviews, and what footage they keep, as I have seen some interviews of people saying just what I have told you and many other rational things, and I NEVER hear of that footage being used). They are just fighting against a system which can make it a crime to not be connected to a grid (see stories about people off the grid outside LA being harassed by people of the state to hook back up to the power grid or evict their homes for no good reason, at all). Maybe do some research before opening a can of beer to Fox/CNN/MSNBC and complaining about people exercising their right to free speech and assembly? Just a suggestion.

Comment by Dave Mon Nov 21 18:02:00 2011

Dave --- Actually, I don't watch TV (or drink beer), so I got all of my information from google searches, reading blogs, and reading the websites of the Occupy movements themselves. I'm pretty sure that I've never been to the websites of any of the networks you mention either. All of the sources I read were in favor of the Occupy movement, actually --- I've just been drawing my own conclusions from the facts they presented. I'm sorry I upset you, but let's try to keep the debate clean and on topic rather than on personal attacks, okay?

I'm not saying that individual people in the Occupy movement don't stand for things. What I'm saying is that the movement seems to be making an effort not to find issues that their diverse participants can all agree to. And how can you expect to promote change if you can't even agree amongst yourselves?

I agree that it would be awesome if the Civil Rights movement had ended racism as well as winning voting rights for all Americans. However, I think the latter is no small feat. It sounds like you're saying that you wouldn't be happy if the Occupy movement won a similar halfway point (whatever that would be.)

"A lot of people within the movement are for off the grid and self-sustainable lifestyles." This is exactly what I wanted to hear when I made my post. That's what it would take to change my mind --- show me that the median income of the protesters is at or below the poverty line and I'll sit up and take notice.

Comment by anna Mon Nov 21 18:15:27 2011
I think I made my point. I tried to articulate my view about OWS and the response was focused on me and not what I said. I made the mistake that the OWS people are not making. I think this has been a very good discussion.
Comment by Sue Ella Kobak Mon Nov 21 19:41:45 2011
Sue Ella --- I hope I didn't offend you? I really didn't entirely understand what your point was, which is why I made a guess at it. It's hard to pick out one solid point in such a long comment. If I got it wrong, feel free to comment with what you really meant.
Comment by anna Mon Nov 21 19:45:22 2011
The real problem is the culture of debt we live in. If everyone lived with in their means and stayed away from the lie of credit, there would be no reason to protest. I have no credit, the only bank account I have is savings, and I pay for things with cash & bills with money orders. (which is getting harder to do every year). Making that statement alone usually raises peoples' eyebrows! I own my car, hope to own my own acreage soon, and build a house someday. How? by Saving money! America as a whole seems to have forgotten how to do that. I too have a hard time feeling sorry for America's middle class.
Comment by Phil Mon Nov 21 20:33:37 2011

The comment was very long but here goes: 1. I was born and raised poor, it isn't easy when you have children who need health care (which we did not have), school lunch and some clothes (even second hand ones). My father also started working in the mines when he was 14, which is one real reason I am against repealing the child labor laws, it is just wrong. I had a childhood and I am sure you had a childhood. We deserve that as much as we deserve good health care. 2. I have worked hard and have become middle class and do not apologize for that. 3. Because I am middle class a lot of family and friends depend on me to help them when they have problems. Most of my family and friends are poor, but I have helped my middle class family and friends, all gladly. I became middle class so that I could do that. I often transfer my acquired power from being middle class to people who have no personal or real power. 4. I don't want to go back to not having health care, food, clothing (I buy second hand still), a house that I like to share with a lot of people, not only my kids. A lot of people have found a good meal, fellowship, and most of all acceptance under my and my husband's roof. 5. However, if I have to I can live the way I was raised.
6. I think people should be as responsible as they can, but I have helped people who could not help themselves or have been the victim of someone who has taken advantage of them, or sometimes just because I like them. One section of the old Appalachian Volunteers Vista song said, "we help people help themselves, we need help, we need you." 7. I do not have to live sustainable to do good or be a good person. I have live sustainable, ran a farm, grew all my own food, etc. after I grew up, but that is not possible or desirable for me and other people now. I can be different than other people and still be a good person. 6. I think the problem is not about me, but is about the inequality of American life as we know it today. Living in a comfortable place is nice. You say your home is nice and comfortable for you. We are all different kinds of people. I think most people in this country work hard and do not want a hand out, but a hand up. 7. I am glad the OWS movement is inclusive because that is how I think our society should be, but we have to have a government that insures that equality is on the front burner all the time. We are a rich country, in spite of the problems, why do we still have homeless people. It is a plight on our society. 8. The Civil Rights Movement was a one issue movement. OWS is a multi-issue Movement. Harry Belefonte said on television recently (he and Jackie Robinson paid for Obama's father to come to the U.S. to get an education) that people needed to hit the streets until Obama and all the people of power started coming up with meaningful solutions. He said that before OWS started. He was a major participator in the Civil Rights Movement and he lives Middle Class. Being Middle Class and liking nice things is not a bad thing. I am sure you like nice things, I read about them in your blog, and I am so proud of you two. As Emma Goldman said, "I like good food and nice clothes and I will fight like hell until everybody has the same as they want." I am sure a lot of that talent on OWS would be very willing to be a part of the solutions so that we have more equal sharing of opportunities.
8. And finally, I don't think they want a hand out they want a job and a chance to make a "great society", to use a phrase from before the far right took over with Ronald Regan. Reading history is very important to understanding the future.

I hope I have clarified what I was trying to say. The problem is not about me or the people at OWS all over the world. The problems come from the people who hold tight to the money and try to squeeze homeless, sick, poor, working class, and middle class and cutting back to a simpler but not for everybody time.

Everybody can't buy land and live off the gridd or even want to!

Comment by Sue Ella Kobak Mon Nov 21 22:54:10 2011

Phil --- I've been thinking about why some people got so riled up by my comment (in more personal ways than I expected them to) and I think it comes down to your point. I think that Americans have been fed the idea that the American Dream is to live in a nice house, have a nice car, etc. and that the way to get there is through debt. We've been told that debt is normal and fine. That's what I disagree with, but since so many people think it's the American Dream, what I'm saying sounds like outright heresy.

Sue Ella --- I'm afraid you're taking my points too personally, so I won't repeat them. Suffice it to say that I agree with all of your points about you personally, but I also believe that living simply is an extremely important ethical decision that many Americans choose not to make.

Comment by anna Tue Nov 22 07:31:13 2011

The one thing that alarms me about the Occupy movement is the push for communism. There are those in the Occupy movement who decry capitalism as a great evil. I have to think what they're really meaning is "cronyism". Today's corruption is infuriating, but it is not the same as capitalism. We see capitalism at it's finest right here on this website. Anna and Mark using their distinct skills and talents, making great and desired products.

Second, history shows us that these communist/social justice movements -- in an effort to "even out" wealth-- forcibly take the land from the middle class, the landowners and give it to the "State" where it is split amongst the poor or the crony friends of the leaders. This redistribution of farmland resulted in millions of starvation deaths in the Ukraine. For any of us with small farms or homesteads, be very careful what you wish for. Communism does not make people equally rich. People are made equally miserable while the Party LEADERS live the high life. Trust me.

Comment by Sophie Tue Nov 22 20:10:27 2011

To give this background to your readers, I am a Berea College student and of our group of 50 concerned and intrigued students who crossed several states to Occupy Wall Street a month ago, every one of us was in the 99% according to our income level. Your idea about middle class equating to 50% is just wrong. Where did you read that? There are a lot of statistics about the discrepancies in wealth and corporate control. I am sure you have seen them.
Critiquing a movement is tricky business. When we don’t agree with things that some people in the movement do, it does not mean the movement itself is wrong. The people sitting in houses to put them back in the hands of their rightful owners are just one of many examples of this revolution and what it does.
And to your third point, Occupy Wall Street and the other Occupations are seeking equality. Well actually, every one of us wants something different. The movement is occurring inside of those of us who are taking part of it. People are taking on change in their own ways, being the change. But that involves putting political pressure on those on whom our lives and livelihoods depend.
You being uncomfortable with something that is going on in the world does not mean that thing is wrong. Conflicts can be terrible for the people involved, but they are often useful vocations for positive change. Your thoughts were a bit unsubstantial. Are you really wanting us to tell you how you are wrong? That is noble open mindedness! But I do think you are touching very close to an important conversation that is rarely had, that people in extreme poverty in the world live on meager rations of food and necessities. Homeless people in the United States or the millions of refugees in the Third World are just two groups of people who for me raise a bigger conflict and concern than you have written about. When I was at the New York Occupation the food line represented for me the heart (or the stomach) of the park protest. This needy human part of the organization of people nourished more than my metaphor, it physically provided food for these women and men who were really risking something to hold a presence of peace and justice in Zuccotti Park.
I promise you Anna, I am not (any longer) mad at you, and my anger at Wall Street is rooted in the urgent hunger for equal rights that I see in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
PS Sue Ella seems more interested in helping others than her. Your representation of what she said seems to misconstrue her words. PPS What is your opinion about the relatedness with this revolution and others going on around the world? Anyone? PPPS I think you and your approach to this topic IS changing as I read down your wall of comments. Allow that inner transformation and openness. I think you should have a follow up post if your ideas change especially since this is something you really want to talk about. PPPPS I learned a while back that feelings are not facts. Yesterday during the six hours of lock down when an armed gunman was loose near our campus, I learned something else. Logic does not work to sooth hurt feelings. Compassion is the only thing we have for that. So if someone takes things to heart, you should use your heart to help them through it.

Comment by Maggie Tue Nov 22 21:48:39 2011

Sophie --- This is an issue I really can't respond to because I haven't read anything about the Occupy movement and Communism. My gut feeling is that they're not interested in Communism. That at the most, they're interested in some socialism (things that I tend to agree with, like healthcare, etc.) combined with a healthy dose of capitalism, but I could be way off base.

I've been thinking it over and have come to a few conclusions about the lack of mission of the movement. I think that I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and decide they really haven't come to a consensus yet, which is why it's so hard to find a solid mission statement. I'm going to argue that the only thing they all seem to agree to is "our mission can't be summed up in a soundbite," since that's the one sentiment I've heard repeated by all of the Occupy supporters. And, finally, I'd argue that I think I'm right that the lack of a mission statement does hurt their movement because it leaves the door open for people to assume the worst about them. (Or the best, and then be disillusioned.)

Which is all a long way of saying --- I guess we have to wait and see what they really want....

Maggie --- The 50% I talked about is part of the 99% but not the whole 99%. So, just because you all were part of the 99%, doesn't mean you weren't part of the 50% too. (Of course, it doesn't mean you didn't have people in the lower 49% either. You probably did, since most college students don't work full time and have an income below $26,036.)

"When we don’t agree with things that some people in the movement do, it does not mean the movement itself is wrong." I totally agree. I don't think I said in my blog post that anything was wrong, just that I felt uncomfortable with parts of the movement. I've actually gotten a lot of thoughtfulness from the less confrontational comments that has helped me think through the Occupy issue more, which was the whole point of the blog post.

I certainly didn't mean to misconstrue Sue Ella's words. It's very tough to find one or two points in a long comment, so I did the best I could.

Comment by anna Wed Nov 23 07:38:17 2011

This educational video speaks for itself. I hope you are not getting too many responses.

Comment by Maggie Wed Nov 23 09:57:53 2011

I'm very enlightened by all the comments--becasuse, tho from different experiences, all are trying to figure out answers. This is new for me, to comment via computer! I do that sometimes, but usually only to one person. First, since I know you, Sue Ella, Errol, Anna, Joey, Maggie, let me say that, in a way, your answers (comments) seem what I expect of you--I guess mine reflects who I am, too. As if this discussion was around a dinner table (which Joey recently reminded me he had uncomfortable memories of, at my mother's because he remembers more the arguing than the problem-solving). So, first, I want to address the OWS process, with their starting out before their solutions have been "set in stone." (I'm moved by their "human mic" way of ensuring that their speakers can be heard.) Aside from the internet and the media, where can people who do not know each other meet in solidarity to figure out economic and justice solutions? Don't tell me at City Councils! Proving that every community must allow a meeting-place for discussing--arguing--is OWS' first achievement. I don't feel that they occupy in order to be protesting and to use civil disobedience. I feel they occupy in order to figure out what to do. Their protest against the bailout is ultimately also what the man and woman in the streets have been saying all along. When they say We are the 99% they are saying they speak of us all except those who are exploiting us. We have to get past labeling with communism, socialsim--even anarchism--as if these are evil. I am not sure we are a democracy--I don't think we really have one man-one vote, as you have seen, with our elections! And in our system, with our super-power controlling whether a country is invaded or not, we have wars that are not really voted on by the people, not to mention the drone attacks. The real problems, the military industrial complex, the peak oil issue, and increasing famines, for ex. in the Horn of Africa, are what our Congress needs to address. But instead we have to focus on our own national budget priorities.

OWS is a coming togher of so many different people who care, Anna. I don't think self-immolation, which has occurred in Greece, as an expression of despair, and which did happen in anti-Vietnam war protests, will happen here. But I do think that uinless I am part of the solution I am part of the problem. I know that many people are in despair. How to be part of the solutionf? I guess we have to do more than just for ourselves, have to share more, have to reach out more, have to try to find out more. I think that the "political process" is not the whole answer. But to fix a borken system is essential. OWS is trying to figure things out, in solidarity with the 99% in the world who are powerless.

The American Civil Rights movement is not over-- we still have many injustices in our country. It's so essential that ordinary people have time--and computer access--to figure things out.

Comment by adrianne Wed Nov 23 10:08:25 2011

Sophie --- I know I already replied to you once, but your comment has been on my mind all day. I got stuck on the word "Communism" in my previous response, but I do see your point about cronyism. I think that every American should have a dry, enclosed place to call home, but it gets complicated if we start simply giving people back their foreclosed upon homes. I can see what you mean about that being cronyism --- why does the person who's paid some unknown amount into that home deserve it more than the homeless person who has no home at all?

That's why I think some of the goals people put out there --- such as forgiving all student loans --- are shortsighted. I think that if we're each able to step back and not focus on what's right for us individually, we'll realize that the solution is to look forward rather than back. Don't forgive current debts, but instead work to make sure everyone has a home of some sort. Yes, that may mean that nobody gets a fancy home, but it would be more fair and prevent cronyism if everyone has some sort of home.

Maggie --- I really don't watch videos. Wanna sum up the points you got out of it?

Mom --- I'm glad you figured out how to comment!

"I feel they occupy in order to figure out what to do." That makes a lot of sense, and is the conclusion I'm coming to too.

"But I do think that unless I am part of the solution I am part of the problem." I agree, but I think I consider this on a more personal level than most people do. To me, being part of the solution is living your ideals and sharing how to do it with anyone who cares to listen. I feel like every time we buy something, we're voting for those corporations to run our government. Every time we decide we're too busy to have a garden and buy some cheap food at McDonalds, we're voting for feedlots and the resulting environmental destruction. And when I applied for scholarships to go to school, I was voting for the exact same economic system that I agree is corrupt. I'm not saying I don't fall into that trap, but I do try to live at least somewhat simply, and I think that by ignoring that necessity, the Occupy movement is saying they want one thing but voting for another.

Comment by anna Wed Nov 23 14:00:16 2011

I fear we as the voting citizens of this great Republic of ours are missing the real cause of all these problems. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that the role of a politician was NOT to be a career, it is a duty you fulfill and then go home. The career politicians, many of whom have never held a REAL job, make policy decisions on what will get them reelected and not on what is actually best for our country. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme that has done more to secure votes for politicians than anything. One day SS will bankrupt the US. Politicians make it possible for the big corporations to utilize the government to take advantage of us and become wealthy. If our elected officials were doing their jobs instead of lining their own pockets the corporations wouldn't get any where with their schemes. Who should we blame here, the corporations or the politicians who allow them to get away with all this?

Most of the problems mentioned above are the direct result of meddling by our government. The foreclosures on homes is due to the government passing legislation requiring banks to give loans to low income families that otherwise wouldn't qualify for a home loan because they CAN'T AFFORD THEM. When I signed my life away for the mortgage on my home the bank president didn't hold a gun to my head and force me to sign. I did so of my own volition after I walked into the bank and asked them to give me money. The bank didn't force me to do anything. I'm responsible and accountable to the bank for that money. The bank isn't evil for being forced to give loans to those who can't afford to make the payments. Remove the government regulation from the banks and this problem goes away.

Student loans costs for education are out of control. Why is it so expensive? The government guarantees loans! Because I can get a loan for education in nearly any amount the colleges and universities can jack up the price and ask any amount for those diplomas. Check out the cost of a college education since the government began guaranteeing loans, you'll be shocked at how much the price has gone up.

The government needs to STOP getting involved in every aspect of our lives and quit regulating everything. Get back to the Constitution and what our Founding Fathers intended and we will prosper. Hold your politicians accountable at the voting booth and limit them to two terms. Being a politician should NOT be a career!

Comment by Heath Tue Nov 29 17:37:15 2011
Heath --- I'll bet you're a Libertarian. :-) I tend to agree with some Libertarian policies (and with some of your points), but on the other hand, I get stuck on how Libertarians would handle thorny issues like parks and poverty. I think that government's job should be to make sure that people (and the environment) don't fall through the cracks so that the big guys don't trample the little guys.
Comment by anna Tue Nov 29 19:14:40 2011

I am indeed largely a Libertarian. The problem I have with poverty is that in order for the government to give money to those in poverty they have to take away from you and I. Americans are among the most charitable people on the face of the earth; allow the people to take care of the people and leave big brother out of it.

Since 1964 when the "war on poverty" began, the US has pumped billions of dollars into their anti-poverty efforts. The rate has increased. I'm of the opinion that if you give people something and don't make them work for it they'll come to see that something as an entitlement and expect it in the future. I agree with Ben Franklin when he said, "I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."

I'm not sure what you mean by the Parks, can you explain?

Comment by Heath Tue Nov 29 21:06:37 2011

Heath --- When I was a biology major in college, we used to joke about "charismatic megafauna." The idea is that projects involving cute dolphins get funded much more readily than those involving plankton, even though plankton is really more important from an ecological perspective. The same holds true with human service projects --- it's a lot cooler to give money to starving children in Africa than to solve thornier, but less photogenic issues.

Now, a savvy non-profit can sometimes twist things around so that they help both the plankton and the dolphins, raising money with the dolphin's sex appeal and then channeling that cash into plankton projects. But sometimes it's tougher to do that, and that also assumes that the board of the non-profit can see past the charismatic megafauna syndrome.

Which is all a long way of saying --- I don't really buy it when Libertarians say that Americans are very charitable and will fill in the gap if government butts out of problematic areas. First of all, if you've ever worked for the fundraising wing of a non-profit the way I have, you'll soon learn that people give a smaller and smaller percentage of their income the richer they get. That's just the opposite of what I think you should see in a progressive society, in which people with more expendable income should put more back into solving the problems of that society. And, second, I don't think that system would encourage money to go to the most problematic, but least photogenic areas.

The reason I mentioned parks is because I've heard Libertarians make the same argument you made about poverty about parks. They say that if the government backed off, non-profits would come in and buy up land and make private parks. I suspect that means we'd get lots of Grand Canyon type parks with soaring scenery but very few parks that preserve less photogenic but equally important ecosystems.

Phew! Sorry for the rant. All of that said, I actually do agree with you that our government's system of "helping" poor people is very broken. I just don't think the solution is to stop helping. In fact, I suspect what we'd get would be a lot of church food banks and very few systems that helped poor people help themselves.

Comment by anna Wed Nov 30 09:42:45 2011
Anna, I agree with you that giving is not adding up right now. My hunch is that with the removal of these programs such as the welfare system etc. giving would increase. I give less now because I already give money via my tax dollars and if I don't it is treated as my debt and I could go to jail, as if I owed it. Giving to the poor is an act of charity and it should not be my debt. It is not productive to compare giving now, as with our current system, to what it may be like if these programs were abolished. Before industrialization and the downfall of community, people were taken care of by their respective communities. I think the abolishment of these types of systems would be morally uplifting and increase sympathy for the poor thus increasing giving. I do not think that we can say that giving, as we know it now, will stay the same when these programs are gone. According to history, we will survive. Welfare is fairly new in the timeline of human history. How about the Amish? I may not agree with all that they do. However they practice a different set of economics and I have yet to see an Amish begger. I live in Ohio near very large Amish communities and not once have I seen an Amish person sleeping on a park bench. It is the result of community. This is what community is all about. However, our community is not the world. Our community consists of our neighbor; our families. It is the widow down the road not on the other side of the world. If someone wants to give to them thats great, its wonderful, but it is not their debt it is their charity. The same can be said of parks. People love parks but as of right now, they feel no responsibility for their actions. If they knew the government was not taking care of it, and that anything that happened to the parks was a result of something that they had done perhaps they would feel more of a burden for them. Similarly, if their is a pothole that is down the road and everyday we drive through that pothole, eventually we will have the urge to fix it. As of now, it is someone else's responsibility so instead of taking care of it ourselves we complain about the person or company or government that is failing to live up to their responsibilities. If the burden was on our shoulders we would fix the problem because if we didn't it would affect us directly. The span of our world views have grown so much that we forget about the things close to home. I am a fisheries and wildlife management major currently yet I think that people would care more about these issues if they were not forced to give but gave because they felt a conviction to give. All of these programs work against community and not only harm the rest of the world but the people recieving these funds. In areas highly populated by bears you will find signs that read "Do not feed the bears." Why shouldn't we feed them? Because they begin to rely on the food source and forget how to find their own food. They forget how to provide for themselves. So, they keep coming back to the source of an easy meal. Ultimately that bear is likely to die whether from hunger or from being put down as it has invaded communities and dumpsters in search of that easy meal. The same goes for those animals who have been bred and kept in captivity. They will not survive in the real world. They are kept in controlled environments with minimal true environmental fluctuation. Now look at fish farms. If you ever have a chance to be at one around feeding time, you will see that the fish have been conditioned. They will congregate on the side of the pond where there food comes from at that precise time of day in wait for their food. Now given, whether humans are animals or not, the point is that we do share some common psychological behaviors. For instance: greed, selfishness, materialism, shallowness. Look at the Bower Bird and their collection of external material possessions that they use to attract their mate. As a biologist or biology major an understanding of competition within a species and among all of the species collectively, is surely within our scope when examining these types of issues in political arenas. I think that its good to be concerned about giving but I don't think we could have survived as a species this long unless we had given and received help from each other. Yet being forced to seems to be hindering survival and producing more impoverished people. Whether constitutional or not, all we have to do is ask ourselves "Does this work?" If it does fine but if it doesn't, well then its time to make some changes. As of right now, our current system does not seem to be working. We should not avoid truth because its hard to handle or because it hurts. The best lessons are the hard ones; these are the ones that stick. You be the judge, thats just my perspective. I just thought I'd offer a different view as peacefully as possible.
Comment by Jeffry Fri Dec 2 12:38:47 2011

Your Amish point is the most intriguing one. You're right that the Amish really know how to make communities work. The way I understand it, they don't do debt and they don't do insurance --- the community simply comes together and makes things happen. That said, can you really see mainstream Americans living that way by choice? How would you feel about giving your neighbors $5,000 to help them rebuild their house when it burned down, knowing that they might never need to return the favor? I suspect you'd rather just pay your homeowner's insurance.

What I'm getting at is --- I don't think that your ideas would work on the national scale. Modern Americans don't really believe in community --- they believe in doing what's best for them. Yes, humans evolved to help each other, but that's on the small scale where you live in a group of maybe 100 people, know them all, and have a personal investment in everyone's lives. If you live in New York City, there's no way you can have a personal investment in the lives of even a small percentage of the people around you, and it's pretty tough even in a "town" of 10,000 people. I suspect that, in reality, what would happen if we lost our social support systems is that the middle and upper class would live happily in their isolated worlds and the poor would get poorer and poorer.

Comment by anna Fri Dec 2 20:23:29 2011

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