Saturday, November 26, 2011

Occupy Something

I didn’t know there was a local Occupy Something group until I read a story in the local newspaper about a young woman who had, at the time of the story, spent three weeks camping in the park in front of the local city library.  This really surprised me; I was at that library a week ago and hadn’t noticed any sign of a protest.  I didn’t think we had any 1% types in our small town to protest against, in any case.

It turns out that we are a hot bed of wild and angry protest.    The dozen, well… half-dozen protestors were just boiling with rage as they cooked their Dinty Moore stew over on a Coleman stove.  If not rage, then they were at least filled with seething apathy.  I know for a fact that the dog that licked my hand could have turned violent--he had that wild feral look you only see in a demented cocker spaniel.
 There were several tables displaying literature, a few more tables for food, several propane barbecue grills, and half a dozen tents.  Except for the pamphlets, it looked like a deer camp.  I wondered about camp sanitation until I spotted one of the protestors walking back from the library.  What they do after dark, I have no idea.  Perhaps they depend on the kindness of the police station across the street.  Nah!  I’m sure that the Voice of the People wouldn’t want to take anything from The Man. 
Truthfully, it was a sad little protest.  They seemed mostly to be upset at the coming orgy of shopping on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving).  “Stay at home, don’t go to the stores,” explained one of the protesters from the comfort of a folding lawn chair.  “If you do go shopping, only buy things made locally.”

I think this is an excellent idea.  This Christmas, I’m going to only give gifts made locally.  Would you like pecans, chilies, or sand?   While I may not go shopping, I’ll bet my wife does.  You have a better chance of slipping a hamburger past a fat man than of getting the Doc to miss a sale.  If I stood between her and a 20% off sale at Tuesday Morning, she’d stomp a mud hole in me and never look back.
Other than being upset at large box stores, I’m not too sure what they were protesting.  There was a general sense of anger, but I’m not sure what they were angry about.  I did take a picture of a protest sign, but I’m not sure it really provides much in the way of answers.
I’m fairly sure the author of the sign does have a degree in Social Work.  That would explain the grammar and spelling.  And possibly the author’s confusion.
 Who promised her a free education?  Or free housing?  Or free medical care?  I work at a university and I want their paychecks to clear the bank.  I own a few apartments, and I expect rent.  And my wife, the Doc, wanted to be paid for medical care.  In actuality, the university doesn’t pay me much, my tenants usually have problems with the rent, and my wife only got paid about 50% of the time.  Maybe I should start my own protest movement.
I believe there is some confusion about the American Dream.  This phrase is frequently bandied about, but I don’t think too many people understand the concept, so let me explain.  You can count this as your free education.
In the days of Thomas Jefferson, the American Dream was to own a farm.  Jefferson did not trust cities or the men who worked in them.  If you drew wages, you would always be beholden to the man who paid you, and thus you could never truly be free.  But the owner of a farm could truly be independent and subject to no one.  Only a free man could be trusted with the reins of citizenship in a democracy.  Jefferson believed that a young man might have to work for a while, but eventually he could head west and start a farm of his own.  Obviously, there are a few logical holes in this plan: some don’t want to be farmers, somebody had to make the farmer’s iron plow, and eventually there is no more land to the west to “win.”
The American Dream changed over time.  By the beginning of the Civil War, the American Dream for many was to work and learn a trade until you could save up enough money to start a shop or a business of your own.  Ante-bellum America was full of small businesses; the largest employer in the country was the Baldwin Locomotive Works, where roughly 600 men worked.  You might start as an apprentice, but you could aspire to own a shop of your own.
Early in the Twentieth Century, the American Dream had changed again, to the desire to learn a skill, become a professional, and start a career.  This takes more education, but just as much work and forethought.
The American Dream has evolved constantly in our history, but a few of the details remain the same.  If you work hard, save for the future, and plan and put forth an effort, you can achieve independence and financial security for yourself and your family.  Nothing in the American Dream has ever said anything about something being free.  And it shouldn’t.  Anything that comes that easy is rarely worth keeping, and is never a dream that will inspire you to achieve.
I had a nice long talk with the protestors; I read their signs, took their handouts, smiled, and even wished them the best of luck.  I probably spoiled the effect a little when I got in my wife’s Mercedes and drove away.  Of course, they don’t know we bought it second hand.

1 comment:

  1. Inspiring words from a blogger who usually ponders the complexities of random thoughts and exaggerated tales of the Trojan Rabbit or the Battle of Kao Pectate