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We Will Never Be the 100%
Walking down Jackson on Monday I had first followed to the Occupy Chicago protests a woman around my age in hippie garb (the whole shaggy long skirt and scraggly hair deal), who held a sign proclaiming something along the very familiar lines of “We are the 99%”. It's something I was perfectly ready for, a singular introduction to a section of the streets run by tired citizens lined up behind makeshift fences. I passively followed in this woman's footsteps to LaSalle, and eventually she met up with a male friend of hers, who also dressed below casual, with ragged jeans and a hipster swagger, strolling alongside this woman a step in front of me.
“I was at this thing yesterday,” the guy said to the sign holder. “Some really weird ass girl came up to me and gave me an Adderall and I took it.”
Something struck me as ironic about this, a kind of dichotomy of attitude which paralleled that of the country's economy.
“I took the Adderall and it was great while the protest lasted but afterward it kind of messed me up, you know?”
The two continued to discuss the previous day's events, the march, et cetera. It was all so derivative after what he'd last said. It hit me what it was: He was a naive young man protesting corporate power, and at the same time assisting the pharmaceutical money machine, fueling himself with a funded medication and believing corporations had too much power. After all, Adderall isn't illegal like cocaine; it's taxed, prescribed and government approved. The fact that this unnamed girl had given him one of these pills as an intoxicant and most likely carried more also created a contradiction, an oblivious convolution that denounced their whole cause in my eyes.
The determined groups closed in around LaSalle, and it was only early afternoon. I wasn't expecting so many children there intermingling with the people who could possibly understand what they were protesting. I could make out one child from across LaSalle holding a sign reading “I can't afford a lobbyist, I'm only in 6th grade!” beside his father's sign attacking the corporations themselves. I could see no window with the insensitive and bleakly sociopathic retort of “We are the 1%” implanted in the nearby trader windows, but even if I hadn't been able to locate the right office where they were located they had to have been removed at that point.
On one side of the street you had the photographers and reporters, including myself, something below freelance in my khaki shorts, t-shirt, skater shoes, deceptively "good kid" appearance and long hair. I looked more like I belonged in with the student activists than anyone to be taken seriously. A man walked past me as I looked on, a middle-aged backpack carrying man with an amateur speakerphone fashioned from a wired walkie talkie attached to a speaker, attempting to rile up the aggravated crowds with a rain dance chant of “WE. ARE. THE 99%!” People began joining him and the mood of the place made me feel as though I truly was in a third world country, filled with people who were rebelling against a dictatorship, all while complaining about corporate power, directing fingers against the banks and Board of Trade with their backs to McDonald's and other corporations they didn't seem to pay attention to as worthy opponents. In fact, the whole group never once seemed to be angry at anything other than service-offering companies; never mind the product sellers, the ones truly feeding into a capitalist system such as the company feeding them the Newports they smoked, which were only lowering their lifespans as they puffed away.
They all seemed to detest capitalism as an entire system as opposed to focusing on the corruption causing the chaos. They forget that a socialist system with terribly greedy politicians could be no better than the world we're living in now (although socialism is not to be confused with communism, unlike what most conservatives believe). They forget that capitalism isn't what has ruined this country's freedom, but the entire cluster of organized conscience-deprived CEOs and yuppies controlling it. The whole thing--including the men with long ratty hair wearing veteran jackets like in Vietnam--felt reminiscent of a sixties protest. A poor man's Democratic Convention of 1968. In today's society, which is supposed to be progressive in comparison to decades ago, the protesters hold signs which read Internet acronyms such as “WTF” as opposed to truly taking action. And yet the members of the Tea Party accuse this group of committing small misdemeanors such as standing in parks and on the Brooklyn Bridge.
People forget that history is repeating itself in some variation at nearly every moment. The entire existence of the twenty-first century is a haven for deja vu of the past hundred years; in short, society hasn't altered enough and enough people haven't learned that we are not unlike the ninety-nine percent before us even hundreds of years ago, despite a dwindling middle class. We have different ideas but around the same issues. We have different wars in different countries but we still have the clueless and morally bankrupt fat cats making the decisions. We have the blind fools who follow them as they lie and convince so many that they have the answers and then we have the others who are so angry because they have to be in order to feel purposeful.
We aren't quite living in another counterculture movement. This America is something I loathe. I'm patriotic, but not for the way this country's so divided. The United States is a total joke as a title for this nation. We're so divided I can't stand either side of the political argument that matters. The conservatives refuse to look at the other side because they fear the “liberal” propaganda. The liberals fear anyone they can label as “conservative” based on the disagreement over any issue. You can't just be morally sound or an individual; you have to be either right or left out. You're either red or blue.
I look at these protesters and see a mass of people who don't understand any more than the rightist Tea Baggers could. Some of them do understand and I truly do believe that this nation's one percent primarily consists of people who couldn't care less about America's well being apart from their own. But is it worth it when you see how blatantly they ignore the chants and pain? Money will always be above people to those who look out the towers. The people below are consumers to them, not people. I'm not saying these men and women should do nothing, but without a course of action that can appeal to the pathos of or terrify those above what difference does it really make when so many still go about their business?