Friday, Aug. 12, 2011 was a particularly sunny day in New York. The day would have been perfect if it were not for the sad, devastating feeling passing through everyone’s minds. A crew of investment banking interns was walking to the closing ceremony of their summer program. It was the end, but they were not celebrating. They had just experienced one of the most volatile weeks of the market’s recent history and certainly the most volatile week of the year. I was there, talking to my friends about their future prospects. They were all worried about just one thing: a job. After that volatile week, the simple goal of a job seemed far away. People who should not have worried about their future prospects were crushed after that crazy summer. We walked through Zuccotti Park, which would fatefully become the epicenter of Occupy Wall Street. The protesters’ number one objective (or at least I hope) is the pretense of jobs. How ironic is it that the protesters’ number one objective is also Wall Street’s number one objective? There is a collective divide of how each part of the equation is voicing their frustration: protesters through destruction and executives through market escape. Argument, destruction and escape are not going to get us anywhere — only a collective assembly and discussion will get us to our final goals.
Occupy Wall Street: a movement that started small but quickly spread throughout the world. Even though I have some reserves about the movement, something is crystal clear to me: People’s frustrations have reached a breaking point. The unemployment rate has not significantly improved in years, and the gears of the economy that seemed to be slowly moving back into shape have gotten stuck somewhere along the way. Not only that, but our middle class is slowly shrinking, and as each day passes, more people need to get federal aid in the form of food stamps or unemployment benefits. The average American feels completely powerless in the midst of this social and economic pandemonium. It has to be someone’s fault, right?
Times like these lead to blatant finger-pointing. That executive seems to be living a plush comfortable life. What did he do to get there? How is he still making money through this economy while I do not have a job and struggle to feed my family every day? Resentment rings in people’s ears. This is when things get dangerous. Angry sentiment and lack of communication can only lead to divide. Yes, people are different; they have different experiences and life struggles. But ultimately, we are all Americans. We all have similar dreams and goals. We all want to make this country better. Otherwise, we might as well move to another country (let us not forget that we can always move somewhere else). I have been extremely fortunate in the fact that I have been in both sides of the 99 percent coin. Yes, I am an Ivy League student, but I am attending Brown only because a donor (who, ironically, works on Wall Street) is paying my way through school. I spent a summer in a trading floor and the floor of my small town home, and I can tell you this: We all want everyone to get a job. Full employment is a win-win situation. We want the country to grow, to prosper; we all way to provide our children with the best standard of living possible. The people of Wall Street are not going out of their way to make sure that their life is better than everyone else’s, and they are certainly not making sure you, protester in the street, do not get a job. This is not an “us versus them” argument. It should be “how can we” fix this broken economy.
Many people have commented on how the Occupy Wall Street movement has turned into a sort of circus. As I saw on the news, the protesters’ demands were watered down by their antics. As a result, the Occupy Wall Street movement has gotten mixed reviews from everyday Americans. Major polls show a significant rift in sentiment. In other words, people do not know how to feel about it. Many people feel this movement has turned into something else entirely after many controversial moves by the people involved in the protests. With that in mind, I would like to say that we cannot turn the wish of a stronger, better American economy into the wish of pure anarchy. Destroying public property and harming officers who are only doing their job is not getting us anywhere — if anything, it is bringing us backwards. Work and solutions are needed.
It has been over two months since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Things may change in the following weeks, but throughout all this, we cannot stop the fight for a better America. This fight does not consist of protesting outside an investment bank and asking them to fix whatever it is that they need to fix. Let us stop being a country of askers and let us start being a country of doers. As far as I know, we still live in a democracy, and this is the time we need to ask our leaders to stop their petty arguments and start working. Yes, I am looking at you, executive and legislative branches. The country needs a lot of fixing, but this is not the time to talk about anything other than the economy. Even though we must take our eyes off other issues, our major issue here is the fact that there are millions of people out there looking for a future. Fixing the economy may take time and working nice with people we would rather not deal with, but this is not the time to think about our egos and political careers. This is about running a country and oiling our economic machine.
Furthermore, the protesters should try to get to work. I understand that many of them will not find a job, but that will not prevent anyone from working in our country. With all the energy they have put on the movement, they could have started new businesses or helped rebuild broken communities. There are many organizations out there that need volunteers, and what better way of fixing our country is there than from the bottom up? Plus, I have learned from personal experience that the best way to get a job is by volunteering for a nonprofit. The country needs to stop finger-pointing, arguing, and destroying — it needs to start working and fixing.
Going back to that gorgeous August day, I remember the conversation that I had with a friend while walking to our final destination, close to Zuccotti Park. Even though he was slightly depressed by recent events, he was still excited about what was yet to come. He mentioned that even if he did not get the job he was working for, he knew there was still a future and open opportunities He could not wait to start working and fulfilling his destiny. His insight helped brighten up my week because it made me notice that this is what America is made of: hard work and hope for a brighter tomorrow. It does not matter how bad the going gets — Americans always manage to make it through with hard work and enthusiasm.