This past Wednesday 104 protestors marched from Ball State to downtown Muncie where they chanted the same things as the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.”
“This is what democracy looks like!”
“We are the 99-percent!”
I understand the outrage. I’m surprised that it’s taken so long for people to stand up. I’m like the farthest thing from a Tea Party activist, but I understood when they took to the streets a few years ago, too. I can’t believe it’s taken this long to get people fired up.
Our lives have been built on false promises. Graduate high school. Get a loan for your college education, which will yield a decent job that will allow you to pay those loans off. Work hard and invest what money you’re able to save in the stock market. Retire. Watch your kids do the same.
I look at my retired neighbors and think: that’ll never be me.
People got all in a tizzy when Rick Perry called social security a Ponzi scheme. Do I pay into social security? Yep. Am I promised that social security will pay me back someday? Yep. Will it? Probably not.
So, I get it. I do. The occupy movement has produced productive dialog about the increasing inequality seen in these four charts. But will it produce anything else?
THE EASY PART
While Occupy Muncie was spending their first night out in the cold in Muncie, I was at a meeting with the Leadershipboard.org trying to figure out ways to end the list of boys waiting for mentors with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware County.
Over the past few years I’ve become much more engaged in my community and I’ve learned that there’s a gap between anger and action, between pointing out what’s wrong and being a part of the solution. Holding a sign and shouting is the easy part. Complaining is the easy part. I’m not saying it’s not necessary. I’m just saying that listening and enacting real change is the tough part.
Lobbyists, campaign reform, corporate tax loopholes, and a gridlocked government: these are all things to be upset about and to rail against. These things have created protesters that are occupying communities across the country. But there’s a difference between protesting and action.
THE APATHY BUBBLE
We have a financial crisis caused by a housing bubble, but the real bubble is an apathy bubble. We’ve forgotten how to be citizens. Robert Putnam in his book “Bowling Alone” documented the decline in engagement. We read fewer newspapers, attend less gatherings whether it be Kiwanis, church, or school board meetings than our grandparents did in the 50s. We vote less.
We just don’t care as much.
Maybe what we’re seeing with the Occupy movement is the bursting of the apathy bubble. Let’s hope so.
Standing in the streets has led to dialog, but real change comes from looking within ourselves to see what we have to offer and having the patience and passion and courage to offer it year after year.