Monday, October 3, 2011

The Occupation

We are now in the third week of the Occupy Wall Street protests, as thousands gather in New York and elsewhere around the country, to protest Wall Street, corporate greed, and capitalism.  Over the weekend 700 protesters were arrested for blocking the Brooklyn Bridge, but the arrests and the protests have brought increased attention to a group whose primary goal is to "demolish capitalism" and the free market system.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters have been joined by Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore and other leftist activists who support the assertion that Wall Street has too much influence over the world. (Of course, no one is going to stage an Occupy Hollywood protest to point out the fact that actors are notoriously over-paid and that Hollywood exercises undue influence over the world, but I digress.)  Billionaire George Soros has also signified his support and sympathy for the movement.

Interestingly, beyond the destruction of capitalism, Occupy Wall Street does not seem to have any clear goals, except perhaps to set up a counter movement to the Tea Parties which will promote socialism and  organized labor. The protesters want to replace the free market system with a new system in which presumably the government will be the only entity with undue influence.

Since promoting "freedom" is a goal of Occupy Wall Street, a blogger sympathetic to the cause asked fifteen of the protesters to define freedom.  I have excerpted some of the real answers to the question of "What does freedom mean to you?"  For a complete list of the answers, see http://rortybomb.wordpress.com.  I found these definitions truly enlightening:

"Freedom is bound up with the idea of possibilities.  The idea of limitless possibilities is the ideal of limitless freedom...But we still live in a state of unfreedom...The goal of history and transforming society must be to make these possibilities available to everyone."

"Revolution means freedom from necessity."

"Freedom means living my life however I want to...The ability to do what I want with my life, without the confines of debt, without the confines of politics, without the confines of anything else."

"Being able to have enough activities, friends and the social basis of self respect..."

"Freedom means freedom from necessity."

"I think freedom is your ability to carry out what you want to do...If you are always working for a boss, you don't have freedom either. Freedom is always that you're emancipated from your physical necessities and your mental baggage."

"Freedom means the ability to speak your mind, to live your life free of worrying about how you'll pay your next bill or whether you'll have a roof over your head."

And the media is wondering that these people don't appear to have a clear-cut objective for the protest!  The Occupy Wall Street protests is spreading to cities as far from New York as Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the protesters are reportedly going to New York from across the nation to take part.  This week, protests are expected to include representatives from The Teamsters Union.

Unfortunately, the above quotes about freedom represent current attitudes about freedom for many Americans.  (And while some of the protesters quoted here are students who are not yet twenty years old, others are grandparents, so this is a fair cross-sampling of ages.)

None of these definitions of freedom includes personal responsibility or risk taking.  But in reality, no one can ever experience freedom without taking responsibility for his or her own life. When we take responsibility for our lives, we take risks and we incur debt.  But in doing so, we make both good decisions and bad ones, and we earn the right to chart our own course in life.  When we live in an entitlement society where the government meets our needs and provides all of our necessities, the government also determines how much we can have, where we can live and what we can achieve. 

The protesters who are standing outside in New York protesting capitalism are asking that the free markets be replaced by a cradle-to-grave entitlement society where they will not have student loans, or debts, or jobs they hate, or responsibility.  They are also asking for a society in which they will never experience success or aspire to truly improve themselves. If their dream of "freedom" is achieved, they will live in a society where a massive government becomes the source of everything. As Dwight Eisenhower said, "Every step we take towards making the State our Caretaker of our lives, by that much we move toward making the State our Master."

For more by Alexandra Swann, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net/.

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