How Not to Talk About the Protests

Whenever I read something like the following, I find it hard to figure out if the author is being facetious:

The people in the tumblr aren’t demanding to bring democracy into the workplace via large-scale unionization, much less shorter work days and more pay.  They aren’t talking the language of mid-twentieth century liberalism, where everyone puts on blindfolds and cuts slices of pie to share.  The 99% looks too beaten down to demand anything as grand as “fairness” in their distribution of the economy.  There’s no calls for some sort of post-industrial personal fulfillment in their labor – very few even invoke the idea that a job should “mean something.”  It’s straight out of antiquity – free us from the bondage of our debts and give us a basic ability to survive.

I keep hoping that this can’t have been written in earnest but I keep fearing that it might just be.

There is nothing more – not even modern – but fully postmodern than these protests that the very ignorant and drama-queenish author of the post refers to as “straight out of antiquity”. We are talking about people who can afford to spend all day every day protesting something that is, honestly, quite vague. And nobody starved as yet during the protests or is very likely to. How many people at those protests do NOT have a cell phone, iPad, laptop, etc.?

I am very happy that the protests are taking place. They are renewing my faith in the American people. But let’s just not exaggerate how miserable and on-the-brink-of-starvation these protesters are. Nothing is threatening anybody’s “basic ability to survive” in this country. Let’s not lose our grip on reality altogether and start pontificating about the “starving billions” of the US.

If you go to the 99% Tumblr you will discover a number of “real-life” stories that are supposed to make us question the “basic ability to survive” of 99% of us. I stopped reading after the 3rd story which features a young woman making the exact same salary as I do but somehow magically paying 35% in taxes on it (the real rate is 12%). I understand that one might have a hard time making ends meet on $52K+ at the age of 26. But I think that referring to such a situation as the brink of starvation is very offensive. Especially, to those who are actually on the brink of starvation on other continents.

I’m afraid the protests have no chance of achieving anything useful while people are formulating their grievances in this kind of way.

And I know that nobody wants to hear this, but it is very possible and actually quite easy to live in the US and not owe a dime to anybody. So “the bondage of our debts” is – at least to an extent – one’s own choice. There will be no progress until we all – the 100% of us – acknowledge that we have gotten ourselves into this mess by our shared and collective efforts.

I found this post through Mike’s blog.


8 thoughts on “How Not to Talk About the Protests”

  1. 52K is the median income in the US and a 26-year-old with this income would be considered to be doing very well, so you are cherry-picking to make your case.

    “And I know that nobody wants to hear this, but it is very possible and actually quite easy to live in the US and not owe a dime to anybody.”

    For you apparently. So, for starters, how can students go to college in the US without incurring debt?

    How many stable, 52K/yr jobs are available in the US to young people fresh out of college?


    1. I think you misunderstand what I am saying. My point is precisely that this is a very good income and lumping this person together with those who get by on 18K a year into a uniform 99 per cent is unfair.


  2. And yet the person making 52K a year is just as likely to be completely bankrupted if a medical emergency or disaster occurs as the person making 18K a year — even if they have insurance.

    I have personally seen many cases where this has happened. For that reason, and for many others, it is appropriate to group them all together.


      1. No, it’s actually around 16 percent who don’t have it now.

        However, in the US at least, medical insurance doesn’t cover everything, and then only to a certain level — and often (I’ve seen it happen) legit claims are denied again and again.

        In other words, the person making 52K is in nearly as precarious a position as the person making 18K. They are one medical disaster away from bankruptcy.

        Sure, 52K is a lot more than 18K, but neither is a lot when faced with a 200K medical bill. And medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US.

        I’ve had pretty good jobs over the years, and yet I’ve only had medical insurance at less than half of them.

        If something had happened to me, I’d be just as bankrupt as all the rest.


        1. I believe that a civilized society needs to have a free universal system of healthcare. Otherwise, it is not a civilized society. However, a lot more than 1 per cent of Americans disagree with me on that. And I’m not a citizen anyways.


  3. On the one hand, I am happy that these people are protesting on my behalf, as I have neither the time nor the money to attend protests myself.

    On the other, I am insulted that someone making $52K per year talks as though she’s on the brink of poverty when I’ve been unemployed for months despite my best efforts to find work (I do not think I’m too good to flip burgers at the neighborhood bar, but apparently even that is beyond me) and am genuinely worried about my ability to eat and pay the rent.


  4. My boyfriend and I together earn less than half of that (the 52K). We have $130,000 in student loans. And yet we make ends meet, occasionally even going out to eat or flying to his tropical homeland for a visit to his family.
    I consider myself pretty darn liberal….but whiners like this person hurt so much more than they help, by making the opposition (whoever that may be) think that this luxury is what everybody is complaining about. Get real.


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