A Melting Pot of Frustration – Occupy Boston

Wall Street, big oil, and American auto companies that took bailout money—you are all on notice.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has now spread well beyond the confines of The Island of Manhattan. Occupy Movements have sprung up in just about every major city within the United States.

Admittedly, it is not easy to figure out what members of the Occupy Movement want. The Occupy Movement is practically leaderless and the reasons that the supporters have shown up are as varied as the social economic backgrounds of the supporters themselves. While there might not be a crystal clear message, the Occupy Movement does have a common theme – the 99% of people within the United States have had enough with the 1% of America who has the majority of the population’s wealth.

Additionally, there is a view within the Occupy Movements that Wall Street has had no accountably. The people who destroyed the American Dream were not prosecuted but were bailed out by tax payers with the hope that these masters of the economy would do what was right with the bailout funds. The people who are a part of the Occupy Movement feel that the people of Wall Street failed to properly spend the bailout funds and failed to make the economic system better for the average American after the 2008 economic collapse.

So what is left to do when there is seemingly nothing left to do? Go someplace; and that is what is happening. The people are going someplace and they are showing their discontent and venting their frustrations.

As the Occupy Movement spreads new causes are brought up by supporters. The foundation of the movement might be based on the misallocation of public funds by Wall Street but there are many issues being addressed – including the endless wars in the Middle East, veterans benefits, big oil companies control of the energy policy, and casting shame on American auto companies who took bailout funds.

Occupy Boston is located near the Federal Reserve Building and Boston’s South Station, locally known as the city’s financial district. The Occupy Boston Movement might not have as many supporters as the Occupy Wall Street gathering in New York, but that has not stopped big name civil rights and social activates like Cornel West from coming and marching with protestors in Boston. Most recently, over one hundred Occupy Boston protestors were arrested, sadly, bringing an end to what had been a very peaceful occupation.

While the Occupy Movement is leaderless there are people who more or less act in a managerial role; Ryan Cahill is one of those people for the Occupy Boston zone.

Right now we have one hundred individual tent structures in the park. We have been in direct contact with he people who lease the land, the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservatory, they have been really cool about letting use the space. They are not trying to kick us off, but their one request is that we stay in this space, there are twenty plots all the way to the North End.” Cahill said.

One of the events that spurred on the recent police action in Boston was the occupation of additional Greenway plots as more and more occupiers have shown up and set up additional tents. It should be noted that the Occupy Boston Movement is committed to replacing any of the grass that may be damaged due to the occupation of Boston’s Greenway. The other event that sparked police action was the attempt by Occupy Boston protests to occupy the Charlestown Bridge. The protestors were tuned around by police not because of any aggressive actions done by the protestors but because the Charlestown Bridge is in such poor shape the bridge itself might buckle under the weight of the all protestors. Legitimate safety concerns due to poor infrastructure; and it just so happens that protestors had planned to hang a banner from the Charlestown Bridge reading “Fix This Bridge”.

As more people show up to the occupation the message is changing, as Cahill put it,

The message is evolving. My message would be come out and show your support, voice your own support. We want to know what the people’s message is, not just the message of the people camping here. We obviously have our message; we are against corporatism and political lobbying. We want other people to voice their concerns. There’s trouble all over the country and that is why this movement has grown so quickly. Boston‘s troubles are not necessarily New York’s troubles, are not necessarily Miami’s troubles, are not necessarily Chicago’s troubles.  I am not sure is there is ever going to be a concise and unified message from the Occupy Together Group and that is what makes it so unique. We are getting a lot of flak from the mainstream media because they are like, so you guys are just camping out and don’t have any demands?  This is not a hostage situation, we are not holding anyone hostage, this is a demonstration.

With an evolving message it is not just Wall Street who needs to watch out, according to Mr. Cahill it is also big oil and American car industries that took federal bailout funds;

There has been a lot of talk in our general assembles about cutting our dependency on foreign oil, we need to find alterative energy. It’s an important issue and it goes along with the corporate mentality that we are trying to get rid of. Car companies taking bailouts and yet still building these huge trucks… they have not changed their business strategy. They took our money with the assumption that they would change their business strategy and sell cars that people wanted. With gas on a roller coaster right now, it could easily go back up to $100 a barrel, what good is a big truck at 0% interest if you can’t drive it.

Other members of the occupation echoed Mr. Cahill’s concerns about the auto industry,

Anyone who receives federal bailout money is wrong. If a company’s leaders run it into the ground the government and tax payers should not step in and bail them out. People need to be prosecuted. You can’t do something that horrendous and walk away with millions of dollars.”

Other protestors chimed in saying,

As far as the car industry goes, I mean, I think all the bailouts are bullshit, they made their bed and should have slept in it. I think the car industry could have done it themselves and that they took the easy way out.”

The car companies play into the large budget crisis we have, the big 1% crisis we have. When they are shutting down factories but giving out bonuses we want to know where that tax money went. There has been some discussion about all the subsidies that the government is giving toward the wrong direction of the car companies; we want to get the lobbyists out. If we had subsidies on energy efficient cars I know everyone here would definitely switch to it if we had a more price friendly solution, I know the majority of Americans would. But unfortunately we are stuck with these small payments that we can get on these huge gas guzzles right now because they want to just get them off the lots and its not fair.”

The crowd is diverse at the Occupy Boston Movement. This is not just a group of young people shouting liberal dogma as some might think. The Tea Party was present at the occupation and welcomed with open arms at the Occupy Movement. Not long ago the Tea Party was angry at the banks, the Tea Party was angry with the Federal Government bailing out corporations that had failed in a free market society — the Tea Party’s early message was eerily the same as those in the Occupy Movement.  Members of the Baby Boomer Generation were on hand, even bankers who worked in the towering buildings surrounding the occupation zone were milling about in the crowd.

A banker, who did not wish to disclose their name or place of business, but passed ‘tent city’ each morning said,

“First and foremost, I am excited about OWS (Occupy Wall Street). I do not think there is a centralized message, but it is starting the discussions I have been talking about for years. I do not think this is a movement against banks. It is a movement for the common man. People are frustrated and feel cheated. I do see a parallel to the Tea Party in sentiment of gripes, but not in the demands. Tea Party people want their country back and government to leave their money alone. The OWS people want our country back and assistance for the masses, aka, the 99%. It is really the same old conservative VS liberal divide. Conservatives don’t care about people they don’t know, or at least are not able to relate to, liberals care about people they have never met and are different.”

The discussions that that particular banker had been talking privately about for years are right on par with issues of importance to the members of the Occupy Movement:

– College debt is an absolutely massive problem. Education is essential to ascend the social ranks. It is virtually impossible to go to college without taking out crippling debt in the form of student loans.

– Corporate money now has no limit. Lobbyists always have had their ways in Washington DC. This is the beginning of a whole new era. Corporate responsibility is to the shareholder not the public and this will lead to structural political changes.

– Unemployment, with specific emphasis on the young and minorities.

– Underemployment. Too many people are working three service industry jobs and not developing their skills and knowledge. We are losing critical development years from a generation that will impact us decades from now.

– The American Dream is dead for many.

The American Dream is dead for many —maybe, but before a funeral is held what would the American Dream look like now? A house with a white picket fence and a shiny new American built Ford in the driveway; yes that was the American Dream for the Baby Boomers Generation, defined as people born after World War II during the post war baby boom in the 1960s and 1970s. But, sadly that is not the American Dream anymore, assuming an American Dream is still alive. For Millennials, also known as Generation Y and mostly recognized as the children of the Baby Boomers, the American Dream is surrounded by fog and filled with shattered hopes.

In order to get the house you need to have a job and the Millennials cannot just go out and get a job in these times. When a Millennial does get a job the majority of the Millennials are saddled with such high education debt, an education that is needed in order to get the job, a home in the suburbs, once seen at the heart of the American Dream, is now out of reach. Add to this the fact that the Millennials witnessed the loss of wealth of their parents, people and role models who had supposedly achieved the American Dream only to have it ripped away, and you are left with a very confused, bitter, and lost generation.

There is a growing generational divide between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials and it can be seen clearly at the Occupation Movements. Case in point, a business man in his late 50s, waiting for his wife so they could go to dinner, walked down to the Occupation in Boston site to get some answers and had some words to say,

Answers? I can’t get any. What I did hear was that people who make money, over $250 thousand are not evil, but damn near it. I’m curious because I thought if you worked hard in America you can make it. So why are people who are young not willing to give it a shot? I worked every menial job there is, there is no shame in hard work, so why don’t people do that? Am I wrong, are people expecting to get what took twenty five years to get and get in only a few? I got where I am by working hard for years, back then I certainly wouldn’t have had the time to come, I would have looked at passing from one job to another.”

Interesting points, but it does illustrate the generational divide. Yes, at one time an American could work hard and make it, but it is harder than ever now to do that. The once admired factory jobs have all been shipped overseas and there is no such thing as corporate loyalty anymore – corporate employees are just numbers these days. The people who support the Occupation Movement are not slackers, they are people who have been working hard, they are not expecting to get high paying jobs right off the bat—but they are expecting to get some jobs and they are not.

Yes, years ago you could work three service jobs and get by, but not anymore. Food prices have increased, rent has increased, cloths are more expensive, the price of everything has gone up and the wages paid to people have not kept up. Families are losing their homes, shops are closing, and people are filing for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the people responsible for the economic collapse, and loss of some 20% of the nation’s wealth, got a second chance in the form of a bailout footed by tax dollars. The Millennials see their future dimming while some groups within the Baby Boomers are sitting by wondering what all the commotion is about—they cannot relate because they have been outside the rat race for so long. Times have sure changed and not for the better.

A hope that is shared is that the Baby Boomer Generation will see how different things are now, how much the American dream has been lost for their children.  Let’s face it, it is the Baby Boomers who are doing most of the hiring in this nation, and if they see young people as simply not willing to work for “it” and that negative view gets reflected in the hiring process, then things are only going to get worse.

How long the Occupation Movements will last is anyone guess. The protestors in Boston have no intentions of leaving and the same can be said for New York. One interesting factor that will indeed test the strength of the Occupation Movements will be the impending winter. A Northeastern winter is nothing to mess with, especially if your only shelter is a tent. If these movements that originated on the East Coast can survive the winter in Boston, and especially in New York, than the sky is the limit as to what changes the Occupy Movement might bring.

In the meantime the protests are spreading and more and more coverage from the media is occurring. As for the overall feeling at the Occupy Boston zone one protestor, who been camping out for five days, said best,

Compassion. I thought it was dead, I thought it was gone. I know in government it’s gone, but in Boston its kicking ass.”

 

Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail.

 

Andrew Meggison

Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor's Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master's Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison