I love when people exercise their civil rights and get involved: freedom of speech, the right to organize, and a culture that accepts diverse beliefs. I have great respect for the many social movements in this country. I applaud the Occupy Wall Street movement’s vigorous use of our great freedoms and its reminder to the nation that we are a diverse and divergent people who live with remarkable privilege. There’s nothing worse than an apathetic culture of complaint where people fail to engage in the political process.
But while I applaud its efforts, I just can’t fully get behind the Occupy movement. And here’s why.
Breach of Faith
I don’t play the blame game.
Years ago at the Remodeling Big50 an enthusiastic speaker left me with a memorable image. He stood in front of the audience, crossed his arms with index fingers rigidly pointing to either side, and said, “This is the coat of arms at our company: ‘It’s their fault.’”
We love to complain that homeowners only value cost per square foot and not the quality craftsmanship and commitment to service that we offer. Don’t homeowners understand that we pay fair wages and run responsible companies?
Seriously though, why should we expect any less when we, too, fail to show equal regard for our fellow American workers?
The 99% have collectively expressed what matters most: Cheap Stuff. And we have collectively screwed one another over. Rather than owning two pairs of shoes made by the talent down the street for $400 apiece or a dress shirt costing $250, we fail to support American workers by shopping primarily based on price.
Perhaps even worse, we are all too happy to acquire products without caring about the substandard conditions of workers in lands unseen. We plug in our latest electronic gadgets without a thought for the thousands of deaths per watt from coal-produced energy or the mercury that’s polluting lakes and streams.
Here is my hypothesis. The Occupy movement is mad because we lied to each other. There has been a breakdown in human faith. Trust, the hardest thing to earn, has been lost. The Great American Experiment is more fragile than we thought. It turns out that our greed, selfishness, and entitlement are too much for it to bear. It stumbled when we convinced ourselves that the opportunity to make an honest dollar was not enough and we chose to profit at the expense of our fellow Americans, and worse yet, at the expense of those with less freedom and liberty than we have. We, the 99%, should be ashamed of ourselves.
Occupy your life with something other than finger-pointing and complaining. Become a force for positive change. Vote with your dollars. Be the change you seek in others. And remember: Humanity is your family and this planet is your home.
—Michael Anschel is owner and principal of Otogawa-Anschel Design Build, serves on the board of Minnesota Greenstar, and is CEO of Verified Green. firstname.lastname@example.org