October 26, 2011

Jobs and the Counter Protest that Wasn't

My favorite part of the Occupy DC General Assembly was the announcements. During the day it was hard to tell what was going on, and the voting on proposals part of General Assembly was enormously frustrating (more on that later), but the announcements were great. We heard about the things that were going well - the speakers who were going to come visit and teach us about protest techniques, the victories from marches we'd participated in, and best of all, the counter protestors who were coming to visit us! We were invited to join a Welcoming Committee, to make sure they felt included and informed.

Sadly, the counter-protest never happened. The goal was to hand out job applications to occupiers. Of course, many of the occupiers have jobs and are in school; the rest of them can't find jobs, because there's an 11% unemployment rate in the DC area.

One of the demands I've heard thrown out by the protestors is a living wage for everyone (I can't cite that, of course, because they don't have an official set of demands, but it's an interesting ideas.) Which I take to include people working part-time and people who are unemployed.

I don't think the 53%-ers would like this. Bootstraps, man! They work five jobs and have no insurance and THEY DON'T BLAME ANYONE! So if they don't get a living wage, why should some unemployed person? They'd be freeloading, and if America hates anything, it's the idea that undeserving people might get some sort of help from the good hard-working bootstrappers.

But honestly, the idea of freeloaders really doesn't bother me. Even if the occupiers were all unemployed slobs who just wanted to live in the park and be pissed off for a while (which they're not, it should go without saying,) I would much rather they have access to health care and food and shelter than not. A living wage would provide these things! I'd rather risk some free loaders and have everyone healthy than deny benefits because someone might free load and have people suffer.

I mean, not that we can fix everything. Of course not. But I'd rather err on the side of helping people and trusting that they're not trying to screw people over than not. I don't know how much of a viable political position that is, but that's how I would like to think about things.

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