Occupy yourself

Occupy Harvard protests are a revealing contradiction

“No entry without a Harvard ID,” I was told by a police officer. And I was not alone — this was the response that hundreds of tourists received when they tried to walk through Harvard Yard last week.

As the Occupy Wall Street movement spreads across America and continues to grab front page headlines, protests have steadily appeared on college campuses across the nation. Now, the protests have reached Cambridge, and Harvard students have set up their bright orange tents in support of “the 99 percent.” It is ironic that the Harvard students are participating in “Occupy Harvard,” since they are essentially protesting themselves. It is clear that they are part of the malevolent “one percent” their Occupy movement is battling.

Supposedly built on a platform against corporate greed and social inequality, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement describes themselves as “the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the one percent.” Riding on the waves of the Arab Spring, the OWS protests began in New York’s Zuccotti Park this past September and have subsequently emerged in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Oakland, and Boston.

Unfortunately, the Occupy movement has not been an organized or coherent exercise. Instead, it has been plagued by disorderly conduct and raucous behavior, with protests ending in dozens of arrests and injuries. On a whole, it has largely been comprised of protesters angry at an ominous, faceless, and all-powerful corporate greed that is allegedly at the root of America’s troubles.

And what about the capitalist principles our nation was founded upon or the reckless borrowing by thousands of middle-class Americans that contributed to the debt crisis? That is irrelevant to the Occupy movement. As a now-famous YouTube video demonstrated, the protesters want their college expenses paid for “because that’s what they want.”

Now the students at Harvard are clamoring for the opportunity to jump on the grievance train that is the Occupy movement. Unfortunately, Occupy Harvard could never be a true battle for social equality, since Harvard is the embodiment of privilege and opportunity. A Harvard student is either paying over $50,000 per year to attend or have received financial aid to mitigate that cost. In the case of the former, they are certainly part of the one percent, and in the latter, the system being so vehemently opposed by Occupy Harvard is generously paying for their education.

This is not to say that the qualms raised by OWS should be completely ignored — it is true that America is facing extremely difficult economic times, and that something needs to be done to jump-start our economy. We should not ignore the people across our nation who are suffering from the economic downturn and need relief quickly. This does not mean, however, that blame should be heaped solely, and unfairly, onto one economic layer of our society.

If we are to truly get out of this recession, we need to work to occupy ourselves. As individuals, college students, and Americans, we need to make sure that we are as responsible, resourceful, and introspective as possible. The Occupy movement shrugs aside personal responsibility and scapegoats “the one percent,” and this is not an attitude that will strengthen America.

1 Comment
Anonymous over 11 years ago

The reality is that social movements, outside of revolution, require that the elite adopt the ideas. Anti-slavery, civil rights, etc. all require the intellectual elite's help. Being rich isn't really the problem, it's gaining wealth through manipulation of government (laws and taxation) that most are protesting.