Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Occupational Hazard

I've been struggling to understand the strategy of the people occupying Wall Street and elsewhere. I'm told there is a strategy, that there are goals -- 50 of them. I argue that that's too many, that this all-inclusiveness is a form of wishywashiness that won't lead to anything.

I suggest that those who are working hard, grateful to have jobs wonder why these people aren't doing something more useful with their time, whether it's inventing the next industry, creating some kind of expression on the Internet that they can monetize or collecting signatures for an initiative or politician-recall.

I suggest that they draw from grocery store unions (strike at Ralphs but not Safeway) or JFK (we will put a man on the moon) or Republican Warmongers (Iraq is the enemy) - you only spur action when you lead with a bold vision, divide and conquer or create a common enemy.

Even Ghandi had a goal in mind when he started his hunger strike. And to quote him: "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

And I'm vilified for it - that they can't focus on health care, they can't focus on unemployment, they can't focus on corporations who utilize loopholes to avoid taxes, they can't focus on the government itself. They can't focus on freedom of speech, they can't focus on the right to peaceful assembly. So they stay mad, they stay unfocused and those of us on the other side are left scratching our heads.

It's not that we don't want to understand. Me, personally, I'm grateful for my job. My job depends on a strong economy. I work for an at-will employer. I could be out of work tomorrow. That's probably not going to happen, but anything is possible. (For that matter, there could be an earthquake tonight that flattens me and my house.)

But I really struggle with a group that can't clearly articulate its position, its demands, its goals. I live in a world where we measure lots of stuff... scorecards, SMART Goals, income-to-cost, return-on-investment, campaign effectiveness, etc., etc., etc. And you better believe that everything we do is about raising more funds while spending less and less on overhead - doing more with less, helping more children. Of course, along with those metrics are visions, values and missions - strong leadership that points in the direction we should head so that we all know we're little tugboats all pulling in the same direction. (Our desires to change the direction of the entire boat is separate discussion.)

So why isn't this group working carefully with the media to articulate their goals? The media loves to rabble-rouse, the media loves sensationalism. But from what I've seen, the media is just as confused as the rest of us about what's going on.

Or why don't the divide-and-conquer or define a common enemy. Did you know that banks don't pay property taxes on foreclosed homes? There's no incentive for them to unload them at the prices people are willing to pay these days. But that's just what this economy needs, home prices that are realistic. So let's take one bank. Here's a good target Bank of America. They're about to start charging for debit cards. That's outrageous. And you know that if they are successful with it, the other greedy banks will follow suit. There are plenty of better banks out there. Like every single credit union. So what if this occupy group were to wage war on Bank of America? It's really in bad shape now... it's just dropped 30,000 employees and it just had to get a big cash infusion from Warren Buffet to prop it up. I guess that's where it gets sticky, Buffett does want to see taxes changed. Maybe this could send him a message - if Bank of America were crashed, he'd lose out. Or maybe it would help light a fire under Buffett to work harder to change the laws.

We want a good story.

Who doesn't want to root for the underdog standing up to the man?
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