Saturday, October 15, 2011
Breaking Down #OccupyWallstreet
I'm not entirely certain when I first heard about Occupy Wall Street. But, as I've done some research on the movement, I've come to some preliminary conclusions.
Fundamentally, I think I understand why folks are occupying Wall Street (why they are occupying Saskatoon--my city--is another entirely different subject). Let me rephrase that. I think there are two competing ideas at play; one of those ideas I agree with and the other I don't.
At the root of the movement, I believe, is a deep-felt, guttural yearning for justice. Banks that got trillions in bail-out dollars from the US government have literally done nothing. Yes, banks were in trouble. But what of the home-owner who owed the bank not trillions of dollars but thousands of dollars, what for them? Nothing. And, did the banks--the same banks that had just been bailed out--show any leniency? Any mercy? Did they reciprocate and extend credit to the homeowner who suddenly found him/herself unable to pay their mortgage? No, they didn't.
This all happened three years ago. I questioned the wisdom of the US government giving the banks trillions of dollars. And, when very shortly after those same banks gave their executives bonuses in the millions while not extending credit to anyone, I too thought not only is that not fair, it isn't right. There was outrage everywhere. Did they give the money back? Nope, it was contractual they said. They were obligated to honour the deals that had been made prior to receiving the bailout money.
And so what did the government do? Nothing. That it has taken three years for the Occupy Wall Street movement to get going perhaps speaks to the American ideal. Perhaps somewhere they hoped that the promise of "Yes We Can" would eventually become a reality. It hasn't. So, people are calling for change. The governments role is to ensure justice. They have abdicated that responsibility and the people are saying, "no more."
There's an old story about this sort of injustice. In this story there was a man who owed a king millions of dollars and couldn't pay. The king was going to sell the man, his wife and his children into slavery to pay off the debt. But, the man begged for a bit more time to pay his debt. The king relented and completely forgave the debt and sent him off--a free man.
Now, this man in turn was owed a few thousand dollars by another servant. He went to the servant grabbed him by the throat and demanded all his money instantly. The servant, couldn't pay and begged for a little more time to come up with the money. But, the first man wouldn't give him any more time and threw him in jail until he came up with the money he was owed.
Now, some friends of the recently imprisoned man, thought this was a pretty rotten deal and they went to the king to let him know what was happening. The king immediately called the first man into his throne room. He said, "Who do you think you are? Did I not just forgive your debt of MILLIONS of dollars? Shouldn't you have shown your servant the same mercy that was shown to you and forgiven his debt? So, the king then threw the man into prison until he came up with all the money he owed."
Jesus told this parable to his disciples and if you want the unparaphrased version you can find it in Matthew 18: 21-35. The king is the government of the day. The banks are the man who owed millions. The homeowners are the servants. The friends are #OccupyWallStreet. Will the US government do what is right? Will they FINALLY hold the banks to account for their mistreatment of the American public? Time will tell. Kings knew that ultimately you had to rule fairly or there would be revolt. The same holds true for any government.
Now, I believe there are a second group of people in the Occupy Wall Street movement as well--perhaps moreso here in Canada where the issues of the US don't apply as our government had put in place measures to hold the banks to account. But, there is a measure of people in the Occupy Wall Street movement that see what the rich have and are coveting. Thou shalt not covet. I have no respect for that. We all need to work for everything we get and shouldn't expect any handouts along the way.
I think though, for the most part, that the Occupy Wall Street movement--at least the part I sympathize with--isn't about redistribution of wealth. It is about justice. It is about friends--community--coming to the government and saying, "Hey, you bailed out the banks, but they've done NOTHING for us...nothing for our neighbours--they are taking our homes, they are taking our businesses...that's not right. We want JUSTICE."
It is now up to the government to show its true colours. Are they really a government of the people, by the people and for the people? Or are they a government owned by corporations and banks?