The same criticisms of the now-global Occupy Wall Street movement are appearing over and over in the press and elsewhere. So here, for the occupation-al health of the growing number of people sympathetic to the cause, are the top 10, with 10 appropriate responses, to get you through the weekend.
1. Criticism: The Occupiers are unfocused; they're merely expressing a general malaise.
Response: Malaise, by definition, is unfocused, but that doesn't mean the problems behind it don't exist.
2. Criticism: They're a bunch of ragtag citizens with no political experience – they don't have any workable solutions.
Response: They're a bunch of ragtag citizens with no political experience – I don't know why anyone would expect them to have any workable solutions.
3. Criticism: Many of the protesters appear to be middle-class.
Response: True. But this is partly the fault of the middle class, who insist on dressing very poorly. The rise of the $8 sweatshirt, and the fact that it's now socially acceptable for grown, gainfully employed people to dress like six-year-olds, means almost everyone looks “middle-class.” Poverty doesn't look like a Walker Evans print any more.
There is a distinct lack of tattered gingham and aprons at the protests. In fact, there has been more of that on the runways in the past five years than there has been in the soup kitchens. But that doesn't mean poverty doesn't exist.
Besides, I'm not sure what's wrong with middle-class people protesting against their own declining fortunes. Average people are the backbone of most social movements.
One thing that's often misunderstood about the Occupy slogan “the 99 per cent” is that it doesn't refer to income, but to wealth – specifically, the idea that 35 to 50 per cent of America's wealth is in the hands of 1 per cent of the population. Many forms of wealth aren't realized as income until they're cashed in; they're separate measures.
The Wall Street Journal this week created a handy “What per cent are you?” calculator, but because it was based on household income, it was calculating a different thing entirely, and so concluded that “the bottom 99 per cent … includes pretty much everyone who makes less than $500,000 a year.” If there'd been boxes to enter your stock holdings and your properties in offshore tax havens, that would be getting closer. Most middle-class people don't have those kinds of assets.
All that said, many wealthy people support Occupy as well (look for tattered gingham).
4. Criticism: Drum circles.
Response: You got me there.
5. Criticism: Blond dreadlocks.
Response: Don't get me started.
6. Criticism: The Occupy protesters have jobs. So what are they complaining about?
Response: According to a study conducted at the Zuccotti Park protest site in New York by Penn Schoen Berland, 15 per cent of the protesters are jobless while a further 18 per cent consider themselves underemployed. Besides, this criticism would hold more water if the next criticism on the list were not …
7. Criticism: The people protesting have no jobs and so have nothing better to do anyway.
Response: Seriously, make up your minds.
8. Criticism: The Occupy protest is too slick, self-aware and overly documented. They have phones! They keep photographing each other!
Response: According to the Pew Research Center, 85 per cent of Americans use a cellphone – if using phones and cameras can delegitimate something today, then all jigs are up (family Christmas party, we've got your number). In fact, if I saw a protest movement dominated by people complaining about not having jobs in the new economy who couldn't operate cellphones, build websites or write some effective catchphrases, I'd decide there was no helping these people.
9. Criticism: The bottom 1 per cent are better off than almost everyone in Bangladesh.
Response: Throw a drink. “There are starving children in Bangladesh” sounded ridiculous when we were children. It doesn't pass as enlightened political commentary now.
10. Criticism: Even if they're justified in the U.S., the Occupy protests are irrelevant to Canada.
Response: Yes, Canada's financial sector is better regulated, which is why somewhat more Canadians than Americans may be in the position of defending Occupy Wall Street over a nice dinner this weekend.
We're Canadian. Arguably, if we had any problems that could be solved by going camping, we'd have solved them by now.
Many Americans are protesting for better regulation and decent health care – essentially demanding the right to be more Canadian. However, we should do that too: Canada's wealth gap is growing. Also we're tied to America's heads-I-win-tails-you-lose banking system.
Besides, we're neighbours, so I say: solidarity.