Occupying the Dream

Posted up in a makeshift hamlet in a neighborhood park in Lower Manhattan, the 99 percent have mobilized in opposition to “the man” and his oppressive capitalist regime. The suits peer down from high-rises with insolent smiles, sipping pinot grigio while lampooning the ongoing spectacle below. This crowd of the 99-percents has garnered quite the roll call of support, from Kanye West to the grand daddy of New Yorkers, Mayor Bloomberg. Their efforts seem almost ubiquitous, permeating the sheets of newspapers everywhere, while copycat movements of solidarity pop up coast-to-coast and across the Atlantic.

Occupy Wall Street is as high-profile as it gets in capitalist America. But, will its prominence in
the media and its support by a wide range of characters necessarily precipitate change, even in
the most minute of measures? With comparisons to the successful Arab Spring movement,
hopes are high for Occupy Wall Street. And, with countless participants across the country, at
least 10,000 in New York City alone
, there’s little wonder why the movement’s optimism for
change is so high.

Thus said, the vilification of the obscenely wealthy one percent may be a tactic perfect for
publicity; but, its utility in sparking systemic change is debatable. There exists in the American
psyche a “stick-it-to-the-man” mentality; and, Occupy Wall Street quite literally manifests this by
taking over the workplaces and neighborhoods of “the man”. In many aspects, however, “the
man” is but a simple delegate for the institution that perpetuates today’s protruding economic
disparities — capitalism.

Embedded ever so finely into the American narrative, the ideals of upward mobility and the self-
made man are arguably facets of capitalist thought that few of the 99 percent will ever
disparage. The few pseudo-socialists within the crowds of Occupy Wall Street may speak up
against the American Dream. But, John Q. in Omaha is far from disillusioned to American
Dream; in fact, John Q. may be utterly enraged by the dishonest institutions of Wall Street
without ever connecting the dots.

These instilled notions of wealth through determination are the very notions that shut down
factories and foreclose homes. The true mechanics of capitalism’s oppressive ways hide behind
“the man”, who serves as both figurehead and scapegoat for an idea that far transcends the
concrete canyons of Wall Street. But ultimately, this desire for revolution lies adjacent to the
American Dream in our national psyche — the idea of dissension being as American as apple
pie.

Whether or not the deafening voices of the mobilizing proxies of the 99 percent make “the man”
shiver in his boots is up for debate; but, Occupy Wall Street’s efficacy in bringing about true,
systemic change is arguably nil because, while the 24-year-old NYU student may be able to
give up hopes of the American Dream, the 45-year-old GM factory worker in Michigan lives a life
predicated on this ubiquitous, yet equally elusive, narrative.

Image courtesy of Atomische and Tom Giebel.  (http://www.flickr.com/photos/atomische/6260402890/)