Revolution: America, You’re Doing It Wrong

I’m tired of my young friends complaining about “the government” or “the man.” I get. You think you’re oppressed because you have to work to make money. Teens are malleable in opinion and weak in heart when it comes to politics or revolutionary ideas. Some teens were raised from Conservative parents and so endlessly talk about how Obama needs to be “taken out,” that if only someone capable like George W. were again in control, America would be better off. And then the other half keeps bringing up how we’re all the 99% and should “take back” all that money we never made for ourselves from greedy Wall Street bankers.

First off, I don’t agree with everything Obama says, but if I hear another person offer to assassinate him, I will punch him in the face. To claim that Obama and his ideas are “Un-American” would be frivolous, a waste of both of our time. Our nation was established on the principle of compromise so yes, that means other Americans will hold different opinions than you. And you must work together to reconcile them, not “nuke ’em.”

Also, I completely understand how desperately disparate the income gap is. I get it: CEO’s and politicians make way too much money and can deduct way too much from their taxes. Occupy Wall Street may highlight these problems, but it doesn’t do anything about them. In fact, Occupy movements are self-destructive. So… this big wig guy makes more money than you and your entire extended family? How about we camp outside his investment firm and protest? He will definitely care then and then the country will care. We will change everything!

How exactly do you plan to camp out in the streets for weeks and months playing the ukulele? What about going to work? Oh, what’s that? You don’t have a job except for the one that’s “not good enough for you” at a retail store because you got a degree in art history instead of spending those four years at college doing something useful. And because you made that grievous mistake, you want some investment banker to “share the wealth.”

I know that not all protesters are like this. But for those of you who have truly screwed by the system and want to reform, remember who holds your signs and marches with you. It’s sniveling college students with a lot of student debt because they could not stand the thought of NOT going to Stanford for a degree in art history. As if it matters where that sort of degree comes from.

We’ve known forever we’ve been getting screwed over. Our system is more twisted than a Canadian contortionist. But all this talk about “Revolution” is a lot of hot air. That’s not what revolution looks like. Not if you just sit there. And I get that Martin Luther King achieved with peace (I’m not saying resort to violence), but he had a more united cause. Wall Street protesters suffer from this disease of disjointedness. Some want socialism, some want freedom, others free money. But it is not a united cause.

Instead, recent grad students who are forced to work at Kroger realized it would look cool to protest like the Egyptians or other revolting countries. Why can’t America be like them?

Part of the reason is because we’ve already gained democracy. We’ve not ACTUALLY oppressed except by greed. The government is not holding your head under the water. You are free to make money and take part in business. Where you come from partly can hinder you, but don’t tell me it’s impossible. Just because some jerk with lots of money succeeded because of his daddy’s contributions doesn’t mean you can’t succeed as well.

One last thing before I go, American revolutionaries. Right now, millions of internet users are patting each other on the back for snuffing out the fire called SOPA and calling arms for ACTA. Look, they contest, we paid attention to what the government was doing and changed it! Well, good job! You allowed Wikipedia and Google to thrust fear into your hearts so you could act in their better interests. Not that I agreed with SOPA, but you just bent your will to another kind of corporation. This so-called upheaval of anger did not occur until a few days before the act was supposed to be passed.

The act was introduced at the end of October and for a little while, I remember some people from the music industry discussing it. Some authors discussed it. But no one cared. No one cared till websites that would be affected took to the interwebs to warn its users. And then people got up in arms about the acts SOPA and PIPA infringing on our creative licenses… and how it showed unfair the justice system was becoming. Which is good, because that act did not bode well.

What I mean is, when you allow corporations to lead you into revolutionary battle, you’re not exactly going to get a government that is run by and for the people. Instead, you increase the control of corporations. America, you’re doing everything wrong. Don’t kill anyone. Don’t sit on your laurels. And although the internet is a great tool for spreading ideas, you won’t change anything drastically by just sitting there. Engage in conversations outside of the safe walls of the internet where you can be anonymous.

Rise in a different way. If you want to boost this economy, you should not be camping in Wall Street. You should be pursuing an actual job.

Actually pay attention to what your country is doing instead of waiting for the next internet protest to begin, following any “radicals” like lemmings. You are not a lemming. You are an American. And you can be a revolutionary.

Look at what happened during the French Revolution: it looked like a great idea, everyone was getting involve, and fun was had by all until they began lopping off heads in a guillotine. To mindlessly protest against the government is just as bad as mindlessly agreeing with it. you’re just falling prey to another sort of beast.

If you march up and down the street chanting “I am the 99%,” it only means someone else has been able to use you for their ultimate goal. Decide on your own ideas and then start the revolution. If you’re going to fight, fight for what YOU believe. And if you believe in the ideals of Occupy Wall Street (as scattered as they are), then march. If not, keep fighting your own fight.

If I work and you protest, we’re not both together as the 99%. You assume everyone in that vast majority of Americans thinks it is a good idea. But if you WORK to improve the economy and elect officials that actually share your views, you can make a real difference.

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About Derek Berry

Derek Berry is a novelist and spoken word poet. Derek is the author of Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). He co-founded and organizes The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based out of Charleston, SC, which provides an intendent home for the poetic arts through regular readings, workshops, and community fundraisers. He is on the Executive Board of the Charleston Poetry Festival, the inaugural production of which will be Fall 2017. His work has appeared in The Southern Tablet, Cattywampus, Charleston Currents, Illuminations, RiverSedge, and other journals.He has performed in venues across the United States and Germany. He has worked as a photographer’s assistant, busboy, and bookseller. He currently works at a curation facility for Cold War History.

Posted on January 26, 2012, in Controversy, Government, Internet, News, Politics, Revolution, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. So much in this post, Derek.

    There was a time when threatening or disrespectful remarks about the President were considered acts of sedition. We’ve lost the ability to civilly disagree, and that concerns me deeply.

    Your point about blindly following protest movements is well-articulated and I agree. It’s like getting a tattoo to be “different” when everyone in your peer group (and beyond) has a tattoo. Not having one is more “different” than having one.

    People act when they feel personally affected (threatened). When I learned of the SOPA Act by listening to an NPR piece and they spoke of how it might effect bloggers, I perked up. I wish it weren’t so, but I don’t have the time, expertise, or will to plow through all the pending legislation out there and ask my representatives to vote yea or nay on each one. Although I’ve contacted my representatives many times over the years on all kinds of issues (environmental, educational, human services, privacy rights, animal rights,…).

    The one thing I can say about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that has made a difference is that it raised awareness of the multiplicity of social problems that are epidemic in our society. At least we’re talking about things that we weren’t talking about before. Any time that a group of citizens, no matter how rag-tag and disorganized, can raise the level of public discourse to focus on what needs to be fixed (even if they can’t offer solutions), then something good has happened.

    I’m always impressed with the depth of your insights for such a young man. Well done, Sir!

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