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Hilary Hurst Headshot

The Disappointing Sheen of Occupy Wall Street

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It started for me as a hashtag on Twitter, followed by a set of morning references on NPR and then one long Wikipedia post. It had a name: Occupy Wall Street, the goal-less revolution.

I was initially drawn to the cause, intrigued by the echo of the human microphone and the unspecified goals that united the movement. My experiences growing up in the California Bay Area as a member of a conservative religion built a personality that thrived on this uncouth rebellion that was not actually breaking any rules. I applauded the variety of backgrounds and perspectives represented in this gathering. I felt the movement was validated by the variation of grievances; a glimpse of the "true" voice of the people and not a simple reaction to the Tea Party movement, as some people claimed. With no demands in sight, those not occupying Wall Street spent their time trying to understand the movement and how it was evolving. I saw this as a beautiful example of people ruffling feathers just enough to get everyone talking and, more importantly, listening. I felt like there was more progress towards productive communication than the country has seen in a long time.

Then social media broke my connection with the occupiers. The homemade signs that danced across my Twitter, GoogleReader and Google+ feeds and left me feeling that the group was incapable of producing anything beyond a labyrinth of tents and sleeping bags. Instead of revolutionaries who understood the cause of and believed in a specific fix for their grievances, I saw a mass of upsets more interested in complaining with the group than creating tangible changes for the systems that failed them. I wanted to hear propositions of how America could improve from the people willing to lead us there but all I heard was a whine of dissatisfaction. I was crushed. I want a revolution. I want to see change; long-lasting and deeply resonating. I heard people saying the system had screwed them over. I heard voices talking about the necessary shifts in society that could be achieved if all the occupation effort were put into action.

But I cannot condemn those living under tarps, even though I am disappointed with the direction of the movement. So I wait to see if Occupy Wall Street becomes a valid revolution and I wonder if the occupiers will be able to wait. I believe they can wait out the cold, but will they
be able to wait for the reforms we can only assume they want? Long after they leave the streets, will they continue fighting? Sitting through the cold is easy when compared to the long-term
battle fought through elections and a personal education that spurs honest reflection and ethical decisions. That is where I believe the power to make differences lies and where I believe the most fair and powerful reform must be founded. After Wall Street, we all need to occupy our minds with education and our lives with the fight for our beliefs.