Occupy Wall Street is no longer a local movement. What started as a protest against the greed of the financial industry has become a series of protests in over 1,000 cities across the globe. Without a unified agenda and, so far, without a list of demands, the protesters are generally fed up with everything - high levels of unemployment, the high cost of college tuition, the loss of their homes, and a growing income inequality.
Journalists, media experts, politicians, and others wonder how long the protest can continue and whether they'll help change anything. Several cities have begun to crack down on the protesters who are camping on public and private parks in what's starting to look as an ever morphing, never-ending sit down. And, although it's true that in the end protesting for the sake of protesting may not accomplish much, even at this point of the process I'm in awe of what's happening. People are finally so tired of not being heard that they are putting their bodies where their mouths are: They are sleeping in tents for weeks on end. (Can you hear me now?)
The courage that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are showing, however, should be a wake up call for all of us. For years, many Latinos have quietly put up with a growing level of dissatisfaction with how things are going for our community. In our own way, many of us have been complacent or have made complacency possible.
Perhaps you have started to believe that there are few opportunities for you to grow in a corporation and you haven't done anything to change that, or you have failed to raise your voice when another group needed support. Maybe you have realized that Hispanics were being unfairly targeted by predatory financial lenders and failed to bring it up to the appropriate authorities. Maybe there is a lot that you could do to reduce the high school dropout rate, but you can't be bothered to add your efforts to those already out there. When you look closely at your actions (and inaction) of the past few years, how many can actually raise their hand and say, "I've done everything within my ability to help fix any one of the issues that affect us today."
The Occupy movement has brought that widespread passivity to a halt. It screams in your face, "Enough of looking the other way when the system is broken, of putting up with things that don't work the way they should in the most powerful nation on the planet. Enough of putting quick band-aids on problems that require radical new thinking such as education and immigration. Enough of staying quiet for fear of disappointing someone or hurting some sensibilities." It's a plea that is hard to ignore.
In the professional sphere I personally translate that plea into: Enough of attending meetings that lead to building a bridge to nowhere, enough of asking what I'm supposed to ask rather than what needs to be asked, enough of praising people who are undeserving of praise, enough of valuing form over substance, enough of accepting good when what is needed is outstanding, enough of enabling people to act as victims when they need to take personal responsibility.
Inevitably, this kind of shift doesn't happen unless a substantial number of leaders put their collective foot down and say enough in unison. But I'm hopeful that we can do it. If there's something that I've learned from the occupiers, it is that the level of interconnectedness being experienced throughout the world can be leveraged to spread new ideas and implement quick changes.
We have some of the best minds and some of the best technology in the world right here at home. There's absolutely no excuse to keep on doing things the old-fashion way just because that's the way they've always been done. Let's use the energy of these protests to fuel our internal boilers. And let's hope that the protesters, who are bringing attention to the unsustainability of the status quo, don't become victims of their own passivity.
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