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Steven Nereo Headshot

The People Have Lost the Power

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AP Photo/Nick Ut

This fall I was in desperate need of a new cell phone because my 2-year-old device was on its last legs. I decided to get an iPhone, but never got around to pre-ordering. Instead I figured I'd wait until the lines died, which they eventually did, leaving me to roll into the store with an online reservation and immediately have a sales associate setting up my new phone.

That's where my master plan all went downhill. Somewhere between Verizon and Apple there was a glitch in the system that took three hours and six next-tiered workers to iron out. I can't really comprehend how I lasted that long, honestly, but the carrot of hope was right in front of me the whole time and it looked delicious.

The only altercation through it all came when I reached the end of my patience on having it explained to me that it was all Verizon's fault. I think the words I used were along the lines of, "I feel like the waitress is telling me the chef sucks, but to me you all just work at the same restaurant." Eventually after much meter-feeding, they sorted it out and I was given the honor of handing over my money with only an already-cracked plastic phone case for my troubles.

I know, "white people problems" as they say. I'm not complaining. My friend was with me and we had a lot of laughs throughout. But listening to several Apple employees explain to me that their product didn't work because their corporate partner was at fault, as if to excuse their responsibility to the situation reminded me of something that I think underlies the entire frustration of those who are occupying parks in protest: The people have lost the power, and they want it back.

I really believe that. We are no longer able to absolutely make the changes around us, as we are all stuck between faulty, faceless, banking systems and a government that no longer represents our interests. My situation at the Apple store was just a light unnoticeable hiccup in terms of human suffering, but as an analogy for the current system, I find it spot on.

The corporate system of this country is set up in such a way that each individual doesn't really matter that much. I could take my business elsewhere -- say AT&T and HTC -- but it would just be a different set of similar problems. Because our customer satisfaction is not based on absolute satisfaction, but instead on a mathematical formula which calculates how much satisfaction is worth their time and money.

It's America, no one is forcing you to buy a phone, dude.

That is true, but at some point you do have to choose between jumping into the system and accepting its punches or opting out all together. The latter a totally noble pursuit, but a difficult -- and possibly lonely -- accomplishment. If you do want in, you just have to except that eventually you're going to feel scammed by a system that you need, but doesn't really need you.

When I read comments of the "get a job, hippies..."-sort I can only think there are two types of 99 percent-ers: Those who have been scammed, and those who the system just hasn't gotten around to shaking down yet, which will come eventually. Because when corporations have no face, they simultaneously posses an infinite appetite.

Back in the beginning / When the ape became a man / 'Round about the time when no one thought of ownin' land / Livin' wasn't easy, but at least a man was free / Free to live his life the way he thought his life should be / Now the people don't have the power to change things anymore / Now the people don't have the power to change things anymore -- Vocal sample from "It's All Over" by The Slew

The people really don't have the power anymore, which I believe is the underlying complaint of the whole movement. And for a country whose Constitution starts with "We the people," that complaint should be troubling for everyone.

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