Occupy Wall Street: A Deeper Problem

Why the 1 percent aren’t the only ones to blame.

What exactly is the purpose of Occupy Wall Street? Apart from a vague sense of it being the liberal progressives’ counterpart to the TeaParty, and a coalition of unionists, anti-capitalists and mad-as-helltwentysomethings angry about the rising cost of Netflix and Facebook’sinfuriating shape-shifting, it’s sort of unclear.

As a “movement,” Occupy Wall Street doesn’t reveal an organizedgrassroots agenda as much as it represents a general climate of anger,frustration and antagonism against the “haves”—a suspiciously narrow(1 percent), heartless, no good very bad group whose entrepreneurial and capitalistic success apparently oppress the 99 percent of us have-nots whoare being unfairly kept from sharing in the 1 percent’s riches.

Mostly, though, Occupy Wall Street represents the natural discontentof an entitled generation raised on the notion that we deserve things,that the government owes us something, that everything we want should be accessible and that somehow we are not responsible if we don’t end upquite as successful in life as we’d hoped. It’s a blame-shiftingproblem. It’s an inability to delay gratification or go without thatwhich we believe is our right or destiny. And it’s a problem both on the micro/individual and macro/government level.

I like Bruce Wydick’s perspective on it for Christianity Today:

Like most protests, the Occupy Wall Street folks arebetter at identifying something that is wrong than identifying a wayforward that is right. But even if the protesters don’t understand muchabout financial economics, they have a clear sense that something iswrong. That something, however, lies deeper than the behavior of arelative handful of Wall Street moguls. That something, I believe, is asense of material entitlement that has crept into the American psyche.This sense of material entitlement has infected our personal choices,our politics and our financial system.

Wydick places the blame not on one entity but on the spirit ofentitlement that pervades both individual Americans and our governmentinstitutions. In his assessment of the side effects of the spirit ofentitlement, he includes the ubiquity of debt, the real estate crash anduncontrolled government spending. “Our financial crisis is a crisis inAmerican values for which we all share blame,” he writes.

The thing is, “sharing blame” is hard for us humans to do. We’reinfinitely averse to admitting our own culpability. In almost anything.Whether it be our own financial hardships, or those of our communities,or the high taxes under which we suffer. … We have to lash out againstsomeone. We have to go occupy something.

As Christians, though, I think we must first and foremost look within for the blame. We must own our share in the mess. Beyond institutionsand hegemonies and Wall Street tycoons, how are we responsiblefor the trouble we’re in? True revolution begins here. True changebegins with what we can actually control: our own lives, an awareness of our weaknesses and potentials, and a commitment to working to improve.

If we have to occupy something, let it be the dominion of our ownculpable Self, the guiltiest of all institutions and the one we arelikeliest to spur toward positive change.

Brett McCracken is the author of Hipster Christianity (Baker, 2010) and a regular blogger. You can also follow him on Twitter: @BrettMcCracken. This article is reprinted from his blog with permission.

Read other thoughts on Occupy Wall Street: What can we learn from the movement's demands for accountability?


Spencer Courtis


Spencer Courtis commented…

Oh the oh so sad and selfish heart of man ...'make all you can, can all you make - and sit on your can.'

Doug Jolly


Doug Jolly commented…

And this reply was clearly written by an MSNBC/CNN/Daily Show"News" zombie. Two can play at that game, pal. And by the way, BOTH the DNC and the GOP will do anything they can to co-opt the Christian vote by claiming to represent Christian values, and BOTH fall well short of the mark.
I know "fair and balanced" is impossible to achieve completely, but you could at least try . . .

Alex Wilgus


Alex Wilgus commented…

Hmm. I think the real problem is a lack of education as to where exactly to take the protests. Everybody seems to have forgotten that we live in probably the only system in the world that will allow such a movement to actually change things, but the protesters are not applying them at the proper pressure points. I think 'Occupy your local legislators' office' might solve more problems than picketing Wall Street for taking tax cuts.


Amelia10001 commented…

"I don't care that 1% owns 40% of the nation's wealth and assets. They
are private citizens andwhat's theirs is their own private
business.They earned it."

Ugh, study economic and political history. Wealth stratification has skyrocketed in the last 30 years as child poverty and wages of the middle class, controlled for inflation has declined. This isn't a bunch of hard working people who earn their money. This is redistribution of wealth earned on the backs of the poor and the middle class. As someone who has worked in poverty and social justice work/movements for 20 years, if you don't link poverty and wealth stratification, you miss the point.

And as a fellow social worker, I gotta say that you really need to check your own ethics and the history of the profession.


Fuckyou commented…

how can i speak to brett directly to dub him a douch bag for bringing religion into this

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