Occupiers have a point: Selfishness and greed

Published 10:33 am Friday, November 18, 2011

By Gordon Larson

Guest Column

The Occupy Wall Street people do have a point — and they themselves best illustrate it by their behavior.

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Maybe you’ve seen pictures or videos of the sites after the groups have been dispatched. No one seems to have volunteered to clean up or organize the area for proper sanitation. Hmmm? And the “poor” kids keep all their friends and family up-to-date with their iPhones. Those phones and their apps cost a pretty penny. I have the most basic phone possible in order to save money. And the job I have is work! It’s darned inconvenient — I start at 4 p.m. and that means I have to keep track of time so I’m not late. Late? You mean I’m responsible for being somewhere on time, daily? What if I’m in the middle of a neat Netflix movie I want to finish so I can discuss it with all my friends? Jeepers, working is so inconvenient sometimes.

Yes, there is homelessness and poverty. Yes, there are greedy rich people to blame. But it’s ridiculous to try place all the blame on Wall Street. Easy, yes. True, no.

Did I have college bills to pay off after graduation? No. Why? I worked a full time job six nights a week to pay my bills, bought all my own clothes and didn’t own a car, even though I needed one. I hitchhiked home to Illinois if I couldn’t get a ride — so trips home were rare. I stayed in the college town to work for the summers between school years. It was lonely at times. When I got married my new inlaws gave us one of their old farm cars. It was my first. I grew up without a car in the house since mom couldn’t afford one. Not one of my older siblings bought a car during high school. We walked. We rode bicycles. We rode the (city) bus to school. Oh, we suffered!

So I want to ask a few questions of the protesters. Do you have a cell phone? Do you have a laptop computer? Do you have cable or satellite TV? Do you have all those extra channels? Do you have a credit card — or more than one? Who pays for that? Did you work during college? Where? How much?

What are you doing with the free time that you do have? Are you involved in any altruistic or charitable organizations? When was the last time you mowed someone’s lawn or raked their leaves for free? Do you help any of your relatives or the elderly? What would you do differently if you could trade places with the 1 percent? What are you doing now?

Do you realize that, compared to the rest of the world, people on welfare in America are better off than a large majority of the rest of the world?

I said that the Occupy Wall Street youngsters have a point. It’s about selfishness. It’s about greed. Their own is as bad as anyone they criticize. Reminds me of the book “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding. Just beneath the surface (in all of us) lurks the “selfish savage.”

Tough times, like hot water to the tea bag, bring out what’s really inside of us. There may be some really good kids caught up in the Occupy Wall Street crowd. They may genuinely care about others who are less fortunate. They may be embarrassed or grieved by the actions of their peers. They ought to courageously speak up. We’re listening for “substance” speech and it’s been drowned out by selfishly savage behavior. We can all do more to help others. Let’s get to it.

Gordon Larson is a freelance writer living in Austin.