We Are The One Percent

I knew there was something bothering me about the slogan used in the Occupy Wall Street Protests. Maybe it was when a man burst into a restaurant screaming “$@%& the Patriot Act” – what did the patriot act have to do with the 99%?  Or maybe it was two people, dressed comfortably in coats and shoes, rudely interacting with the immigrant man who runs the fruit stand on the corner as he politely asked them to move away so people could buy fruit. Was I seeing legitimate protesters, passionate for change, or was I seeing anarchists with no real agenda or solutions?  On Sunday I realized that I had not yet identified what really troubled me after a friend posted a challenging picture on her Facebook wall.

We are the 1%. Others do not live like we do in the United States. Remembering the starving babies and toddlers in Pakistan, their bones sticking through translucent, dehydrated skin, their lips puckered at a mom’s empty breast – they are the 99%. Moving on to Somalia, women and children walking towards the borders to escape extremists and famine, a double threat, almost falling to the ground in exhaustion – they are the 99%. Or how about Kolkata, slums burgeoning with people, poverty inescapable.

We, with homes to go to, bikes to ride, ability to protest without fear, heat in the winter, fans in the summer, and lattes once the protest is finished – we are the one percent. Perhaps what we need is to be saved from ourselves.

Bloggers Note: There are legitimate frustrations from the Occupy Wall Street group, and I agree with many of them. The money given to Wall Street was money ill spent. The outrageous salaries and bonuses given to many is mind-boggling. But, just as in public health when we get a message wrong and have to rethink it, as well as rewrite it, in order to get the response we want, I believe the “We are the 99%” messaging needs to be rethought and retooled.

17 thoughts on “We Are The One Percent

  1. I know that we are far better off than most people in our world, but If we let the rich and republicans in our country do what they want, the US will also become a 3rd world country and we will end up like the poor in 3rd world countries too. that is why protests like Occupy wall street are needed. we don’t want to end up like that!

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  2. I know that we are far better off than most people in our world, but If we let the rich and republicans in our country do what they want, the US will also become a 3rd world country and we will end up like the poor in 3rd world countries too. that is why protests like Occupy wall street are needed. we don’t want to end up like that!

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  3. no of us can lose sight of that global perspective. i appreciate your commenting at my site and offering it here.

    i see OWS and concern for global poverty as both/and and agree with ryan that there are distinct parallels between poverty abroad and corporate greed at home. of course, our own rampant consumerism fuels it, too–something we don’t feel comfortable acknowledging.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Suzannah! The consumerism piece is a whole other conversation and would take a radical cultural shift and change. I’ve been deeply convicted of this in the last year and our budget reflects the conviction, for which I am grateful. I feel I am without excuse because of the worlds I lived in prior to living in the United States.

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  4. Thank you for this truth. I always thought I understood that we are fortunate to be Americans until I went to Africa and what we have is far beyond good fortune. I have to admit that I didn’t understand the privilege of clean water and it is the one thing that can still make tears come to my eyes. In America, no matter how bad our circumstance, we have hope. No matter how difficult the journey or how strong the biases we do have opportunity and I know that the current movements show that.. Until I went to Africa I did not fully understand and today I never forget.

    Thank you again for this post.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and for the insightful comment. It’s funny that you mention water – that hits me as well. I LOVE my daily shower so much! Each day I am so aware of the luxury of the shower! And you are so right, much of the world still sees America as a place for chances, opportunity and hope. Even if they don’t like our politics!

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    1. I feel like I need to continually remember my roots in Pakistan as I take in all that is going around me here in the US. Perhaps you feel that way in Australia?

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  5. Interesting that this post hasn’t gotten a comment yet. I think there is a lot of conflicted feelings; no one wants to sound as if we aren’t for the 99%, lest we seem like an elitist 1%, but I think it isn’t so straightforward. This photo representing a bit broader reality is part of it, I think, and more, but what all is encompassed in the internal
    conflict?

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    1. Lois – read Ryan’s below. He makes some good points. You are right – there are conflicted feelings. When I first heard the slogan I actually liked it. It was as I analyzed it and realized that people who make 500,000 a year are in the 99% and as I thought more about it that I wondered if it wasn’t the best messaging.

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  6. Great point. However, I would argue that the message of the movement is still relevant and needs to be heard. Moreover, many of the reasons for global hunger and poverty stem from corporate greed and unfair debt practices at the expense of emerging markets. For instance, the IMF and the World Bank are unwilling to forgive debt and corporations often source their labor to third world countries in order to keep profit margins sky high. Outsourced labor > indebted poverty > the loss of American jobs. If anything, I think the two causes are inherently related. Regardless, your post serves as a great reminder that there is a world of hurt out there and that we are greatly privileged.

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    1. Ryan – thank for reading and bringing this up.I was travelling to Seattle so haven’t had a chance to respond until now. Maybe what troubles me is the messaging. Can that be retooled? And if so what would it be? I also realize with the examples I gave that any movement can have people that don’t reflect the views of the majority. Would love for you to talk to our World Bank friend – Marcelo, a street kid from Argentina now who has been with the World Bank for years. He is an interesting guy and periodically writes for the Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcelo-giugale If you’re ever in DC let us know. He’s great about meeting with people and provides for good debates.

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