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12 23Tue11252014

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Back Island Stir ‘You say you want a revolution’

‘You say you want a revolution’

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THAT, of course, is the famous first line of the classic 1968 Beatles song “Revolution” – an anthem which defined the social and political upheavals of the ‘60s.

The current Occupy Wall Street movement, which has since spread to other states in the mainland, is now being compared to the unrest of the '60s.

Just like the occupation of Columbia University in 1968, the current Occupy Wall Street movement is being seen as an extension of previous protests of the American left.

Upon closer examination, however, nothing can be further from the truth.

For one thing, the '60s protests were more far-reaching and more, ummm, intellectual.

The issues during the '60s ranged from the war in Vietnam, race relations, rights of women, civil rights, and sexual mores to environmentalism, experimentation with drugs, and differing interpretations of the American Dream.

The current protest is more ambiguous, with no focus on specific issues, except for a vague general perception of inequality in the American economy. Not, mind you, the kind that genuinely sympathizes with the poor in society, but more of the “I want to enjoy the lifestyle of the rich and famous too.”

Perhaps it is a generational thing. The young people in America today have been raised at a time of plenty, and it is only during the last three years really, when America came close to recession, that their comfortable lifestyles have been endangered.

For these people, the American fantasy that all people in the states are middle class still holds true. There is a sense of entitlement in this generation and they become frustrated when they do not get it and reality sets in.

It is interesting to note that while the Wall Street occupiers are protesting capitalism, they also walk about with all the accouterments of a capitalistic society – designer clothes, the latest smart phones and high-tech cameras.

One report cited a CNN interview where one news hound was randomly asking questions to different people. When a young stylishly dressed lady was asked what she would do if one of those Wall Street masters of the universe came down and offered her an entry-level job, she answered: “No, I get enough to live on right now. I am here to get more.”

One protester positively bristled when an interviewer asked him whether, as a member of the working poor, he felt disenfranchised. "We are not the working poor,” the young man, who probably felt insulted, said haughtily. “We are professionals.”

Such is the current weltanschauung of the current movement.

One similarity between the two movements is the presence of a large number of students. But while the '60s activists were willing to risk everything for their ideals, the current students simply want to get jobs and get on with their lives.

In fact, one of the side stories of the current protest are the students who have had to take on tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars in student loans and now have nothing to look forward to.

After finishing their expensive degrees, the cushy high-paying jobs they were expecting simply weren't there when they graduated. Thus, they are already mired in debt even before starting their professional lives.

This has resulted in a backlash against college education. One Internet billionaire has even offered to give money to young people, not for college scholarships, but for them to start their own businesses.

The recent death of Steve Jobs, one of the most famous and spectacularly successful college dropouts in the world, has only reinforced the belief that a college degree may no longer be relevant in today's world.

If today's protesters are to make a real impact in improving their lot and changing how the U.S. economy is run at present, they must look beyond mere frustration at the lack of career opportunities.

They must analyze the problem as a whole and look at the entire system that has contributed to the mess which the American economy is in right now.

What is it about current government policies that make unemployment so high? Why is there such a disparity between the haves and have-nots in America? What has contributed to the current economic malaise of the U.S.?

The protesters should go more deeply into these issues, think at a more macro level, and have a more focused goal. Only with a deeper grasp of the issues can they become true agents of change.

Otherwise, all of this is just radical chic.

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