On Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and Steve Jobs

I had another post planned for today, but after reading a recent story this morning, and hearing last night of Steve Job’s death, I decided to postpone that post to Monday, and have a long, jumbled conversation about some seemingly unrelated topics.

If you can hang on to the end, I promise there is some method in the madness.

Photo courtesy of guardian.uk.co

I had been relatively unaware of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests going on in New York City, until I followed up on a couple of stories this morning about these protests.

This thing confuses me, if I am being perfectly honest.  Maybe my perspective is incomplete, and folks that check this blog can help to educate me.  Really, I invite it.  Until then, I want to share my confused perspective on this event (or events, as it appears they are traveling to other areas).

First, I don’t know what these protestors want.  Here are some quotes from participants:

“We are here to support this movement against Wall Street’s greed,” he said. “We support the idea that the rich should pay their fair share.” – Victor Rivera, a vice-president for the …1199 Service Employees International Union

“Banks got bailed out, and we got sold out.” – Students banging on drums made of water jugs
“The state of education in our country is ridiculous,” said Kingsbury, who plans to teach. “The state doesn’t care about it and we need to fight back about that.” – Danielle Kingsbury, a 21-year-old senior from New Paltz
Here is an early list of “demands” posted on a website that gained some traction:

“Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending “Freetrade” by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.

Demand two: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.

Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

Demand four: Free college education.

Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.

Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.

Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America’s nuclear power plants.

Demand eight: Racial and gender equal rights amendment.

Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.

Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.

Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the “Books.” World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the “Books.” And I don’t mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.

Demand twelve: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.

Demand thirteen: Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.

These demands will create so many jobs it will be completely impossible to fill them without an open borders policy.”

Here is a more “formalized” and “official” list of demands for Congress.

One of the things that has come about from the protests is a comparison to the Tea Party movement, which began prior to the 2010 congressional elections.  Similarities include: 1) Grassroots development 2) No established leadership 3) Common goals.

I will admit that these similarities exist, however, I am less convinced of #3.  I would wager that if you asked anyone identifying as a “Tea Partier” what the goals or ideals of the Tea Party were, I would venture a guess that 95% (admittedly, a made up statistic) would reply 2 things: “Less government and lower taxes”.  I do not get that impression from the Wall Street protests.

What impression I do get is that people are unhappy, upset, and want things to change.

This is not a bad thing.  At all.  I feel their frustration.  Sometimes (maybe many times) things don’t appear fair or just or equitable.  Sometimes corporations lay people off.  Sometimes they open businesses in other countries.  We can spend days discussing the reasons why or the solutions to solve it, but, to be perfectly honest, that detracts from the actual conversation that needs to be had.

This brings me to my third point of the day: The death of Steve Jobs.

Photo courtesy of thisismynext.com

There has been a lot posted in the last 12-14 hours about his passing, but I think his story has more to do with this day in age than people are giving him credit for, and not just for the impact of his inventions.  Let me share with you some facts about Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs did not complete college.  He dropped out of college after 6 months.  He credits a calligraphy class as the foundation of his conceptualization of elegance in the development of products.

Steve Jobs began Apple Computers with 2 things: A parter that believed in the idea and his garage.

Steve Jobs took that company and turned a sizable profit relatively quickly.

Steve Jobs was kicked out of the company that he founded.

Steve Jobs was asked to return to that company and in 15 years built it to be the largest valued company in the United States, valued at 351 billion dollars, and is second in the world, just behind Exxon/Mobile.

(Just a side note, I wonder how many protesters are listening to their favorite music on an ipod, or communicating their minute by minute tweets and communication on iPhones or iPads … but I digress)

My point is this:

Be angry and frustrated with the state of the economy or government.

Be angry and frustrated, but don’t forget that you can make a difference.  You can build revenue.  You can start a business.  You can be educated (even without going to college).  You can create something that wasn’t there before. 

Do you think that Steve, at age 25, would be with them on Wall Street?  I don’t think so.  You see, Steve didn’t care about that stuff.  Don’t believe me?  Hear it from him:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

The American dream is, and always will be about looking to the horizon, seeing an undeveloped plot of land and making something out of it.  Creating value from innovation, creativity, drive, and perseverance.

It is not about forcing people to give you a job because you think that because they have money it is their duty to do so.

And I have credibility to say that.  I have been laid off.  I have been laid off when my wife was 2 weeks from delivering our second child and with a brand new mortgage to pay for.

I have been there.

I am the child of two parents who lost a family business when I was 10 years old and were left surprisingly unemployed, who, instead of being angry and stagnant, instead worked in any way they could, and built new careers when the old ones went away.

I have been there.

I have spent years of my relatively young life helping children, adolescents, and whole families take stock of their lives, look to their strengths, and build futures better than their todays.

There is no silver spoon in this mouth.

I recently finished a book, written by a Jewish psychiatrist about his time in concentration camps in Germany during World War II.  He has something to say about this day in age as well:

“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

So, to those of you out there protesting corporate greed, I applaud you for seeing how things are not right. 

Now make something of it.

To those that might be well off, how can you change this world for the better?

If you are a business owner:

-Look for ways to creatively offer opportunities to others.  Look to exchange offering experience for apprenticeship, if you can’t hire directly.  Mentor, in exchange for effort.

-Look for ways to increase commission-based pay.  Let the effort and creativity of others lead to financial gain, especially if you can’t hire full-time employees.

-Look for independent contractors.  Work is work, and there are those eager for work, even if it doesn’t include a benefits package or a union card.

-Is there room in your business plan to offer community classes about something that your company is good at?  Welding, auto repair, anything?

If you are a “regular” person:

-What are you learning every day?  Education is not a prisoner of the collegiate system.  Education and wisdom are eager partners, that are often found in hard work and diligence, as well as in the stories and experiences of others.

-How are you helping others around you?  The government will work to feed people.  The government will pay for short-term stimulus for jobs.  What are you doing to create fishermen(women)?  Who are you investing in?

-Where are you allowing your own ingenuity and creativity to increase your happiness in life?  More times than not, our principal barrier is not corporations, government, taxes, or the economy.  Our principle barrier is ourselves and our beliefs about ourselves.

All I am saying is that when you want to figure out how to change the world, it is less about changing others, and more about looking in the mirror.  If we followed that guide, we wouldn’t even have time to go to a protest, whether it be for Occupy Wall Street … or the Tea Party.

I did not intend for this to be that long, but I had so much running through my head, I had to put it down somewhere.

As always, feel free to share my content with friends, family, and contacts if you think that it might be helpful.



2 responses to “On Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and Steve Jobs

  • jessica hoover morris

    I think the answer to your first topic is the last name of your final topic. JOBS. I think if you asked all the protesters a series of 100 questions the only likely question they would all answer the same is that they don’t have a job. Makes me wonder why they are spending all their time protesting and not looking for one. -Joel

  • Thomas

    Not only that, Joel, but I take it a step further. Why do we depend on others to be the source of our “job”? The real American Dream is about taking little to nothing, and creating something. That has little to do with what “Wall Street” is doing. There is nothing really stopping any of us in learning something new (which you don’t need college for), mastering a new skill (which you don’t need a job for), or changing our own situation (which demanding someone change theirs does not solve). I posted a comment on a FB status update just this morning about how I wonder what could be accomplished if all of those protesting now, instead committed to creating an organization, business, service … to accomplish or model the things that are important to them. The reality is, that if there is a desire for it (which there seems, if only the fact that people show up to these rallies) then create that which you see as an ideal and push others out of the market with your superior and better-functioning business model.

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