Can we start with occupying ourselves?
How do we know the difference between “good” individualism and “bad” individualism?
As the dust—or tear gas—from the various “Occupy” movements around the globe begins to settle, I still personally struggle to understand where I fit into that giant mess of a social-economic-political-class warfare framework. And generally speaking, is “Occupy” a resounding success, or a just a marginal footnote? I have been admittedly apathetic towards the movement, and I haven’t seen any tangible impacts from it in my personal life. But it has inspired a lot of people to at least express their opinions—as an Opinion editor, I like this—and feel as if they are participating in our democratic society.
Others are listening too. Yesterday, New York State decided to add another tax bracket for those who make in excess of $2 million a year. And there is plenty of talking going on. There is constant rhetoric about the 1 percent and the 99 percent, the few versus the many, and how our financial system is somehow at the mercy of a few greedy individuals, who manipulate, consume conspicuously, etc. When expressed in such strong language, it’s easy to vilify anyone.
As college students, we are all at a point in our lives where we have to decide to some extent what kind of individuals we want to be. We live in a society that venerates success (rightly so), but one that also applauds service to others and working for the common good. Those ends are not polar opposites, and can be accomplished simultaneously, but it is tough to do both effectively. There are stigmas and connotations applied to every job, major, etc. The language of the Occupy movements have forced many of us to look inward at how we want to live our future lives and how we have come to possess the lives that we currently have. We may disapprove of social or economic inequality, but we have all also benefited from it in one way or another.
Colby is a great place in that we have a selectively vocal and energetic student body that does a great job of finding significant issues to focus on. There is no shortage of problems or others to get angry about, especially when the “other” is the administration. They are an easy target to attack, and their general opaqueness and lack of visibility helps to contribute to their current image as some kind of dismissive, intransigent ruler a la King George III. Like any ruling body, the administration has some room for improvement, but I’m a firm believer that most problems at the College (#colbygirl or otherwise) come from the students.
It is a lot harder to turn our gaze inward and think critically about our own lifestyles. My own parents have worked hard to provide me with an excellent private education my whole life; I didn’t ask for that, but I am definitely reaping the benefits of a privilege that most people do not receive. I strongly suspect that many Colby students are in similar situations.
I don’t feel terribly guilty at all about that fact, but that inequality is something that cuts across all aspects of our lives, even if we don’t discuss it publicly. It doesn’t have to be discussed publicly. Talk about it with your friends.