Sunday, October 23, 2011

The 99% movement vs the 53% movement

By now I'm sure that everyone with access to television/radio/Internet (or in today's world perhaps Twitter and facebook) has heard of the 99% movement, which is protesting corporate greed on Wall St, and in government, more or less. The idea is that the 99% of people are fed up with the 1% of people who control a significant amount if wealth.

Recent polls suggest that the majority if Americans support the movement (unfortunately, I am without solid Canadian data, please comment if you know of any).

Well there is a new movement coming from the conservative American right- they call themselves the 53%. The idea is that these are the 53% of people who pay income tax, work hard, and who don't expect things to be handed to them. A common theme of social or financial hardship, any ultimately overcoming said hardships, characterizes the lives of members of the 53%.

The 53% are quite critical of the 99% (sorry about the numbers...)- they understand that there are major critiques of both Wall st and government, but they suggest that "what the 99% are missing is the critical element of individual responsibility for their own lives and futures."

Clearly, more that 53% of people in the United States pay income tax...but that's not really the point of the movement.

I live in a cohort of young people (say 18-25), that are overwhelmingly self-entitled and lazy, and who expect handouts at every turn. Unfortunately, although there are young people who do not live up (or live down, rather) to this stereotype, I would consider them to be the minority. The 99% (most of whom are young people) aren't wrong, they're just misguided...

The issue lies in how young people in my cohort were raised- they were raised to believe that they were 'special'. Indeed, children should be special in the eyes of their parents and families, as this promotes a culture of love and care. Where this is a disfavor to children (and now, to young adults) is when children learn that they do not have to work hard for what they receive because of the very fact that they are special. This is fine when Johnny wants a pack of gum at the corner store- surely, it would ridiculous to suggest that Johnny ought to start working at the age of 5 to earn this pack of gum- but when this behavior (and I'm talking about the behavior of parents here, not children) continues on into adolescence and teenage hood, it can completely distort how young people view work, reward, success, and others around them.

Being 'special' at a young age is a good thing, until a child reaches an age where they are out on their own in the real world and suddenly have to cope with the fact that the rest of the world no longer sees them as being special. Young people who were raised like this may still believe that they do not have to work for that 'pack or gum', the only difference in that the treat at the candy store is now college tuition (yes, lower tuition people, I'm talking to you), employment, or housing.

I have much respect for young people who were raised in such a way and actually accept that they are no longer special, and realize that people in the world do not exist to serve them, and that they are going to have to work for what they receive. Many will not accept, or realize, this, and can likely be found at protests such as Occupy Wall St, still demanding something for nothing, and still believing that they are special.

Obviously, the lesson here isn't to teach your kids that they're just like everyone else...children's individual talents and skills should be nurtured and praised. But it is important that in our world today children learn the basic values that families are meant to teach: the value of a dollar, the importance of good work ethic, the fulfillment of working hard, and the reason why we should all work hard- because you're not special in the eyes of the world, and the world is not going to hand you everything in life.

I was raised to believe that I was special in the eyes of my family- that they would love me no matter what. But I was also raised to understand that I must work for what I receive, and to understand why it is important to work hard. I am proud to say that I was raised this way, and indeed, these are some of the values that I would like to pass on to my children one day.


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