Otherwise occupied

It seems nowadays many people are pre-occupied with occupying. Social networking and the internet make it hard to stop a chorus of voices bleating, “Me too!”

We write, of course, about the sit-ins taking place around the globe. Some chose Wall Street and commerce districts in other cities to protest, chant, hug, sing and dance. It all means something, but what?

Even friends who travel a different path on the political spectrum are having trouble explaining what this occupation business means. One fellow generally happy about dissent was quite annoyed that yet more time is being wasted when those people should get to work. He and others have trouble discerning what the point is – or what is to be achieved lying under tents as winter closes in, yelling about the rich 1%. But, he acknowledges there is something more to this than just revellers looking for the next party.

The phenomenon of mob action is something we noted here, well before folks shuffled onto Wall Street and started this latest action that has taken flight. An editorial we wrote in June related to the Arab Spring movement and the romantic notions of youth seeking a similar program here. Yet another editorial in September railed against thievery, citing a case in England where mobs took to looting. Folks without money and stuff wanted some, and saw the easiest way to get it was to take it from people who had it – chiefly the shop owners there.

The “disconnect” between affluent and poor continues to grow at an alarming rate. While we and many others have noted this emerging trend for nearly two decades, actual statistics are starting to bear out worries that the middle class is changing for the worst under unsustainable appetites for plenty. Wages have not kept pace in most sectors, while costs continue to escalate for food, lodging and other goods deemed necessary for modern living.

Foibles in public policy have fed the problem here, as have changing attitudes about getting rather than earning. Europe today offers examples of what eventually happens when dependency on government handouts becomes the norm.

That, of course, flies in the face of the upbringing most of us had. The general concept was to get a job, work hard, do as the boss said and it would all work out. But, like so much in recent years, those tried and true concepts that people could take to the bank have changed. Who changed it, or why, remains a curiosity to us.

Certainly that corporate culture, we believe, seeped in from the United States and was a change agent in that regard. The pursuit of profits and incentives for managers maximizing profits left – and continues to leave – workers in a perilous state. Loyalty to the company once rewarded with a decent living and potentially a good pension offered a life plan to retirement. Today’s young workers have seen much double dealing, prompting many to adopt a need for immediate financial reward as opposed to waiting it out. That exacerbated the pitting of employer and worker against one another.

Our governments – at all levels – don’t need to figure a free ride on this front either. Taxes continue to climb, programs continue to expand and deficits still grow. Labour laws designed to benefit workers actually end up punishing workers who cling to the old maxims of hard work. It’s ironic, but serves as an example of a tangled network of good intentions gone awry.

While many of us would be hard pressed to occupy a chunk of space at a rally, there is growing sympathy for those who do.

That was not the case even a short time ago – leaving that realization something else to think about.