Occupy this: One of my friends works on Wall Street. One camps in Zucotti Park.
The 1 percent and the 99 percent are both partly right – and both are partly to blame for America's current state. Wall Street workers and occupiers alike have lost that crucial companion – responsibility – in their personal and public lives.
Cape Town, South Africa
I have a number of friends on Wall Street. Some are camped out in Zucotti Park trying to sort out their next shower. Others are showering just fine in their Soho apartments, but are pestered by protesters on their way in to work. As for me, I’m trying to sort out which one of these groups I “side with.”
You see, my friend who works for a Wall Street bank comes from an immigrant family, worked hard against plenty of odds, and is as kind as anyone I know. She did not bring about the financial collapse of 2008 and did not seek to profit at other people’s expense. In fact, the company where she worked at the time went out of business, leaving a lot of decent bankers out of work.
I’m mad about what happened on Wall Street (the greed, the irresponsible risk-taking, the misleading investors) and what it means for America today. But I also have trouble seeing my friend and the other bankers I know as part of an evil cabal plotting against “the other 99 percent,” even if they did get hefty bonuses last year.
As for my friends in Zucotti Park, the story is not all that different when it comes to who they are as human beings. Many of them worked hard to get through school and are now frustrated by debt and a lack of decent jobs. They’re sincere and well informed in their indictment of a system that’s rigged in favor of a wealthy few (even though the university we all attended was partly financed by Wall Street investments and buttressed by generous donations from the Street’s elite). And their protest actions come at a personal cost.
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