CARNEY: Occupying the top

Occupy Wall Street, a protest movement started by hundreds of people gathered in downtown Manhattan to protest the current state of capitalist America, has been going on for several weeks. Its main message is that 1 percent of Americans control 80 percent of the country’s wealth. Protestors’ rallying cry is “we are the 99 percent.” Their complaints are nebulous: They stand against an oligarchic political system, an unfair distribution of wealth and a litany of other issues.

Whether the protestors want to revoke the death penalty, reduce carbon emissions or change the FDA, their primary belief is that they are not being listened to — and that they should be. The movement has spread to cities all over America. Two nights ago, Occupy New Haven held its first meeting on the Green.

Though a problem set and extracurricular activities prevented me from going, my presence probably wouldn’t have affected the meeting too much. Regardless, my decision to skip it for chemistry made me consider the decisions my classmates are going to make within a few years — the decisions seniors are beginning to make now.

Marina Keegan’s recent article (“Even Artichokes Have Doubts,” Sept. 30) did a wonderful job of discussing how and why so many Yale students graduate onto Wall Street. Whether we become doctors, lawyers or business executives, a significant portion of us are going to end up among the 1 percent against whom thousands of people are gathering to protest.

Most aren’t specifically holding signs or chanting against the people we’ll become. Instead, they’re showing disgust for a system where anyone is allowed as much wealth and influence as the top 1 percent of Americans.

Occupy Wall Street does not yet have set goals. Its members just know that they’re unhappy with how things are and that they want their discontent to be taken into account in the halls of Wall Street and Washington. I don’t think that we, as Yale students, are, or ever will be, able to solve all the problems of the people of America, but we should at least discuss them.

If one-fourth or even one-eighth of us are swept into positions of extreme wealth or influence, I hope we can step outside of ourselves for long enough to realize that GPAs and frantic networking are not always the greater issue. Sure, college is about finding yourself, and focusing on your own needs is a great way to do that, but I shudder to imagine a good number of us waking up on Wall Street still caught up in a scheme where personal achievement comes first.

Most of us got into Yale focusing on achievement for achievement’s sake. Now that we’ve worked hard enough to end up on top — or close to it — I hope we can realize that our futures are no longer the only ones at stake. If we’re going to be the 1 percent — the consultants and business executives of the future — we need to realize that the impact we have on the world is just as important as our profit margins.

Maybe I’m being idealistic or egotistical and Yale students don’t, or shouldn’t, have any more power to change the world than anyone else. But if this is the case, we need to reevaluate a system that often puts us in the highest percentile — because if we can’t demonstrate that we deserve to be on top, does anyone deserve to be there?

Millions of people across America are suffering. It’s easy to argue that they always have been and always will be, but reading the blog posts, signs and tweets of the 99 percent, it’s hard not to be moved by the stories of people who have lost their jobs, their retirement funds, their health insurance, even their homes. A lot of them remind me of neighbors from home, but none of them remind me of anyone I’ve met at Yale. Despite how difficult some of our classmates’ pasts were, now that we’re here, we are all undeniably privileged.

Whether or not we wind up among the 1 percent, I hope we can use all the opportunities we have to help the 99 percent — those who don’t know how they’re going to make it through the year, the month, the day, and not just worry about six figures.

Abigail Carney is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at abigail.carney@yale.edu.

Comments

  • RexMottram08

    Terrifying words: “Hi, I’m from Yale and I’m here to help”

  • yayasisterhood

    The “occupation” was started by the Canadian anti-consumerist group, AdBusters.

  • JohnnyE

    >Maybe I’m being idealistic or egotistical and Yale students don’t, or shouldn’t, have any more power to change the world than anyone else.

    Do you really think a Yale student graduating at the top of his class doesn’t or shouldn’t have more power to change the world than the Flower Lady? More importantly, do you really think this is an idealistic view (i.e., think it would be true in an ideal world)?

  • River_Tam

    I am making a six figure salary out of school and plan on saving around $40k this year. I have a great job that I love every minute of because I busted my butt in middle school, high school, and college. I worked hard and prioritized the future over the present, even when it meant taking an internship over the summer instead of taking a vacation with a “study abroad” program, or majoring in something challenging instead of something easy.

    My parents were immigrants who came this country with nothing beyond their own work ethic. I am a first wave feminist. I support the Tea Party. I read Ann Coulter and watch Fox News. I voted for McCain and I’ll vote Republican against in this election. When I don’t like a company, I don’t use their products. I give money to charities I support. I vote with my wallet and with my ballot. I do not buy things I can’t afford, and I don’t even buy most things I can afford. I occasionally comment on the YDN comment boards. I do not covet my neighbor’s house, nor his ox.

    I am the 99%.

  • Aparent

    I am the 99% because I recognize that by giving corporations the right to influence politics through unlimited campaign contributions, we have threatened the foundation of our democracy.

    I am the 99% because I believe in a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

    I am the 99% because I believe that the purpose of our constitution is to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

    I am the 99% because I recognize that when a very small fraction of the population enjoys the vast majority of our nation’s wealth, domestic tranquility and general welfare welfare is seriously threatened.

    • SY

      I agree with you that the past 25 years have witnessed excess and fast money–liberal and conservative–that have broken every institution. Business, government, family, media, church, and school. We are in a 20-25 year crisis, IMO, when the wreakage will have to be cleared away, and a new order rebuilt, like after WWII.

      It’s all sides. The Merrill Lynch CEO bankrupts the corp., walks away with $300 MM, and the taxpayers make up the difference for a sale to Bank of America, which is now failing–but those Christmas bonuses will be in the billions. Public corporations don’t give many contributions to just one side because of boycotts. Public employee unions, however, give “unlimited campaign contributions” to elect their bosses who decide their pay and benefits. When more than about 35% of people depend on government for their pay, we are Greece , and have lost “our democracy” “of the people, by the people, for the people.” 35% plus another interest group make a one-party, pro-govt. country. We are not there yet, and it is worth protesting.

  • RexMottram08

    A bunch of children demanding the wages of Western Civilization without the production necessary to earn that wage.