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 firstname.lastname@example.org.