Occupy Wall Street – Now in Your Hometown
December 6, 2011
December 6, 2011
In 2008, John Zogby, CEO of Zogby International and renowned pollster, wrote a book called The Way We’ll Be, in which he talks about the transformation of the American Dream. In the book, he discusses how his polling data identifies two groups that symbolize our changed attitudes toward the American Dream: he calls them First Globals and the Secular Spiritualists.
The first group is made up of individuals ages 18-29. He characterizes First Globals thus:
They have passports and have traveled abroad. They are the least likely to say that American culture is superior to other cultures of the world, and they are by far the most likely of any age cohort to call themselves “citizens of the planet Earth.”
They are multicultural (in 20 years America will look like Barack Obama, they say) and 40% say they expect (not hope or wish, but expect) to live and work in a foreign capital in their lives. They are revolutionizing the worlds of work, philanthropy, relationships, governing, and music.
The second group, the Secular Spiritualists, is made up primarily of Baby Boomers. After decades of corporate downsizing, re-engineering and now, financial meltdown, the individuals in this category are shunning the material American Dream. They have decided to reorder their priorities away from things and rejected the notion that he who dies with the most toys wins. Instead, for Secular Spiritualists, life is about being genuine, about achieving a legacy larger than one’s self, about leaving this earth a better place for family, community, and planet.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has now united these two groups as they each face an uncertain future. The movement was born out of quintessential human emotions–fear, frustration, and loss of control over one’s own life. It is unique because the usual expression of those emotions is aggression, but the “Occupy” groups are decidedly non-violent. Its call for us to honor our heritage and reclaim control over our destiny as a nation has resonated deeply with many Americans.
The story of a friend of mine, Clement, demonstrates the deeper social shift that Occupy Wall Street represents. Born the seventh son of a coal miner and his wife in rural Ohio, Clement elected to escape the life of the “working poor” by joining the Air Force. He did not want to make the Air Force his life, but neither did he want to return to his rural roots. Clement settled in the mid-Atlantic and landed a job as a technician for a large chemical company where he worked until retiring a few years ago. He settled into a life that was mostly video games, TV, golf and occasional trips to Las Vegas to play poker. Many of his friends along with family members assumed this would be the end of the story.
But after a time, Clement fell into a prolonged depression. Therapy and medications helped to a point, but there was still an awareness of unresolved need in Clement. Along with his wife, he began to take some exploratory steps. They started as a “holiday bell ringers” for the Salvation Army, and then joined a dedicated group who collects, cooks, and serves food to the homeless every week. Clement found his interest in giving back expanding and this year he committed to a course of study so that he could qualify as a volunteer contributing a vital social service for which there is no longer a budget. Today he volunteers regularly at a center to help abused women handle the burdensome paperwork that allows them to receive government aid and protection for themselves and their children. His life now has a foundation of purpose and intention that was submerged before.
You won’t see Clement in the Occupy marches, but his resolve to change his community for the better symbolizes the desire of so many to escape the sterile consumerism and profit over people mindset that has hollowed out the best aspirations of our nation and sparked the Occupy movement. And in that respect, Occupy Wall Street is now in every town.