Debunking ridiculous criticisms of Occupy Together

Some of the criticisms I have heard of the Occupy protesters have been utterly ridiculous. I’ll lay them out (and take them down a bit too) below the video, but you might like to see I’m not making them up – they are that obviously facile!

Number 1: “Protests are pointless, they achieve nothing”. Polly Toynbee’s response is spot on: protests work if their aim is raising the profile of the issues they are protesting – the conversation about the economy and the role of the bankers would be very different were it not for people in tents with hand made signs.

Two: “Go and get a job, that would help the economy more than protesting”. Some protesters clearly do have jobs, while others are part of the ‘forgotten generation’ of unemployed young people, saddled with debt from university and with no jobs to take. This is the generation who take un-paid interning jobs endlessly because there are no paid roles that actually use the education that they dedicated their entire lives so far to. Isn’t it right for them to stand up and say that this is not OK? How can you say to anyone in an economy like this “go and get a job” – it is the epitome of callousness and lack of heart.

Three: “Those kids with their designer clothes and iPhones…” I think this one irks me even more than the others. It comes from an oversimplification of the platform of the Occupy protesters – that they think capitalism as an entire system is fatally flawed. Perhaps some of them do, most certainly do not. They are consumers, they distinguish intelligently between what is good and right in the market economy and what is corrupt and corrupting – “it’s not about anti-capitalism, it’s about bad capitalism.” Insiders have the most right to blow the whistle and say that this is enough.

Who would have a right to critique contemporary society if not designer-clothed, technology-wielding young people? Only an Elijah-style prophet, living in the wilderness, kept separate from the taint of technology, or debt, or mass-manufactured clothing – a twenty-first century Gandhi. But even one of Gandhi’s aides, Sarojini Naidu, recognised that it took a lot of money to keep Gandhi poor. It is unthinkable to exist outside the bubble of capitalism in 2011 while remaining in contact with it and having a voice to criticise it. Get over the idea that it is wrong for the protesters to be identifiably part of the capitalist system.

It is not clear what the Occupy Together protests will achieve. It is even unclear how cohesive the movement will be, or how cogently their demands for change will be framed (though the London group have created a good summary of what they want). What is clear to me is that there is a desire for change and that this is in no way the same as the ‘rioting’ of this summer.