The Empire Writes Back

1 + 99 = 99?I recently came upon a website which is an ancillary part of the Occupy Wall Street movement:

We are the 1 percent.
We stand with the 99 percent.

I spent some time on the site and I am sensing a misinterpretation there. Why set yourselves apart to stand together? Most of the posters identify as part of the 1%, but merely making over 100k a year and going to Disney World “often” does not qualify you for the socio-economic elite. Nor does inheriting 300k and a couple of homes. 1% means exorbitant wealth, the kind of wealth that moves governments. The Johnson family that runs Johnson & Johnson – they might be 1% ers. Board members of Goldman-Sachs and their families might be 1% ers. Some of the members of the Citigroup or Lockheed-Martin boards may be 1% ers. The economic wiseguys who swindled the TARP bailouts out of our citizens’ treasury may be 1% ers. But the bulk of people on this site are upper middle class consumers who are identifying with shot-calling heavyweight banking and industrialist families which have been entrenched in our system for generations.

To the people of the We stand with the 99% website, I say: “Thank you for standing with the 99%. You have been here all along.”

If you are the comfortable progeny of hard working immigrants or you’ve got a baby with first rate health care and an early college fund, that does not make you part of the 1%. It makes you an American middle class success story. You have had precisely the sort of opportunities which the Occupy Wall Street movement is trying to preserve. Your support is most welcome, and needed.

If your family put you through college without letting you get saddled with debt, or you travel the world on your family’s money, you probably aren’t part of the 1%. You are part of the 99% in denial. This website appears to be filled with people who belong to the disappearing middle class, and are maybe a little bit nervous that they are soon to become as broke as almost everyone else – because the actual 1% is robbing them, too.

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About Suhail Rafidi

Suhail Rafidi is a novelist and educator whose works explore the destiny of human values in a technological landscape. You can find him on Twitter, too, @shelldive.
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2 Responses to The Empire Writes Back

  1. Suzanne says:

    I find this particular issue very interesting. It is unfortunate if the middle class gets associated with that 1%. I think the most striking difference between the middle class and that 1% is exactly what you talk about: the middle class became successful as evidence that the American dream can work. I tend to harbor the view that most of the 1% were born into their wealth and haven’t had to work for it.
    I grew up poor. My parents, especially my mom, worked hard to provide for us. I was able, through hard work and determination, to do well at school and complete college and professional school. I am now fortunate enough to be in that over 100K income bracket.
    I fully recognize that my hard work and determination did not get me here alone. It was also through the tireless work of educators at public universities, financial aid and scholarships – all underwritten by our government. Yes, I pay higher taxes now, as I should. I can afford it, and I want my tax dollars to help other kids in situations similar to mine. My children likely won’t need or qualify for government aid, but that isn’t the point! Other kids will benefit. The part that saddens me is when my tax dollars start going towards maintaining the wealth of the 1% rather than paying for public educators and scholarships to benefit the 99%.
    If we keep cutting health care and education spending, we are simply raising a nation of fat, stupid kids who will someday need to take over. I’m sure the 1% will pay for better educations and doctors for their kids, but then the cycle just continues.

    • Wow, Suzanne! Thank you for this thoughtful comment. You highlight a lot of the problems inherent in our society’s seemingly ever-increasing wealth disparity. Thanks also for the encouraging illustration of affordable education. “Other kids will benefit.” That’s the spirit!

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