Students distance themselves from economic collapse

By Gabriella Fleming-Shemer

Contributing Writer

Coming from one of the largest cities in the United States, I felt more at home than ever amidst the honking and commotion of downtown Lewisburg this past Saturday. This rupture from the normal, sleepy weekend atmosphere was the result of Occupy Lewisburg, a group of activists at the University and in the community, who are in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not surprisingly, the crowd that gathered around Market Street’s post office was comprised mostly of middle-aged people, including many professors of the University and other local residents. What did surprise me was that not many students took to the streets. I first believed that this was because it was simply a busy weekend and that students couldn’t find the time to march when their GPAs were on the line. But then, after talking to some friends, I realized how difficult it is to convince University students (including myself) to rally around a cause because of our privileged lives, as students in a quiet town.

Our school is the quintessential ivory tower in which midterms and date parties dominate discussion on campus. While our school’s isolated atmosphere nurtures such unawareness of current events, I think it’s an attitude that should not be assumed of us, but rather, something to be challenged. Not many students can say that their biggest concern at the moment is the risks of taking out a mortgage. Yet, because we have the privilege of oblivion, the existing economic inequality will rear its head at us sooner than we think. One of the main messages that the Occupy movement has expressed is that no one is unaffected by the wealth gap. Whether you are a student, teacher, doctor or soldier, you are confirming the rights of the 1 percent to own the bulk of the nation’s wealth by not opposing the system. Considering how the average American student has a $34,000 debt when they graduate today, one would think that University students would feel especially concerned with the injustice of the widening wealth gap.

Our failing economy is on the brink of collapse–and yet, we cannot feel compelled to ask for change. Friends of mine have told me that they did not march with the activists on Saturday because they felt that their presence would not have accomplished anything. They also mentioned that they didn’t care to get involved because the movement lacked specific demands, and was therefore nothing substantial to stand behind. The problem with politicians and skeptics ironically demanding for demands is that they’re overlooking the greater philosophical and moral foundations of the movement. Occupy Wall Street began as a small protest in Canada, and in the past two months has spread globally with encampments and marches taking place in 92 countries. The sheer size of such a campaign makes it inherently a heterogeneous one, not to mention that it is a direct democracy sans leader. Consequently, how can one expect such a mixed group to produce a specific list of actions they want the government to take?

Forcing the diversity of interests into a uniform set of beliefs would only exclude people from the movement. What I believe is the real power of Occupy Wall Street is the philosophical significance. Beneath the chants for bank reforms is the denunciation of greed and materialism. Behind the faces of the 99 percent, sharing their grievances, is a call for equality and compassion.

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