In his daily column today,Tom Scarritt of the Birmingham News had this to offer, as his contribution to our dialogue on repairing our society's ills:
Real problems require rational and constructive solutions. From Wall Street in New York to Main Street in Collinsville, we need to look beyond the passions of the moment to craft strategies that actually enhance our quality of life.
We need ideas, not temper tantrums.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, and its offshoots around the country, are gaining attention because they tap into real frustration over the damage some in the financial sector have done to the rest of us.
It is hard to see how creating synthetic debt instruments with which to cheat each other helps our economy, or why so much of our wealth should flow to those who push that paper around.
The answer, though, is to reform the system, not to take it down. The same markets that have made some bankers and traders so rich also fuel our pension funds, our IRAs and our 401(k)s. Do the protesters want to wipe out their parents' retirement plans at the same time they wipe out what they term "corporate greed"?
Beyond their general, and understandable, anger at the most egregious excesses of Wall Street, it is a little hard to pin down what the occupiers want. We can only gain insights from what some individuals have said.
What appears clear is whatever they want, they want someone else to pay for it.
Free college for all is one theme that has surfaced. Nothing, though, is free. Presumably, the intent is to make college free for the student, meaning the rest of us would have to pay for it. I am sorry some of the occupiers have $50,000 in student loan debt and no job prospects, but how does that become my obligation?
It is unfortunate that all that has "surfaced" for Mr. Scarritt is such isolated fodder from discrete interests - perhaps it would be advisable to delve a little deeper before editorializing a movement, instead of fixing on a few talking points that bubble up to his waiting gills.
Here Mr. Scarritt fails to provide the alternative to a systemic take-down, he simply serves us with a flaccid truism about "reform." The problem with this tack is his failure to offer traction, in getting from the way the things are to the way things ought to be. It means nothing to call for reform and tout the intended results of that reform - the reform is the process by which graduated change takes place. Of course if we are to have laws regarding immigration those laws should be rational and accountable to evidence-based consistent enforcement, I can't imagine a public argument which would deny a demand so closely aligned with the spirit of common-good law, but repeating the tautology has yet to refer us to its realization.
In his admonishment of Occupy Wall Street protesters' tantrums Scarritt in fact comes off looking like the one having a fit, like an old miser shaking his cane and yelling at those damn kids to stay off his lawn, with their Eminem, and their Super Theft Auto, and Consensus, and what not. I'm amazed that this sort of artifact of Eisenhower-era, dismissive conservatism is validated with regular publishing space - especially in this context, as it is so often the grumbling of the Quite Comfortable population lamenting a slight ruffle in their snugness. Mr. Scarritt, I believe you will have occasion for a better understanding soon enough.
Sensible measures such as requiring all employers in the state to verify the status of people they hire can remove the incentive to come to Alabama illegally. We do not need to tie up the resources of our police, schools and other agencies to do that.
And we can do that without damaging our reputation as a good place for job-creating foreign investment or encouraging the notion Alabama is a mean and inhospitable state.
Like the Occupy protests, our state's over-the-top immigration law is based on real concerns. But we should be a state that finds solutions, not a shabby tent city whose presence is more irritating than it is relevant to the real world.
This says it all. The clear subtext is "we can make sure we have a beeline on the foreigners and still do our duty to maintain the bustle of commerce, without having to sully the view where we keep our money." While I regret that Mr. Scarritt finds our Occupy Birmingham settlement an annoyance, I hope it might be palliative for him to grasp by how exactly how much he misses the point.
This system cannot be reformed by the processes designed and proven to ossify it.
What we are doing when we gather in parks and on street corners, in various degrees of obvious transience, should not be thought of as a temporary siege and means to an end alone. We are here to practice a solution to the endemic cultural sickness which has plagued us since someone hashed the first debt onto a papyrus ledger - an ailment which compels us to lay full odds on the shoe-in (and boot whose kicks put the "under" in "underdog").
Each speaks as he or she wishes, in turn, and no matter is furthered until consensus is reached. It can be tedious (often infuriatingly so) and it promises few specifics. But one thing, if nothing else, comes from a group of which each is heard alike: You'll know it when you see it - it's what Democracy looks like.
Mr. Scarritt, I respectfully disagree that positive change will be encouraged by insisting on doing things the exact same way, and invite you to our camp to discuss it, should you ever care to at least somewhat engage what you seek to deride. Until then I hope you might consider sparing the public further lectures lifted from a circa 1960 Civics class. I work, but am flexible, just let me know.
I'm firstname.lastname@example.org, and I live on the corner of 20th St and 5th Avenue South - in a tent city.