The Occupy Wall Street movement, spreading nationwide and seeping into the Bay Area, has been painted in the media as directionless and at times anarchic. In many aspects, this portrayal is apt.
There is no central figure or vessel of authority. There is no sound or resolute message banding the group together. The one factor that most seem to share is their general angst over the unwaveringly poor state of the economy and powerful corporations’ ability to continually rake in revenues. As many within the movement are fellow college students and others fall within our 20-something age group, we are especially concerned that such directionlessness within these members of our generation will fail to bring about true change or deliver a coherent message.
We have observed similar aimless demonstrations on our campus with higher education protests losing student support while they garner outsiders with amorphous messages. Through our experiences with these protests, we have learned these efforts lose steam without a united focus, though popular and enthusiastic initially.
This is not to say that without an overarching structure, a strong movement is not possible. The largely youth-led demonstration in Spain this spring, for example, did not have a central authority, but it was able to deliver a strong statement. Seeking to reform Spain’s political system, tens of thousands of protesters gathered and camped in Madrid’s central square. The movement was timed during important elections and spread through other cities. The leading party in power ultimately suffered huge losses in the election — a tangible result of the discontent expressed by the protest.
Our fellow youth are obviously upset and disillusioned by our country’s seemingly unchanging economy, and this frustration is one that many share. But the confusing nature of the Occupy Wall Street protests, as opposed to the strong message of the Spanish protesters, detracts from any meaningful statement they could make and alienates others. This response by our generation is underwhelming, and we do not see it gaining popular ground as it is. To be successful, these young protesters must articulate their message more clearly, emitting a voice as one.