I may not have made it explicitly clear yesterday that I’m pro-“Occupation,” whether it’s Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Rockford. My father and sister, as well as a couple friends of mine went to the march here in Rockford today, while I decided to man the keyboard instead. In the midst of my indirect call to action, I forgot to point out all the good that the movement is doing to simply raise awareness and solidarity within the American people. Even if the movement comes and fades without inspiring a single concrete change, for a brief moment people were able to find solace within each other. That alone makes the movement worth it.
Regardless of whether you’re for or against the protests going on around the country, we have to acknowledge that our country’s system, OUR SYSTEM, is broken. We repeatedly provide bailout money to companies that would otherwise fall apart because our economy depends on their existence. News spends more time covering the latest celebrity babies and dating scandals than the governmental changes affecting our nation. Corporations making billions of dollars in profits use tax-code loopholes to pass more profits to stockholders. Governmental representatives spend more time playing party lines then trying to effectively govern. In the midst of all this, the middle-class American citizen takes the screw.
So, the $100,000 dollar question: how do we fix our broken system?
Gandhi said that we should “be the change we want to see in the world.” He was a smart guy, and I’m going to go with his instinct and suggest a few ways we can make small, personal changes that can ripple into big shifts in our nation.
- Bank locally. Woohoo, Bank X has over 54 million ATMs you can use for free? Considering you use maybe three of them 95% of the time, a comprehensive network of “surcharge free” ATMs doesn’t help you much. Besides that, banks like Bank of America are starting to impose $5/month “debit fees,” fees you have to pay simply for using a debit card. Really, BoA? I call bulls***. Let’s take the “too big to fail” companies out of the equation by putting money into local credit unions and banking institutions. Many of them have accounts that reimburse foreign ATM fees to a certain cost, and can have better interest rates on savings accounts and loans.
- While we’re at it, take “too big to fail” out of the system entirely. Can you imagine what would happen if Wal-Mart one day walked up to the government and said it needed money? What choice would we have but to do another Fannie May/Freddie Mac/Detroit Auto Industry/Wall Street bailout? I know first-hand it’s expensive to shop locally (the local grocery story I shop at can be SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive than Wal-Mart), but the more we invest in ourselves, the more that investment can come back to rejuvenate our own economies. The less we rely on the big international players to take care of us, the stronger we can become.
- Turn off Jersey Shore, turn on the news. I think I could even support watching Fox News or Headline News over drivel like “Jersey Shore” and “I’m 16 and Pregnant.” Instead of listening to the same Top 40 (which ends up being the same 7 songs all day anyway), flip over to NPR or another talk radio channel. Maybe you’ll learn about an activity in the community you’d enjoy, or trip over a program that you end up loving. (NPR’s “This American Life” and “World Café” are both fantastic programs, BTW.)
- Go to a City Council meeting. Most of the power to change your day-to-day life comes from legislation enacted on the city, county, and state levels, but everyone pays attention to the sweeping, generic politics of the federal level. Even if you just read the minutes, find out if you can take the opinions you’ve formed to a platform where you can make some real change in your world.
- READ about the other side of the battle. Often we load up on rhetoric from our own side of the debate, watching a news article or program every so often from the other side without truly LISTENING to what that person is saying. I challenge you, pick up a book written from the opposite side of the aisle and TRULY read it, making notes and trying to understand/sympathize with the opposing point of view. You’ll be better off for it, I promise.