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I’m Not a Joiner

January 1, 2012

I’ve never been one to join a club. Maybe it’s because I never felt like I was part of something in the first place, so didn’t know what I was missing. A Scandinavian-Jewish kid in Hawaii, I was far from my roots but didn’t fit into the local culture either. The only kid in school with curly blond hair. The only vegetarian.

The only kid without a surfboard.

Regardless of the why, I’ve never found a group I felt comfortable enough to call myself a member of. Oh, I’ve dabbled. My parents took me to a couple of Boy Scout meetings but didn’t like the overt Christianity. The computer club in junior high wooed me before I switched schools. I joined – and tried to instigate – several writing workshops in Portland, all of which failed. One summer I caravanned to Mexico and learned to surf. I spent a few months with the kids that grew up on Rajneesh’s ranch in Eastern Oregon.

All of these groups had something in common: they identified within themselves to the exclusion of everyone else. There’s little way they could do otherwise, and I don’t blame anyone for their part in belonging to a group. It’s just that every time I start to join something, I feel a piece of myself slipping away.

That’s why I haven’t been to any of the Occupy movement rallies. While I might agree with certain tenets of their agenda, I have issues with the concept of 99% versus 1%. Though the wealth of this great nation may be disparately distributed along such percentage lines, it’s folly to blindly blame the 1 percent. Sure, their great wealth was acquired through gross measures of coercion and thievery. Sure, millions of people have struggled and suffered because of it. And, sure, it’s a crying fucking shame.

But would you have done anything differently in their place?

Would you walk away from long-term stability and comfort for yourself and your family? Would you charitably distribute a fortune for the taking among the poor? Would you blow the whistle on an establishment that’s been built up through decades of greed and opportunity, causing economic shock and further grief as the market reels again?

Or would you get yours while the getting was good, and cover your ass on the way out?

I don’t know about you, but that second option is looking pretty good right about now. Student loan, credit card debt, mortgage, insurance… the bills don’t stop coming. There are times when my greatest joy of the month is being able to pay them.

So how can I be angry at anything other than myself, for being jealous of the 1 percent’s success?  And how could I join a group without knowing that everyone in it felt the same way?

There’s nothing for it but to be part of the 100%. Until we can walk the walk, indivisible, we’re just going to keep squabbling. The United States is irrelevant unless humanity is united. And we’re not going to unite by vilifying Capitalism’s winners and maintaining Capitalism. A classic example of hating the player instead of the game.

Then it occurred to me: with the fell swoop of its broad generalization, the Occupy Movement has managed to unite an amazing – and disparate – range of special interest groups. Gays and homophobes, Supremacists and Panthers, loggers and environmentalists, Christians and Muslims, even Beavers and Ducks can march under the 99% banner. While this is an achievement to be recognized, it is kind of a shame that the first common ground they’ve found is the label of “not rich.”



From → Rants

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