Robroy’s occupation

When Robroy arrived in Baltimore about 20 years ago, I had no occupation.  No one would buy the stories I was writing.  Late nights at Funks Democratic Coffee Spot in Fells Point, I made new friends who argued passionately that the wealthy corporations were corrupting the government, wiping out the arts and oppressing the masses.

So I think I understand where Occupy Baltimore is coming from.  It made me mad when I read yesterday that our Mayor said she wanted to avoid a “violent exchange” with them.  I decided to see for myself what’s going on.

First thing I noticed, walking among the tents downtown, was how much my vantage point has changed since Fells Point. Certain aspects of the protest made me feel confronted.

For example, a guy held a sign that said: “From my corner office, everyone looks so small.”

That’s weird.  You know, I actually have a corner office now.  My writing studio is near the top of the Bromo Seltzer Tower.  I’m right where he says I should not be, yet people don’t look small to me.  As a matter of fact, they are paramount.  I want to know their stories.

I asked him why he felt that way.

“It’s ridiculous that the big corporations get huge tax breaks and pocket the money,” he said.  “The government should force them to reinvest in jobs.  Unemployed people like me need help.”

These are hard times.  The job market changed fast.  It used to be that you owed your employer 40 years and in return they owed you a rewarding career, health insurance and a pension.

Now what do we owe each other?

For me, it does no good to blame others.  I discovered I am the author of my problems.  Just as I am the author of the solution.

It keeps me occupied.

Your take?

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17 Responses to “Robroy’s occupation”

  1. Whether you agree with the protestors or not – and I do to some degree – what’s SCARY is that the police across the country are denying Americans’ right to gather and protest.

    To address the protests, I’m happy that people are taking to the streets and pointing out what’s obvious: this country has a huge problem with wealth distribution.

    “By the people, for the people.” Remember that?

    Not anymore. Now it’s “Bought by the rich, for the rich.”

    That has to change.

  2. Ben Cruz says:

    Rob,

    The only point of view shared in your post is that you are the author of your own problems and solutions. You had better copyright that before Herman Cain sees it and makes that his slogan.

    One is the author of most of one’s own problems and solutions, at least, I would agree. There are a lot of uncontrollables in everyone’s life. It’s how you react to them that is in your control.

    I would like to think that we are in control of our democracy but the fact is that our control as voters is limited in a representative government in which our representatives are beholden to interest groups that provide the large donations which truly have become necessary to get elected or re-elected. Those donations may come in directly to the campaign, via SuperPACs (political action committees which don’t have to reveal who donated), or via lobbyists.

    Most of our elected officials are bought and paid for in a system which has no caps on individual or organizational donations and where there is limited transparency. They tend to act in a way that does not represent their constituents if it runs contrary to the wishes of those who make it financially possible for them to be elected.

    Every single one of the problems the Occupy movement complains about would have a path to a solution if elected officials truly represented their constituencies faithfully, in all instances. But that is not possible in the current system. I’m not saying all problems would be solved to the satisfaction of each constituent – that is, by definition impossible in any political system.

    Our representative democracy is severely broken – because it is NOT representative of “the 99 percent” and that’s what the Occupy movement should be focused upon – getting the big money out of politics. Complaining to corporations won’t change anything. Improving the way our representative democracy serves the public interest WILL.

    I have set up a twitter account at @Constitu_wants to promote this point of view.

    I recommend that anyone who shares this point of view sign the petition at http://www.getmoneyout.com/ . And, if possible, join the Occupy movement or find ways to support them, monetarily, via social media and by helping direct them to an eventual platform with a laser focus on the core issue – big money corrupting our democracy.

    • Robroy says:

      Ben, it’s great to see you are taking such an active position on this. Thanks for your thoughts & the links you shared.

  3. Katie says:

    Great post, Rob!!
    I haven’t quite understood the protest, either. It’s refreshing to hear your approach to learning more about the story! A true journalist. :)

    Is the tax system broke? Absolutely.
    Is the tax system why we have a high unemployment rate? No. A number of things contribute to our unemployment rates, one of which is our national shift from an export country to an import country. It is citizens that reaped the rewards of a variety of jobs from manufacturing to “the corner office” that buoyed our country and employment. During those years, American’s fell in love with living in excess. Excessive cars, excessive houses, excessive credit card bills for excessive shoes, and so on. When the economy becomes highly dependent on borrowing as opposed to sharing, the bottom is sure to drop out. We all predicted this – we asked ourselves how households making $120,000 afforded a $500,000 one with 2 cadillac’s sitting in the drive. Credit. It’s what built this company, and now it’s what is taking down the country. Our debt for importing mass amounts of goods, our debt for exporting jobs out of this country.

    For the occupy protesters, the only way to change is to talk to congress. Domestic issues are made squarely by those that sit in Washington, D.C. International decisions are influenced by the president. If you want to change things at home, talk to your local representative, not the media. The media can’t fix what you are trying to fix – they, in many ways, are part of the problem.

    As for unemployment – I, too went thru a period of unemployment, like the gentleman at the protest. I spent relentless hours every day working my network, refusing to accept no and refusing to blame unemployment and the hiring situation on others. I went to education events to broaden my offering spectrum, I volunteered to gain experience, and I went on a personal branding and marketing mission. I did not stand at a corner holding signs pointing the blame at others. I took it in my own hands and moved mountains with quite a bit of help from my friends.

    • Robroy says:

      Katie, I really appreciate your comments, since you lived through the worst of this recession and always kept your courage, humor and dignity. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Mark Nowak says:

    What we’ve seen is the “rise of privately held government” (bought and paid for politicians on both sides of the aisle) where the rich have unfair influence to benefit themselves at the expense of, well, … the 99%.

    We have seen an undermining of a citizen’s ability to pursue his own happiness — this generation is not only less prosperous than the previous, it is also less educated.

    We have seen a departure from what many people value about true capitalism when failure is continually bailed out but profits are not shared — the risks are socialized but not the profits. When CEOs run their companies into the ground, lay most of their employees off and lose value for shareholders yet are given golden parachutes valuing tens of millions of dollars, we see people “clearly living a life beyond consequence.”

  5. Judy Murray says:

    I think it unwise to portray protesters with a broad brush. Members of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street Baltimore have at least one thing in common–they are mad enough to take to the streets. However, while Tea Partiers lean toward the right in their political ideology, and Occupy Wall Street protesters lean to the left, it is unfair to characterize either group based upon the views of the most extreme.

    It is unfortunate that there is a lack of a viable Third Party to represent those of us that cross party lines in their thinking. With the existing 2 party system, candidates for office must “pledge their allegiance” to the Party Platform or risk losing needed Party support. This is true among Republicans and Democrats alike.

    The problems confronting our country today are the result of a lot of bad decisions by many in government and the private sector. While there is no point in directing blame, many households have lost the majority of their net worth in either the stock market, real estate or some combination of both. The majority of those impacted by the mortgage melt down did nothing more than buy or refinance a house after 2006 and/or believed the conventional wisdom that investing in a diversified stock/bond market portfolio was the path to a secure retirement. Most of those affected are are not reckless people. I consider myself among them.

    Protests in the United States have been a vehicle for change; a wake-up call to those in charge. In my view, what is most notable over the past several years is that people from both sides of the political spectrum have been unhappy enough to stage protests. Many sympathizers stay home for fear of retribution resulting from associating with either group.

    The country needs leadership. True leaders should be able to find a consensus between people with differing views. Unfortunately, partisanship seems to rule the day. Perhaps it is time to seriously consider term limits to set our elected officials free. Of course, one then has to wonder if anyone would run.

  6. Ed Eusebio says:

    I think people have finally opened their eyes to see that their government has been stolen from them, over the course of the past several decades. It took rampant unemployment and economic downturn for them to admit what has always been there.

    I support any protestor who has the guts to organize and exercise their rights to free speech and assembly.

    Protest and dissent are vital to the democratic process, especially our rather limited 2-party system. Protest reminds us that all of us do not feel “represented” by this system, that many (except for the 1%) have been disenfranchised.

    • Robroy says:

      Ed, I appreciate you for standing up for the right to free speech & assembly, and those who exercise it. Thank you for your comments.

  7. Joe Zuccaro says:

    More than ever we need to both pull together AND depend on our own selves. Not everyone has been raised to be self-reliant, which is unfortunate. I could go on for hours….

    • Robroy says:

      You make an excellent point, Joe – too much self-reliance is a bad thing. It’s a recipe for being lonely and mistrusting. I like your solution to pull together and depend on ourselves.

  8. Emily says:

    Hi Rob, I liked your contrast of what you heard and experienced first being in Balto and then what life is like for you now…. I know I never planned on “buying back in” to a system built on the backs of what amounted to modern day slavery to me and with complete disregard for the earth and our guardianship role over her. But, I did, even tho I left my country to do it.

    I did protest, and I did stand in the streets more than ten years ago now, and I am grateful for having that contrast in my life where I now see the blame and shame I played into; the dualistic, us vs. them type of thinking that dictated my every move. And now,a little like you wrote for yourself, I find myself mezmomorized by everyday life and my fellows without judgement.

    I read people are occupying Amsterdam over here, not sure if it ended yet. I think it is hard for movements here such as anti-capitalism to gain momentum over here (the way they did in the late sixties and 70’s) because everybody got their social bill of rights written in after WWII. I mean, when you are paid to be a junkie, when the worst of child abusers are considered “clients” to the very bitter end and go to jails that look like college dorms, when someone (who workd for us in the little bakery actually) can work one Day over their 90 day probationary period and then have the right thru their union to sue you (us/our family, I mean) for a whole year’s pay; what is there really to complain about.

    Living in this country hasn’t converted me to a social democrat, no sir. And I am still closer to marching in the streets than accepting the way everything is taken care of here. I just wish they’d be more honest and go all the way and take the “democracy” part out of it here and have all the bakeries be state owned! No, really I’m for decentralized wheel of trades type of set ups on very very small village size scales.

    It’s fun to talk about this Rob, thank you! It’s all talk right now for me, while we pay on that one employees year-long payment and I just take care of my mental/physical health and love my children and family.

    take good care, Em

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