Sunday, November 06, 2011

Blame ______

Alright - I need some help here. I don't understand what people are thinking lately. The entire world has gone nuts - maybe its something they're putting in the water? What with the various "Springs" and "Occupy Something" movements, it enough to make my head spin. (I think Israel should get on the bandwagon and stage an Occupy Territories protest, but that's another matter...)

At the moment, it's the Occupy folks that really bug me. Look, I own a small business, and am well aware of the vicissitudes of the market. For small businesses like mine, it can be feast or famine from week to week. And with the economy taking as big a hit as it has in recent years, I'm acutely aware that people are struggling. I'm also aware that the top 1% of the population of this country has a hugely disproportionate amount of its wealth. I'm even aware that sometimes - perhaps even often - big businesses use their personal wealth and business clout to unfairly skew things in their favor. For example, Apple's recent attempt to buy up the entire world-supply of "touch glass" (the glass used for touch-screen devices), in order to prevent their competitors from having any, was, at least in my opinion, dirty.

And so people have taken to the streets in cities across the U.S., disrupting many small businesses, and therefore livelihoods, in the process, in order to protest... something. It doesn't entirely seem clear. Some folks are protesting the government; some big business; some just seem to feel entitled to things, and want rich people to pay for them. Heck, there's even talk now of a "Robin Hood" tax, which just taxes rich people for... being rich.

But as I looked through the images of the various Occupy protests, you know what I noticed? There's no shortage of smart phones out there - everyone seems to have one. Laptops, digital cameras and video cams are plentiful as well. And Internet connectivity is ubiquitous. I see musical instruments that look like new, or at least in really good condition. There are people in designer clothing.

And I wonder where they got all that cool stuff. Didn't big corporations make those things?

We DO have a way to protest big corporations, if that's what we think is important. We DO have a way to make them listen to us. It's called Fiscal Responsibility. It's not buying things we don't really need, just because we WANT them. Do people REALLY NEED to line up for 3 blocks outside the Apple Store when a new model of iPhone or iPad comes out?! Do they REALLY NEED to keep up with the latest fashions?! Why do people care about Kim Kardashian at all - has she ever been an icon for an important social value? Why give her so much bandwidth in our hearts and minds? If there's anyone we should be mad at, it's the media and advertising agencies, who work to convince us that we need the next cool toy!

But no - we're going after the corporations for getting rich on stuff WE CHOSE TO BUY! The nerve of them...

You know whom I admire? People like Kristen Christian (nice Jewish name, don't you think?) who started Bank Transfer Day. She received a notice from BofA informing her that they were going to start charging a $5 monthly fee to use her debit card. And do you know what she did? She fought back with her money! She decided that on a specific date, she was going to transfer her accounts out of BofA, and into a credit union. And then she used Facebook to tell 500 of her friends about it, and recommend that they do the same. And they told their friends, etc. And now there are some 75,000 people planning to do it. BofA has since cancelled that obvious money grab over people they thought were powerless. Like that scene in Disney's A Bug's Life, where the ants finally realize their power, and stand up to the grasshoppers. Suddenly, the banks are on the defensive. BofA's new commercial campaigns focus on how easy they make making for the consumer. They're trying to tell us that they're still relevant; they still have what to offer us. They're begging people not to pull out their money. Now that's power!

Instead of boycotting Wall Street, what if everyone decided to put down their cell phones for a week? Even for a day? What would that do to revenues of the telecom giants? What if 100,000 people decided that they were NOT going to buy the latest smart phone this year? What if people decided not to buy into the next cool thing, but to spend some time focusing on their real NEEDS in life? What if they decided that good enough was, in fact, good enough? What effect would that have on the world?

Maybe we need to start teaching our children the meaning of the term Opportunity Cost, and teach them that they don't have a right to everything they want just because they want it.

Bottom line: Grow the hell up people. You make choices and then want someone else to blame when you figure out that you chose badly. But that's just not the way it works.

Or am I just misunderstanding something?