Occupying skepticism

Letters to the Portland Phoenix editors, October 26, 2012
By PORTLAND PHOENIX LETTERS  |  October 24, 2012


I applaud the efforts of the Occupy Movement to organize for change, and feel Lincoln Park is less interesting now that its tent city is gone.

But after reading Deirdre Fulton's piece, "One Year On" (September 28), I was not dissuaded from believing the movement is unrealistic and naïve.

One argument I have — partly — is with the recommendation that our best future lies with "community economics" and socially responsible, independently owned and operated companies.

Don't get me wrong: I really like to buy local, and usually patronize smaller businesses in favor of the big boxes. In fixing up an old house for 10 years, I discovered the wisdom in buying ladders, tools, and lumber at the smaller businesses instead of the big-box guys. Better service, better selection, comparable price.

But for other needs, corporate entities pose the best option for me. Apple computer, groceries (I have a garden, but just tomatoes), Internet and cellphone service (actually, that's an overpricing, money-grubbing corporate entity I strongly dislike).

More important — what small businesses can't offer (and corporations can) is personal upward mobility. A mom-and-pop store is not a great opportunity for a job-seeker. Joe's Hardware has just a few layers of employment — you can own it, be the manager, or stock shelves. That's it.

BigBiz Inc., however, has many levels of opportunity — from the mailroom to middle management to the corner offices. With the right motivation and skills, you truly can ascend the ladder (there may be barriers — but those anachronistic practices are dying fast.)

Corporations, using economies of scale, also provide many affordable and necessary products, from cars to refrigerators to credit. But you have to buy and live within your means. It's a bit hard to fathom Fulton's example of a man who got behind on his mortgage by $25,000. Blame the bank? Perhaps the homeowner should have been less emotional about the house and bailed early on. I put 10 years of really sweaty sweat-equity into the only house we could afford, while going off to "work" at night. Stupid me for playing by the rules?

So bash corporations if you must (count me in for the telecom protest). But don't burn down a whole city because there are a couple of buildings you don't like. In my mind's eye, I see Occupy the Future run amok — the obnoxious glass and steel skyscrapers are gone, replaced by a vast, single-story landscape of yurts, communal gardens, and dispirited denizens longing for the good old days of BigBiz, Inc.


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