Supposedly, the main impetus of the “Occupy Various Random Places” crowd is the somewhat valid complaint that they’ve been encouraged to get good grades & go to college to “get a good job,” and now they can’t get jobs. Now, of course, as a classicist, I have to object to the notion that a college education is primarily about getting a job (see C. S. Lewis’s “Lilies that Fester” on that one).
However, it dawns on me that they’re missing the point: a college education is supposed to arm one with the intellectual tools to think creatively and critically, so that one can be an effective worker in any job, or be successful in graduate school OR go into business for oneself.
Working in “non-traditional” education as both an instructor and admissions officer, I’ve often laughed at how many of my students, with their poor educational backgrounds and various disadvantages, say they’re going to college to get a business degree “to someday start my own business.” Now some of them do have very clear plans for what *kind* business they want, and I applaud the clear initiative of those students. To most, however, regarding starting their own businesses one can apply the same principle that Flannery O’Connor says of most people who say “I want to be a writer”: they want the wealth and fame they think will be guaranteed if they can “own their own business,” but they don’t particularly care what kind of business it is. To be successful at one’s own business, one must have a passion for what that business *is*, just as one must be passionate about any career.
Neverthelesss, even those whose ambitions are more vague clearly have more ambition than the OWS types, who think that a career is something they’re owed, something they’re given, rather than something they achieve. The Left things OWS is to be praised for how these people have joined together, organized online, etc. Well, why can’t they use these organizational skills to get together and start their own businesses?
The main hindrance of most people in starting their own businesses is the money to survive off of while they’re getting started, or the money to find a facility. These OWS people are living on the streets for weeks or months in little tent communities, so obviously they’re not concerned about those problems. They’re able to do their tweeting and blogging and facebooking, so they obviously have some access to technology.
So instead of devoting their energy to complaining, they *could* be devoting their energies to talking to one another, networking *constructively* among themselves, finding out what their mutual skills and passions are, and starting their own businesses.
If they want to protest against intrusive bureaucratic licensing laws and whatever, and start collecting money for whatever services they want to sell, more power to them. But if they’re truly as college-educated as they claim, they should be smart enough to come up with *some* kinds of ventures or to just plain sell stuff.
If the cliche is true of the OWS types that, like most hippies, they’re really just the offspring of upper or upper-middle-class families who have a sense of entitlement from their privilege, maybe they can even get the rich relatives they protest against to invest in their ideas. Maybe they can go to the banks they so vehemently despise and get starter loans.
And then they can apply the self-denial they’ve supposedly been applying to vague protesting and apply it to starting businesses the way so many successful entrepreneurs, like their idols Steve Jobs, George Lucas, or Ben & Jerry have done.
And then one day the OWS people can start coming to the Tea Parties when they realize that the GOP is not the party of “the Rich” but the party of the middle class.