28 Mar 2012

(Fashionably late on this one, but I think it's an important conversation to keep having)

Wall Street executives took trillions of dollars from us, and we're justifiably angry - but it's not entirely about the money.

We are a nation of entrepreneurs, a nation of people who strive to make their lives and their neighbors' lives better, a nation who care for each other - committed to the common good. We have bonded together to lift us all up at once, achieving things together none of us could achieve individually.

Wall Street has broken our shared promised to the common good. In their rush for profits and bonuses they have forsaken the community for their own gain, undermining the cultural foundation that once supported our individual efforts.

As we have seen, the financial sector has become unsustainable. Money cannot be made from thin air - it does still represent actual goods and services. The downfall of the financial sector has been to forget that the basis of their money lies with us, and the work that we do. Now, Occupy Wall Street has revealed the charade.

We need to recapture a sense of community. We need to remember that business is not simply about money, it's about enriching life for ourselves and our customers. It's about expressing our passions. It's about bringing us all into a better future.

The most important thing Occupy Wall Street has done is to start a conversation. They've got normal people like you and me thinking critically and talking honestly about the good and the bad things in our lives.

Everyone wants the courage to stand up for their beliefs. The opportunity rarely occurs directly; but isn't joining the conversation a form of courage? Putting your opinion out in the world opens you to the possibility of being wrong, or shouted down, or being made to feel alone, or alienating people you care about.

I struggle with this myself. I'm happy to share my opinions with close friends, but often shy away from difficult topics and rarely join a public discourse. I think "what's the use? No one is going to change their mind because of me." Or I say to myself "ugh, I've had this conversation a dozen times before, it isn't worth the effort this time." Partly it's because I see so many public forums dominated by people more interested in proselytizing their opinions than thinking critically about them. But partly it's simply inconvenient to take the time to engage.

Let's not confuse the issue. Wall Street deserves our anger, but they are not responsible for shaping the community. That's up to us.