Greg Leitao ’12
October 18, 2011
One of the largest news stories surrounding us these past few weeks has been the Occupy Wall Street protests, which have continued to spread across the nation. However, though Wall Street may be an American locale, at the heart of these protests is an attitude that appeals on an international level. Over the past week there have been marches and/or occupations in 82 countries around the world, all against corporate greed, executive excess and public austerity.
Most of these countries’ demonstrations were at least slightly tailored towards their own personal situations: Canadians marched through Turonto’s financial district, the Swedes in Stockholm and Germans in Berlin demonstrated to denounce capitalism, the Portuguese protested their government’s handling of the economy – the list goes on.
However not all of these places were protesting something within their own borders; for example, in the Philippines a group marched on the US embassy solely to show support for those marching on Wall Street.
From all of this – both the people marching due to inspiration from Occupy Wall Street and those doing so in support of it – it becomes clear that humanity does have the capability of unanimity; regardless of why countries are protesting specifically, they still are all marching together.
Up to a point this worldwide movement is a positive thing: there is a sense of unity on an international level, and it is being acted upon peacefully (except for in Rome) as people stand up for what they believe in. However, in viewing the big picture, it also is apparent that this display of unity comes with a negative connotation. This universal solidarity is the result of protest, of people feeling they have been wronged in some way.
For the second issue in a row I turn to Mark Twain, who once said that “God created war so that Americans would learn geography.” This may be a bit direct, and I won’t say whether or not I agree with it. However, it is hard to disagree that for many people – not only in America but worldwide – war is one of the main reasons they gain some sort of international perspective. As displayed by this and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, it appears that a vast majority of instances in which countries band together comes from either fighting wars or protesting.
This is a reality that should be recognized more prominently by everyone, regardless of where they hail from.
The fact that different nations and the people within them can stand together and support one another is exceptional, and something that should be commended and acknowledged. Nevertheless, we should strive to reach this same type of unification always, not just when there is something – or someone – we want to fight.
Obviously to hope for complete world peace and harmony is a foolhardy endeavor – if people have trouble getting along within their own families, I find it hard to believe almost seven billion people will eventually become amicable.
However, just because it seems like a fool’s errand to strive for solidarity does not mean we should resign ourselves to only banding together when the situation deems it necessary. Here is to hoping that when these protests finally end, the unity that they generated endures.