Occupy Athens, Help Me Reconcile Some Contradictory Signs

This weekend was dedicated to studying for final exams. I’ll take my last, final exam today and be completely done. I’ve lived in Athens for almost a year now, and while I enjoyed my time in this interesting town and met some great people, I’m anxious to move on to bigger and better things. I’ll be moving to North Carolina to take a marketing research manager position with a research supplier.

Back to the story, I was walking to the study lab when I walked by some sort of festival/gathering/meeting. Seeing all the commotion, I was curious as to what it was all about. As soon as I strolled over, I noticed higher than usual incidences of facial hair, male pony tails, and tie-dye. The occupy movement in Athens (a liberal enclave in the otherwise conservative state of Georgia) was holding an event that was filled with tie-dye, hippies, and leftist signage.

Realizing what was going on, I went and chatted with the guy behind the Occupy Athens booth (pictured below), and actually had a very cordial chat about his movement, views, and some of the signs that were handmade and hanging through out the premises.

After leaving, I realized that many of the signs contradicted one another or the movement’s overall message, so I want to flush those out here, and get your thoughts. Please share your conclusions in the comments below.

The first is the sign directly behind the guy I chatted with. It reads “NO BOSSES, NO BORDERS, NO DEBT.” This was the sign I asked him about that led to our conversation. We chatted about the “NO BOSSES” part and got into the discussion about CEOs making more money than their subordinates. I argued that they should make more, just like people with Harvard MBAs should make more money than those without college degrees (overall, not in every case). He hesitated to agreed with the notion that people who accomplish more should reap more.

The “NO BORDERS” piece contradicts, or stands to hurt the cause they claim for which they claim to be fighting–helping the poorest Americans. Unskilled laborers are often displaced by immigrants who are willing to do their job for less money–depressing the market wages– and are easier to work with (won’t demand higher wages, days off, etc.). So is the OWS movement ignorant to the economics of the issue (very possible, as I indicated in a previous post about their economic misunderstandings), is their motive not to help the poorest Americans (maybe all poor people), do they simply want to allow additional likely Democrats into the country to eventually vote for their candidates, or something else? What am I missing? Help me reconcile this inconsistency!

Another sign which you can see part of above says “EDUCATION IS A HUMAN RIGHT.” Now if they’re just talking about grammar, middle, and elementary school, then we don’t really have much to gripe about. We already have public education in the US. If they’re talking about free college then they’re much more socialistic in nature than even I realized, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re just speaking to those lower levels of education. The picture below shows a sign that says “STOP ALL WARS.” Now if we’re are to understand education as a true “human right,” then most of our recent wars have been against countries and cultures that deny women of their “human right” of education.

Finally, the most obvious contradiction came from a sign and what was said by the speaker on stage. The sign said “HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT.” The speaker said “We don’t want handouts!” I don’t think this one requires much explanation. If you want free handouts, which was my impression, just say so. How else are you going to give people healthcare and not make them pay for it? Someone has to pay for it (the 53% of Americans who pay taxes)? Handing out free things (such as healthcare) and making someone other than the recipient is the very definition of a handout.

All this comes at a time when France just elected a true socialist who is willing to tax the very rich at a 75% marginal tax rate. We could be headed towards that general direction. Scary stuff! What do you think?

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9 thoughts on “Occupy Athens, Help Me Reconcile Some Contradictory Signs

  1. Indeed scary, Ryan.

    My prayers are with your generation to assist in walking our nation back from the brink.

    Nice post.

  2. Pingback: THE BATTLE OF ATHENS(Tennessee) [Would FReepers take up arms in the name of Liberty as they did?] « CITIZEN.BLOGGER.1984+ GUNNY.G BLOG.EMAIL

  3. Ryan, you’ve got your facts wrong. This was the 34th annual Human Rights Festival. The Human Rights Fesival (put on for the last 34 years, much longer than Occupy has been around) is organized by an organizing non-profit group. Occupy Athens had a booth there but so did many groups including a radio station.

    Either way, I’ll help clear up some of your misconceptions.
    NO BOSSES – I believe a person should be paid for either the amount of work (actual work) or the amount of time invested in the perfecting of their craft (education). So should someone with a Harvard MBA get paid a bit more? Sure, but they shouldn’t be paid 400x more unless they did 400x more work and time. I can’t believe that you also wouldn’t think that that is a ridiculous income disparity. Also, there are members of the group who are a lot more socialistic than you realized and even SOME who are anarchistic and want to rid of all hierarchy, aka Bosses.

    NO BORDERS – We believe that Borders are nothing more than invisible lines drawn in the sand and one shouldn’t be able to say, ‘I was here first and I say you can’t come in.’ We are a nation of immigrants declaring war on immigrants.

    EDUCATION IS A HUMAN RIGHT – We are speaking beyond Grade School and including Secondary Education. This isn’t a crazy idea like you are acting like it is. Many countries have done this for quite some time. Be a bit more open-minded. By charging astronomical prices for Education serves to do only one thing, control who can afford that education. Have it be state-funded, then more people are able to afford it, therefor there are more people who can have high-paying, high-skilled jobs, therefor there are more people paying taxes to pay for the state-funded Secondary Education…. <See how that works?

    STOP ALL WARS – Once again, this was a sign for the Human Rights Festival. One that I think they've had on their stage for the last 15 years or so. We are for stopping wars though, tell me one good thing that came out of any war we have fought in since WWII. Sadam is dead? So are 100,000 other Iraqis. And I know you don't think that we fought any of those wars to give women the right for education, so I'm not even going to touch that one.

    HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT – How is that a handout? If the system was changed then according to your logic, interstates are handouts. Water treatment is a handout. Our national defense is a handout.

    But not to skirt the issue, Healthcare is a human right. Once again, in countries all around the world that is exactly how healthcare is thought of. Our healthcare system is amazingly bad right now. I have pretty decent health insurance, I had an allergic reaction the other day and had to go to the clinic to receive steroids. It cost me $300 and I had to pay every cent of it even though I pay $90 a week for my family's insurance. We already are being "taxed" for healthcare just not by the state but by private companies and are forced to if you want to receive care at a large majority of providers. Many times healthcare isn't a choice. You either need it or you will die. Outside of Emergency clinics (and even those sometimes will not provide care) many uninsured people do not have an option. If you want to tell a sick man, 'Sorry, but you don't have enough' then go right ahead and I hope there is a heaven and a hell and God can judge you.

  4. Tim, thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and write such a thorough comment. I’ve responded to your comments below.

    You said:
    “I believe a person should be paid for either the amount of work (actual work) or the amount of time invested in the perfecting of their craft (education).”

    This sounds great, but is flawed. People are paid for the value they create. Someone with a PhD in Women’s Studies spends a great deal of time perfecting their craft, but in end, creates little value and thus should be paid less than an engineer. If a CEO creates 400x more value for his company through savvy business decisions than someone else, he should be paid in that manner. That may or may not be the current case. Either way, bosses, or reporting managers, are needed in any logical society.

    NO BORDERS
    You’re argument for open borders is all fine and dandy, so long as you’re ok with suppressed wages for unskilled laborers. I’m not arguing for or against open borders, I’m merely saying that it is intellectually dishonest to first say that unskilled laborers are under paid and then argue for policies that cause them to be underpaid.

    NO WARS
    This is surely your most compelling point. I find it ironic that American liberals are constantly defending the culture of the Arab world where hierarchy is prized, women are mistreated, and homosexuals are hung. If you don’t believe in any war for any cause, then your causes must not be all that valuable.
    “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight; nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety; is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
    –John Stuart Mill
    Some things, say genocide, are worth fighting against.

    HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT
    Interstates are not a personal allowance, they are public property like dams. Welfare, food stamps, work training programs, medicaid, ect. are handouts. They are not necessarily horrible and evil, but let’s call a spade a spade. If you want to tax me even more so another person can get something for free then you are taking my belongings and handing them out to other people. It is a handout. Now, you can argue that it is right to force people to pay for other people’s healthcare and it is right to force doctors to treat everyone who comes into their door (actually a Reagan law), but free service paid for by tax payers are absolutely, without a doubt, no questions asked, a handout.

    • Compensation… just gonna say one sentence b/c this is a difference in perspective that is not changed until people get older and understand or get older and never figure out. Great CEO’s are extremely rare. You get one you do what you can to you keep one. Great Janitors can be found anywhere, one wants a raise you call the next guy that is willing to work at that price. Simple supply and demand economics.

      Borders… Ya let anyone in. Don’t worry about it. Till bombs enter the country and kill millions of Americans and then your argument looks really naive.

      Education… I really do wish it were possible for everybody to be able to advance in education as much as they wanted. Have yet to hear a reasonable way for it to be affordable.

      “therefor there are more people who can have high-paying, high-skilled jobs, therefor there are more people paying taxes to pay for the state-funded Secondary Education”

      really have a problem with this statement thought 1) the assumption people should be forced to pay for other people’s education just gets under my skin every time. How people can take so lightly the idea that taking someone’s money and giving it to another person without question just blows my mind. 2) You can’t have a society with all high skilled jobs. Just not plausible, somebody has to collect the trash.

      Stop all wars… I feel every reasonable person wishes this was possible, however any reasonable person with a sense of the world knows that it will never happen. I do understand the argument to leave Iraq with the day-to-day troops, but again I feel it is extremely naive to say we should just let the middle east do it’s thing and we’ll do ours. You know why? Cuz a lot of people chilling in the middle east’s thing is to try and kill Christians in the world. You know what is recognized as the world’s “Christian” nation? The U.S., and trust me they don’t give a S*** if you specifically are a christian or not, just that you’re from here.

      Healthcare… It’s all nice and dandy to point out why it would be fantastic for everybody to have healthcare. However, that’s not the question at hand. The question that needs to be answered is: Should the government be able to force people that don’t want insurance to buy it so that people that can’t afford it can have it? Nobody is just like ya screw poor people I hope they never get insurance. That’s not the case the case is I don’t want to be forced to buy something that I may not want. If this passes the S.C I find it extremely scary that a realistic next step could be the government forcing people to buy a car from G.M as the next bailout simply cuz cars can be bought across state lines. The commerce clause is out of control. I don’t like people telling me what to do. I guess liberals do… What can you do?

      Difference between handouts and public goods. A handout is something given to the needy free of charge. A public good is something provided by the gov’t to all of society that nobody can be excluded from and that is possible to be used by everyone at all times, a.k.a a public park.

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