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Back to the Future? Generation X and Occupy Wall Street

We started out with Nixon. Could Occupy Wall Street lead us to a new society?

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Truthfully, you need us. Smaller than other generations, we are still 50 million souls. We are well-educated, technically adept and ethnically diverse, more so than those who came before us. And we are hungry, so hungry for a better world.

We need you, too. We've seen that look in the eyes of the '60s children when they told us stories of joining protests in their youth. The era-envy we felt! We wanted to taste possibility so badly that tens of thousands of us flocked to Prague in the '90s after the Velvet Revolution, just to see what history-in-the-making looked like. We saw the poet-president guiding a new society and wistfully thought, "Why can't this happen at home?"

The first time I went down to Liberty Plaza, I didn't trust what I was seeing. "Just another wasted effort," I thought. But I came back, and in the first general assembly that I joined (and admittedly made it only halfway through), my eyes began to tear as I listen to the amplified voices of the people's mic. When I shouted along, I was a part of this. Other generations may not easily understand just how difficult that is for Gen X -- feeling part of something. A long-jaded heart opens up slowly and painfully.

But that's what you've done. You've taken us somewhere we have never traveled.

Let's do this thing together. It's not like Gen-Xers don't have a lot to be pissed off about. In fact, we excel in being pissed off. The years of our birth marked the beginning of so many declines in American life, real wages, worker's rights, manufacturing, etc. We are sick of downgrading the future. We don't have pensions; they're chipping away at our Social Security; our houses (if we have them) are underwater; our healthcare sucks; and the last time we worked a 40-hour week was  --  never. Frankly, we never lost the fear that we'd end up flipping burgers like the slackers they told us we were. In fact, in a world of chronically high unemployment, we often fear we won't be able to do even that.

You, with your fresh thoughts, can you teach us to close our in-boxes and march with you? To get off the treadmill of endless work and consumption, to slow down and keep pace with you? To stand firm in the face of violent assaults and propaganda and a global financial monster bent on strangling us?

Yes, let's do this thing together. Let's link arms with every generation to oppose the demonic force of unfettered capitalism, a system of such appalling evil that it must deny basic human values in order to justify itself. Let's get the Baby Boomers who remember how to organize. And let's call in the children of the Depression who know how to fight labor battles. Let's talk to the college students who are trembling right now to inherit a world that has been so desperately screwed up. Let's bring in the trade unions and the churches and the community groups and the university professors and even the Silicon Valley guys who think that a high-speed connection beats a human connection.

Let's grow this thing together, no matter what happens. Let's learn from one another and prove that the 99 percent will not be silenced. Maybe we can figure out how to divide the 1 percent. Or conjure strategies the established media won't expect. Or make sure the politicians choke on every lie they tell us. Or just continue to talk and think about what kind of society we actually want to live in.

 
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