If nothing else comes from the “Occupy” protests, I really hope the person—or people—who conceived of the “we are the 99 percent” tagline lands a top job at a branding firm.
Yesterday was the SEIU-organized Occupy Chicago protest. It was also Columbus Day, which meant that teachers and other public workers had the day off and the protest lacked the open-air college lounge vibe that characterized Occupy New York during its first few days at Zuccotti Park. It was held outside the Art Institute of Chicago just as a group of futures traders were arriving, via the bridge from Millennium Park for dinner at the museum’s Modern Wing. A suited few sauntered above the protesters, leaning over the banisters to shoot photos on their iPhones; the crowd, meanwhile, had smart phones of their own, and held them above their heads as the traders walked the plank. The image—the few traders above, the masses below—was as illustrative as an infographic.
“We are the 99 percent,” is a wisely inclusive rallying cry. By setting such wide parameters for the victimized demographic, the movement avoids vitriol, welcoming those in, say, the top 5 or 10 percent to join in. (One percenters can be sympathizers, too; any occupier would welcome an appearance by Warren Buffet or Bill Gates.) The only entry requirement is a belief that wealth inequality in the U.S.—where the richest 10 percent control two-thirds of our GDP—is a problem. Any one of those traders along the bridge could have pumped his fist in the air and claimed his 99-percent allegiance. Instead, they posed like tourists, draping their arms around each other’s necks with angry posters as their backdrop.