Viewpoint: Occupy Wall Street misses global picture

Brighton Wallace takes part in an “Occupy Austin” protest at Austin City Hall on Thursday in Austin. Demonstrations across the U.S. protested the state of Wall Street and the growing financial crisis.Associated Press

By Caroline Brewton
Copy Editor

A little perspective, please.

I’ve been reading the blog for the Occupy Wall Street movement. And for the most part, I agree with the debt-owing disgruntled.

I, too, have accumulated thousands of dollars in student loans. I cannot afford a car, and I constantly worry about my future. Will I be able to find a job that uses my degree? Will my salary cover all of my needs? Will I be able to find a job at all?

Already, I struggle to pay my rent and utilities every month.

Yes, sometimes, I even forego my coffee, which is a first-world problem if I’ve ever heard one. I cannot help but wonder how this movement appears to the world. For example, one post from Thursday on the tumblr blog of the “We Are the 99 Percent” movement reads:

“My pension is in shambles due to the greed of a CEO; I planned to retire by 55, but looks like I’ll have to work until 62; the unregulated petroleum industry picks our pockets at the gas pump; absurd rulings by the Supreme Court jeopardize our power of free elections; nowhere in the Constitution does it read “We the greedy …” it reads “We the people …”! [sic]”

Above the writing is a picture of a rotund man in a black polo shirt. Countless other posts recount similar stories. Some are very serious, detailing sick spouses and budget crunches.

Now, I agree mortgage woes, healthcare and rising gas prices are serious problems in our country that need to be addressed. In other countries, however, citizens are facing starvation, lack of shelter, disease and the lack of clean drinking water.

I won’t offer a number due to the difficulty in computing accurate global poverty statistics. But an exact number is not necessary; few dispute that starvation, for example, is a real problem, or that global poverty also includes inadequate shelter, inadequate access to clean water and inadequate education. The United Nations World Food Programme reports that hunger and malnutrition are the number one health risks worldwide, greater than the risk of AIDS and malaria, and much greater than a deferred retirement.

So while you may have unpaid student loans, be thankful you received an education. If your medical bills have plunged you into debt, be thankful that you were able to access these services at all. You may have to decamp from your expensive home and move to a smaller house with a less expensive payment, but you have shelter. And chances are good that you can’t see your child’s ribs. We are so fortunate on a global scale, with access to electricity, supermarkets, air conditioning and public sanitation.

I, too, am scared of the future. But in our rush to topple corporate greed and fulfill our right to pursue happiness, we can’t forget those less fortunate than we are. I think this movement, while legitimate, may obscure more pressing problems worldwide: that in our self-concern, we may forget those below even us.

Remember this: in America we may be the 99 percent, but to the rest of the world, we are still the one percent.

Caroline Brewton is a sophomore journalism major from Beaumont and a copy editor for the Lariat.