Guest Column: Occupy Wall Street protest is just a forum for ‘whiners’

Jessica Lee

The very exclusive 1 percent that Occupy Wall Street attacks became that 1 percent because they worked hard.

And thus, I have not so endearingly nicknamed the protesters the “Wall Street Whiners.”

As the protest enters its fourth week, still without a cohesive aim, the movement has positioned itself as the 99 percent that is unhappy with America’s top 1 percent, its money and influence.

The majority of these protesters are depicted as the young and unemployed, infuriated with the broken promises they have been fed. These promises apparently guarantee that a college degree leads to a job, an affluent standard of living and a life happily ever after.

While such promises may have held true for our grandparents, a degree is now a dime a dozen. Times are changing, and it is our job to keep up. Hoping to attain the same economic status as our parents for the same amount of work is naive.

Whether it is pursuing further education or obtaining impeccable grades, college is no longer a bonus in the professional world but a necessity. And to be a competitive job applicant, you have to have that certain “je ne sais quoi” nobody else has — a college degree is not enough.

A CNN photo of the protests shows a sign reading, “Dear 1%, we fell asleep for a while. Just woke up. Sincerely, the 99%.” While the 99 percent was enjoying sleep and leisure time, the 1 percent was working for its money and opportunities.

For example, investment banking, the heart of Wall Street, is notorious for its grueling hours, a fact I experienced while working at an investment banking internship this summer. And with an investment banker in the family, I can personally attest that for people in the financial industry, all-nighters and weekends spent in the office are common.

But rather than complaining about their working conditions — conditions the entitled protesters would probably find inhumane — bankers work for their living. They are wealthy because they pay their dues, and they should not be blamed for their success. America does not owe these protesters socioeconomic equality. That is socialism.

If the movement wants to rid itself of the whiny persona it has created, it should find a coherent aim. Rather than generally attacking the rich, the protests should hold specific individuals responsible and targeting specific instances of unethical behavior on Wall Street.

For all of my irritations with Occupy Wall Street, I am not immune to the very real possibility of unemployment after graduation. So while I do understand the protesters’ frustration, their refusal to accept personal responsibility for their current unemployment breeds an unhealthy “I am a victim” mentality.

My parents have repeatedly warned me that if I fail to secure a job after graduation, I will not be allowed to stay at home all day but will have to work at our local In-N-Out while searching for jobs worthy of a UCLA degree. I won’t have time to grumble or feel sorry for myself, and that’s how it should be because my fate lies solely in my hands.

If I end up unemployed, I can only attribute it to the choices I made along the way, whether it is switching majors or choosing a vibrant social life over exceptional grades during my first year.

Similarly, the Wall Street Whiners need to take charge of their lives. They should attend business school, law school or graduate school, and if money is an issue, they should take community college courses to equip themselves with skills that make them a more attractive job applicant. Emulating the homeless will get them nowhere.

I realize I may sound uncompassionate, but that isn’t the case. I wholeheartedly believe people should not go without food, a home and a sound education.

But for entitled complainers, I have no sympathy. We live in a competition-oriented world, and the spoils go to the victors, not the victims. And that may sound unfair, but life is unfair.

Jessica Lee is a columnist for the Daily Bruin, U of California, Los Angeles (via UWire).