Oneabees—Way to Represent!

There’s a splinter group in the 99% movement.

You know the people I’m talking about—those who, in the midst of the excitement generated by a growing demand for systemic change, persist in disavowing their membership in the 99%.

Perhaps you’ve read their rantifesto. It usually begins with “the 99% doesn’t represent me”, sails into “get a job!” and concludes with some or all of the following:

  • If you are part of the 99% it’s your own fault.
  • I have three part time jobs—and I’m okay with that.
  • I paid my way through university working 20 hour weeks at minimum wage—and I’m okay with that.
  • It will take 10 years to repay my student debt while I live in my parents’ basement—and I’m not only okay with that, I’m proud of that.
  • I am responsible for my own destiny; any debt I accumulate is as a result of my own bad decisions.

There’s a fairly obvious flaw in the argument; 99% is not simply a state of mind. Perhaps it’s easier to think of it not as a socialist plot, but rather as a numerical equation: $350,000/yr (households)> 99%.

But given the vehemence with which certain “Oneabees” insist the 99% does not represent them, there must be something more to this self-identification than mere math. After all, why would people who are by their own admission struggling with stagnant incomes and rising levels of household debt, the realities of part-time labour and student loans, a lack of meaningful financial supports, and an increasing sense of instability resist identification with so many others in the same boat?

If the 99% does not “represent” them, as they claim, do they honestly think the 1% does? Or are they simply trying to represent the 1%? You know, kind of like those kids in high school who think that if they act like a duck, and walk like a duck, and do the duck’s homework, and say nice things about the duck, and make fun of fellow non-ducks, and take the fall when the duck is caught plagiarizing or stealing lunch money, and keep electing the duck’s friends to student council, the duck will eventually accept them into the duck club and stop treating them like crap.

It’s as if the “Not 99ers” or “Oneabees” or whatever they prefer to be called think that poverty or injustice is merely a state of mind. If you embrace these realities, internalize them and take personal responsibility for not stumbling into an inheritance, you too can shrug off the (mental) shackles of economic insecurity and apply for a membership in the 1% club.

Or at least apply for a job holding the door. (I hear they sometimes tip well.)

3 comments

  1. I appreciate a lot of CCPA posts, but this one strikes me as a bit mean-spirited or snarky. The messages of the OccupyWallStreet and We are the 99% resonate much more with people comfortable with leftist arguments. In a country with the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, and Ann Coulter, where the politics of individualism is so very strong, the inability of a single movement to resonate with the full 99% of the population does not surprise me in the slightest. They’ve heard other messages about the role of government, are bombarded with blame-the-victim messages and often do not understand when they are recipients of government programs: see http://boingboing.net/2011/07/08/half-of-us-social-pr.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+boingboing%2FiBag+%28Boing+Boing%29). I also suspect that many believe in the myth of some ‘natural’ market where all we need to do is get out of the way and everything will magically be better.

    One problem the left continues to perpetuate is the sense that facts will help people change their minds. Conservatives tend to close down in the face of facts: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-sweeney/theres-no-arguing-with-co_b_126805.html

    I’m encouraged by the movements around the world, and hope this continues a dialogue about how policies got us where we are.

    1. Hi, Patty. I appreciate and agree with your comments about the way in which the individualist mantra has been deeply internalized–particularly in the U.S. but also in Canada–and have written about this in other posts. However, in this instance I opted for a more satirical treatment in order to better highlight the (sad) absurdity and ultimately self-defeating nature of this denial and disavowal. Further, I wanted to confront the vicious stereotyping of the 99% by the “oneabees”, which goes far beyond merely denying their membership in that enormous socio-economic group.

      Thanks for taking the time to respond.

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