What Is the Most Engaging Way to Represent the 99%?

There are a lot of campaigns out there right now to bring awareness to the growing income gap in this country. The stat that 1% of our population controls 40% of our nation’s wealth has been circulating for awhile now, and more and more people are coming together to visibly represent the other 99% of the nation. But how that’s portrayed is important – and worth some thought.

A Reddit comment was circulating the Internet yesterday begging people who participate in Occupy Wall Street to wear “a polo and khakis.”

As they put it:

You’re going big here, dress it. Tomorrow, Polo shirt and Khakis.

Why? Because you need to get the right-leaning equivalent of me on your side. I’m 35 right now. I understand where the hippy thing comes from. I get it as well as a guy who’s 35 can. My Counterparts do not. They think you are scummy druggies on welfare and when they see on tv a bunch of people who they think are S.D’s on W, they root for the cops to hit you again.

While this is interesting, it’s a peripheral route to persuasion that has to do with nothing but visual cues, failing to make a convincing, direct argument, which is what really changes minds.

Another growing movement is for bloggers to take pictures of themselves holding up handwritten notes explaining, as a unified mass, how dire the situation is on an individual scale.

Compelling, but not exactly motivating. As Jason Striegel down the ZJ table pointed out, “This kind of smells like death. Why don’t they show how many unused skills they have instead of going for the pity vote?”

As we’ve all learned from the guilt-motivated messaging of many charity infommercials, they’re more likely to make you change the channel than take action. Representing things as endlessly dour gives the impression that no matter what you do, you’re basically just throwing pennies into a well.

People are calling my generation “the lost generation” because we were hit so hard by the recession. But in my opinion, my peers understand the realities of the internet-fueled economy like no one else, and know how to use technology to promote their skills in whatever they studied in college that isn’t providing many jobs now. As Jason suggested, why not show what the 99% is capable of by getting together and applying all those dormant skills to larger projects? The thing is – this is already happening all around me. Many of my friends put in around 20 hours/ week on passion projects or working with a creative collective. Branding the overwhelming majority of the country is a strange task, but I think it should start with showing what people are capable of, and what they’re already doing.



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