Occupy Movement Should Try a Softer Sell

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

When my dad was chairman of the parish charity drive in Buffalo, he never tried to shame or bully rich folks into contributing more to the drive each year. His approach was to sit down with the potential large donors and respectfully point out to them the opportunity they had to really make a difference in the community.

He talked about the legacy they would leave and how their family name would always be honored by succeeding generations. Dad made them feel that he was doing them a favor by giving them the opportunity to share their wealth. The technique worked. Holy Family Parish never once failed to exceed their goal.

I was thinking of my dad's respectful approach the other day while watching the confrontations taking place all over the country that were being portrayed as "US" VS "THEM." True, in most cases, the rallies were non-violent and conducted with a surprising degree of civility. But there was no doubt in anyone's mind that "we" the 99% are the victims and "they" the 1% are the perpetrators.

Is it that simple? I don't think so. It was not only the very rich who were guilty of raw greed. Middle class folks salivated at the money they thought they could make by investing in shaky real estates investments. We, the 99% have contributed to the way our congress operates by voting in many of the rascals who are in office today or causing the same result by not voting at all.

Rather than simply attacking the rich for our problems, we need to effect change by acknowledging that there is enough blame to go around and then calling on the rich, not as aliens, but as fellow human beings to help us find solutions together. Help them to realize the vital role their wealth can play in making a difference in our world.

If that sounds hopelessly naïve, bordering on the whimsical, I submit that the way of mutual respect beats the hell out of calling one another names and coming to the impasse where we now find ourselves. Dividing the world into "us" and "them" gets us nowhere; never has.

I'm reminded of Frederick Franck's words, "The derelict asleep on the pavement under a jute sack is disquieting because he is me, after the always possible catastrophe. We were both lovely babies last week, aggressive teenagers yesterday, the corpses of tomorrow morning."

We're all in this together, mates.