Will you take it?

If someones punches you in the arm, you yell “Owtch!” You don’t know why you react that way – it’s just your natural, innate reaction to the situation. In fact, it’s your autonomic nervous system implementing what your DNA has programed it to do over thousands and thousands of years. Simply put, it’s your instinct.

So, let’s say someone punches you in the arm again. And then again. And then again. Each time, they punch you a bit harder than the time before, causing the pain to increase incrementally. What do you do now? You have time to think about your response, but it doesn’t make the decision any easier. You brain is telling you to punch this idiot in the face and run in the other direction, but there is a police officer standing right down the street and you’re afraid you’ll get in trouble if you do. So you take it. And take it. And take it.

Until you can’t take it anymore.

This is the analogy I use to describe how the Occupy Wall Street protestors, and those occupying cities all over the country, are feeling. This is not a protest against a monolithic, overpowering entity as were the great civil rights protests of the ’60′s, or the protests over dictatorial and abusive governments we’ve seen throughout the “Arab Spring“. These occupy protests are about many smaller, more innocuous problems which, when added together, are far more oppressive than the sum of their parts.

Unemployment, triggered by insanely irresponsible lending practices, layered on top of a decade of decreasing real income, placed precariously on top of declining home prices, set upon rapidly rising healthcare costs, have  created the most destructive game of Jenga since the great depression. It has simply pushed too many too far.

Until they couldn’t take it anymore.

Can you blame them? The only wrinkle here is that “them” are “us”. The 99% of us who have seen our incomes fall, our housing values implode, our household debt soar, all while the richest 1% have become richer. They are us, whether you support them or not. They are us, whether you understand them or not.

They are us, whether you choose to believe it or not.

You wonder whey they can’t articulate a demand or a grievance? If you bully is punching you in the arm, and the police officer sees it, you don’t have to come up with an articulate policy message, or show a bullet-pointed presentation about your demands- he knows you want the bully to stop punching you. So why must these protests have more than their grievances? Is anyone seriously arguing that the demise of the American Dream is an insufficient reason to protest?

And so we return to your bully, punching you in the arm. What do you do? Do you punch him and run? Do you let him keep going, clobbering you until you can’t walk? Or do you yell as loud and as long as you can, telling him you’ve had enough, until that police office comes over and takes care of that problem for you?

I think we’ve all had enough – it’s time to start yelling. All of us.