It’s one thing to watch footage of the Occupy Wall Street protests on TV and hear the nightly news pundits give their two cents on the global movement. But what if you could live among the protesters and get a real sense of how the Occupy movement is taking shape and why it’s become a phenomenon?
MTV did just that, embedding with the protesters for an upcoming “True Life” special set to air Saturday, November 5, at 6 p.m. ET. “True Life: I’m Occupying Wall Street” will visit the financial district sit-in and profile a group of 20somethings who’ve pitched their tents amid the skyscrapers of Wall Street to see how they’re feeling about the event.
The special episode will take you to the front lines as MTV cameras follow three young people who get swept up in the political movement that has quickly grown into a global phenomenon. Viewers will be introduced to Bryan, one of the leaders of the Occupy sanitation team. You’ll watch as he steels himself against a potential fight with the city when he fears that their request to clean the park is an excuse to evict the protesters.
“This needs to happen now, or it’s over,” Bryan is seen telling his fellow protesters about cleaning up the park before the city’s mandatory deadline, which helps motivate them to collect trash, sweep up and scrub graffiti from the ground with hand-held brushes. “As worried as I was,” he says, “it was amazing to see that as it really came down to the wire, people were willing to just do whatever it took to get the park clean.”
The protests come at a time when the future seems grim not just for the millions who’ve been out of work and looking for jobs for several years, but for a younger generation that is just entering their prime earning years. In fact, 72 percent of young people surveyed by MTV over the past two years are afraid they won’t live up to their potential, with nearly three-quarters of those age 18 to 29 feeling “things are unfair for my generation because we have to start our careers during this economic crisis.”
They’ve found that the game has changed and the old equation for success that promised that college plus extracurriculars, summer internships and huge student loans would lead to a fulfilling job that helps pay off those loans — just doesn’t compute. Many feel as if the rules have been altered on them and that they’ve been cheated.
The problem for young protesters like Bryan is who do they turn to? Their parents, the government? Many believe it no longer matters who’s in charge in Washington because none of those big money politicians has any answers. That might be why this group sees Occupy as a kind of war their generation must wage, one that might not end soon, but which they support because it allows them to speak out against corporate America and voice the concerns they have about not being able to find work. That also explains why nearly half (45 percent) have postponed a major life milestone (marriage, having children) because of the economy or their employment situation.
A recent MTV survey of young adults (ages 18 to 29) about economic conditions, the government and its impact on their generation found that 93 percent feel that the current economic situation is having a personal effect on them; 72 percent don’t trust the government to take care of their well-being. A whopping 76 percent said they’re worried about the future of our country. And they’re not just fretting about themselves. More than 62 percent said they feared for their parents’ ability to retire in this economy and 66 percent said they wish there was some leader, outside of a political one, who could speak to their generation’s needs.
“I feel stressed out about it,” 18-year-old Adalee recently told MTV News. “As a [Hispanic] college student relying on financial aid to get through school … and with all the budget cuts, it’s a stressful situation … But if the economic crisis worsens or is not resolved soon, it won’t matter how much financial aid we get, more than likely it won’t be enough to cover tuition.”
The nation has watched this anxiety amplified by Occupy demonstrations across the country, as a small gathering of activists in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan has spread across the globe spanning hundreds of cities. When it came to those MTV surveyed, among the 69 percent who said they were aware of the Occupy protests, 57 percent supported the movement.
“True Life” viewers will also meet college students Kait and Caitlin, who are so worried that they won’t be able to find jobs after graduation that they set out to recruit their friends to join the cause as they work to keep spirits high among the occupants.
What do you think about the Occupy Wall Street movement? Let us know in the comments.