Last weekend, Occupy Amsterdam protests took place and a handful of Erasmus students attended. To show solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, the initial movement in New York, 3000 people gathered in Amsterdam Beursplein to peacefully protest against the world’s 1% riches. EM spoke with some students about this movement that has undertaken four continents and dozens of cities worldwide.

Rich Teemling, currently studying in the third year of IBCoM, comes from California where he served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army and spent a year in Iraq as a photographer, videographer, editor, and producer. He sides with the protesters and thinks that people are done being messed with by banks, corporations, and governments. “Honestly, I just don’t see the point of standing around Wall Street with protest signs, chanting anti-capitalistic slogans.  With no objectives or direction, I don’t know exactly what it is that they want to change or how they are going to change it.  Bringing about real change is going to take real action – not just protests.”

Social media – a useful tool

When asked if he would join the protests, he answers with a firm no. To Rich, even though there is a constitutional right for everyone to protest, the movement is rather vague and doesn’t have the variables, for example leadership, which would make it successful. The ex-Sergeant further criticizes the movement, by saying that many joined simply as sheep following others blindly and jump on the bandwagon without actually realising against what they are protesting. Rich thinks that it is because young people are too preoccupied with themselves, their Facebook statuses and YouTube videos. Yet, “the protests in the Middle-East and the Occupy protests are a testament to how we have finally realized the full potential of social media as a mobility multiplier”.  

Not many students attended

Sun de Valk, a South Korean third year IBA student, was one of the students who actually did join the Occupy Amsterdam movement and he agrees with Rich about the power of media. “We are the young and educated, and technology has provided us with the means to really unite people worldwide, and raise awareness.” Disappointingly, not many students attended compared to the massive amount of hippies. Sun explains that probably, we are too absorbed in ourselves, money, status, and what others think about us to see the larger issues of the world. “We want everything, we need more money! But you cannot tell me that a financial engineer should make 100 times the wage of an engineer, or that Cristiano Ronaldo adds more to society than our entire parliament combined.” The current world system, according to Sun, is simply not working, and for it to turn around we need to start understanding the world. “We are a social species, we are nothing without each other”.

‘I’m a hippie!’

Tung Tung Chan, a Malaysian student in the second year of IBCoM, says that a course assignment propelled her to join the movement. Yet, opposite from the guys, she doesn’t feel like the protests are unorganized. On the contrary, Tung Tung points out there were brushes and paints to make signs, food and money donations, as well as screens to watch documentaries were set up, all for free and voluntarily. “There is no leader, but it was organized by people who are willing to help and participate. If you call me hippie for being an idealist, then I am a hippie too.” She says that people nowadays have a priority crisis, where it is “me” over “us” and youth either like to be “fed” opinions when it comes to controversial issues, or they simply do not care because life is too good to care about it now. Yet, most people who would like to voice their opinion are hindered, as Tung Tung says, by thinking that they could not make a change by participating. “All minds from a huge variety of cultures can come together to confront and solve the problems the world is facing.” MD