Discontent on display

May Day marchers seek altered status quo

By Walt Braun

Workers and union members marching on May Day is hardly a new phenomenon. Particularly overseas, parades and demonstrations celebrating workers have been occurring for decades.

Some years the various rallies seem like isolated events; some years the workers’ complaints are more legitimate than others. News organizations generally show more interest when violence occurs.

There was violence in a few of this year’s demonstrations, including Seattle’s. Even though the violence is often fostered by folks with little in common with rally organizers, it hurts legitimate causes.

But there also seemed genuine passion, discontent with the status quo and growing conviction this year that something has to change.

Ana Lopez, a 44-year-old Spanish civil servant, is upset with her government. She’s hardly alone among Spaniards, who are enduring considerably more acute hardships than are Americans. She expressed disappointment to the Associated Press that her government isn’t doing more to help workers and that banks are the beneficiaries of the economic crisis. Yet when she said, “Money does not just disappear. It does not fly away. It just changes hands, and now it is with the banks. And the politicians are puppets of the banks,” she spoke for marchers in American cities as well as her counterparts in Spain and other European cities.

The problems differ — and not just in degree — from country to country. Yet common threads exist; they extend beyond the lack of jobs to the perception that there are fewer opportunities than there once were and that vast numbers of people are as well off now as they will ever be — even if they’re not particularly well off.

Another common thread is the growing resentment of large financial institutions and governments. Occupy Wall Street isn’t universal; nor is it entirely sympathetic. But those who take and profit from irresponsible risks at large financial institutions and their political “puppets” shouldn’t be surprised that they’re mistrusted more than envied by a lot of folks who work just as hard, in many cases are well educated and yet have little to show for their efforts. The rich can get richer, but not at the expense of the poor, who are getting poorer.

May Day is over. Most marchers have gone back to work or school or back to looking for jobs, hoping but perhaps not believing their lot will improve before next May Day.

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