By Hannah Morgan
“Kick over the wall, ‘cause government’s to fall
How can you refuse it?
Let fury have the hour, anger can be power
D’you know that you can use it?”
- Clampdown, by the Clash
Robert Egger, an original member of Street Sense’s board of directors and the president of DC Central Kitchen (DCCK), is a bit of a punk rocker. He is all about shattering the power of the system.
Egger is keeping an eye on the Occupy protests sprouting up around the country, and, unlike many of his peers who have been alive to witness great social movements like those led by Ghandi, MLK and Caesar Chavez, he believes in the energy and power of those out on the streets.
Egger sees this array of protests as a long-time -coming outpouring of frustration with our current system. He says it is fueled by two large age demographics: the Baby Boomers – who have seen protest before and wish to return to The People’s ability to change the country, and their children – who have been raised to expect an entirely different status quo.
The U.S. population of people under 25 has reached 90 million, and Egger notes this entire generation has been raised doing service. (For many of them, a minimum number of community service hours is required to graduate high school.) He believes it is the money this generation possesses , what Egger calls the “poor people’s pennies”, that can rock the system and take the protests to the next level.
“This is the beginning of a re-association. The streets rule the system—when a generation learns to discover they can harness the power of the dollar;” the spenders in the streets, rather than on the hill, will have the power.
Using global technology to spread the word on reliable companies for young consumers to patronize can make more of a difference than yelling in the streets, Egger said. For example: non-profits can use the power of Twitter and Facebook to list decent companies for consumers to spend their money with. Steering the dollar away from greedy corporations (which these protesters can all clearly agree is a problem) makes changing the system possible.
“Poor people’s pennies have the power to shatter the notion of the system’s power,” he said, “You don’t have to be a .org or a .com to change America, you don’t have to choose between making money and doing good.” Egger believes this young generation, who is “poor, plugged in and pissed off”, has the power to vote with their dollars. He calls this purposeful purchasing “buycotting”: effectively boycotting corporations for bad behavior buy purchasing from more reliable companies instead. This would force the other businesses to clean up their act, just to compete in the free market.
Because so many progressives are running the Occupy protests, Egger believes they all share a like-mindedness: a belief in a lifestyle that is new, sustainable and totally different from those familiar to Wall Street tycoons.
And of course he doesn’t just talk the talk, he also walks the walk. Egger is, in addition to maintaining his responsibilities as president of DCCK, launching a new non-profit called CForward. The organization will bind together multiple non profits across the spectrum, from arts to housing to homelessness and the environment, just to name a few. He hopes to discover common beliefs and traits that will unify them all, direct the organizations toward smart and sustainable investments, and elect strong people to represent their voices in governmental bodies in order to make change happen.
“The future of philanthropy will be how you make, or spend, your money everyday… not the check you write to charity at the end of the year,” Egger said before he dashed off to call his kitchens to discuss dropping off meals to the protesters.