Monday, December 12, 2011

Protesting Economic Inequalities: The Edukators and Occupy Wall Street

Last week the European Union Center wrapped up their Fall 2011 film series by showing The Edukators, the fourth film in the series this semester. All four movies—Millions, The Boss of It All, Mondays in the Sun and The Edukators—portrayed money as part of the plot, since 2011 marks the first decade of the Euro being in circulation. The Edukators, a 2004 German-Austrian film directed by Hans Weingartner, delves into the lives of three young radicals and their creative way of striking out against economic injustice. Their plan is not to reach the masses, but rather to instill fear and insecurity into the lives of wealthy individuals, with the hope of teaching their targets the lesson of the futility of wealth. The Edukators, as they call themselves, break into the homes of the rich, re-arrange the furniture ornately, and leave the finishing touch of a note with the warning “Die Fetten Jahre Sind Vorbei,” which can be translated into English as “Your Days of Plenty are Numbered” or literally, “The Fat Years are Over.” It is important that The Edukators do not steal anything; rather, they just re-arrange and introduce fear into the safe sanctuary of one’s home.

The opening scene to The Edukators, in which the audience gets a first glance into the political pranks of The Edukators that really “hit home” for some individuals.

The Edukators not only carry out their political pranks to resist economic inequality, but also for the adrenaline that comes with the risk-taking. As the movie progresses, The Edukators are faced with the unpredicted dilemma of kidnapping one of the owners of the homes they break into to keep him from turning them in. It is clear that The Edukators mean no harm when they are unsure of how to “act as kidnappers.” Instead, they engage in conversations with the kidnapped businessman and learn about how he ended up so wealthy, but of course not without stating that his amount of wealth is unnecessary, and that he should do good with it like give to the poor.

Intriguingly enough, this past year the United States saw the emergence of a group of protesters who could be viewed as a spin-off of The Edukators. September 2011 marked the initiation of protests that would quickly turn into the nationwide revolution known as Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Unlike the three protagonists from the film who targeted individuals to create change, the Occupy Wall Street protestors have gone mainstream in hopes that letting thousands hear their message will be the solution to fix many of the inequalities they are protesting against. OWS may have started in New York, but it quickly spread nationwide. In fact, the location of Wall Street for the protests was chosen because of the success that the symbolic location of Tahrir Square had on the 2011 Egyptian Revolutions. OWS may seem like a problem of the 99% in America, but these same problems of financial inequality span the globe, and will only continue to spread if financial crises continue to dominate the news. These protests are seen as a new form of radicalism, but in some ways it is history repeating itself. In fact, The Edukators was based off of the Radicalism that swept through Berlin in the 1960s and just put into a present day context. The correct approach or solution to an issue is always being debated, but when looking at The Edukators and OWS, is there one specific detail that is key to their success? Until the very last minutes of the film, the audience believes that the The Edukators were able to have an impact on the businessman’s life and that maybe individual targets are the key to revolution, but the last note left by The Edukators, ”Some People Never Change,” states otherwise.
A message from a Wall Street Occupier – worn proudly instead of left anonymously like The Edukators

Throughout 2011, there have been protests across the globe for change in government and change in financial policy, some with similar underlying themes, some successful, some not. What does change though, is the implementation of historically successful approaches. Maybe The Edukators were treating their resistance more as political pranks, but maybe with it they have also introduced new revolutionary ideas to the future educators of the world. In any case, the wealthiest 1% of America is probably grateful that OWS protestors have remained street side instead of taking the strategy of The Edukators and making it personal.

Natalie Cartwright is a first-year MA student in European Union Studies and an EU Center Graduate Assistant. She received her Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Studies at UIUC in May 2011. Her interests include migration flows, environmental sustainability, Italian and Turkish. 


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