99 problems

Last week, Miley Cyrus joined the Occupy frontlines.

Well, not quite.

Rather, the Hannah Montana star turned salvia-smoking young adult released a music video for her new song, “Don’t Give Up: It’s a Liberty Walk!”

The pop song—all thumping beats and cheesy ’80s-styled keyboards—is largely forgettable. The video, on the other hand, has brought flack for the 19-year-old millionaire, largely due to its use of footage shot at various Occupy rallies from around the world.

And at the start of the video, seemingly to underscore its point, there’s a message set against a black screen that reads: “This is dedicated to the thousands of people who are standing up for what they believe in.”

Not surprisingly, many bona fide occupiers have sniffed suspiciously at Cyrus’ “support.”

After all, the singer-actress reportedly pulled in more than $15 million last year and has yet to show up in person at a single rally or protest.

In other words, she’s still decidedly more 1 percent than 99 percent.

One activist put it this way in an interview with TMZ.com:

“I double-dog dare [her] to fight on the front line of economic civil rights at [Los Angeles] City Hall … Revolutionaries occupy, Ms. Cyrus.”

Then again, the backlash against Cyrus has yet to quite match the public outrage over Jay Z’s recent attempt to hock $22 “Occupy All Streets” T-shirts through his Rocawear clothing line—with not a penny from his profits going to the movement.

The point is this: The revolution should not be occupied—not by glommers and gamers, nor by empty-headed celebs and clueless exploiters.

Yes, that goes for you and me, too. And yet, that’s exactly what’s in danger of happening.

What started in September as an attempt by the “99 percent” to reclaim—or at least more fairly redistribute—wealth, power and even basic needs has, it seems, turned into a national catchphrase, an Internet meme, a trendy movement ripe for the co-opting.

It was bound to happen, of course—though the speed at which it has occurred is a bit breathtaking. In just the span of a few months, we’ve gone from underground buzz and fringe outrage to widespread interest and mainstream misappropriation.

Now, we’re practically in a post-Occupy era.

Indeed, if I had a dime for every “Occupy” joke I saw on I saw on Facebook, I’d be rich. Not 1-percent rich, mind you, but certainly better off.

From the well-intentioned (Occupy Black Friday! Occupy Walmart!) to the mundane (Occupy Breakfast! Occupy Couch!) and the cheeky (Occupy Kardashians! Occupy Pot!), the phrase’s colloquial objective has changed.

As defined by the movement’s original political meaning the term “occupy” signaled an intent, among other things, to reclaim a space or reshape a policy.

Now, after just weeks of political and pop-culture discourse, that definition has metamorphosed into something that at times seems meaningless, pointless and empty.

Not to get all syntax police on everyone, but as the Occupy movement settles in for the winter—and, we hope, the long haul—it’s time to reconsider what we talk about when we talk about change.

Don’t just laugh at Miley Cyrus’ attempt to roughen up her image by cashing in on Occupy. Don’t just scoff at celebrity efforts to financially exploit the movement.

Distrust them, disengage them and don’t put money in their pockets.

And, whatever you do, think twice before you thoughtlessly shout into the fray, turning that which has a tangible, significant meaning into an unoccupied hollow.