Recently, there were questions about the Occupy Wall Street Movement and "hyperbole." Protesters were asked to remain accountable and report accurately based on evidence, evidence that the American public could then interpret for themselves to make their own decisions about. The kind of evidence which lends credibility to the Movement, undermining the mainstream media counterpunch engineered specifically to undermine its power through contentions that the movement is largely comprised of iconoclasts, anarchists, blowhards, malcontents, naifs, or zealots.
This move is fairly typical when there is any threat to the official narrative of a nation, so much so that it has a fancy name called a "strategy of containment" which means that labels (like the above) are flung around to rhetorically discredit any threat to the social order, no matter how debilitated that social order may be. This concept has been looked at extensively in even the most historically corrupt of regimes. And this is a valid concern because it is so effective for the media to pin a label on a group, discredit it, and move on. Instead, some called for the kinds of evidence that would reveal to the American public -- the 99% who does not yet know they ARE part of this movement -- a discrete ethos which is shared between protesters and the still unaffiliated masses for whom this Movement is, at present, no more than a televised blip wrung through media spin and "official" master narratives. For many, the Movement is still out there, somewhere in the ethers, nameless, faceless, anonymous, existing in hypotheticals and gray zones, a void failing to yet propel some toward understanding their own economic plight.
But today, something came to my attention. Today, something really caught my eye.
In New York City, beginning in the wee hours of this morning, a standoff arose between nonviolent protesters and the NYPD after sudden orders to clear Zucotti/Liberty park, resulting in the 99% standing up and saying "No." This protest was conducted on behalf of the American public who are frankly too busy making ends meet to be able to enjoy a few weeks of camping by people who are committed to taking physical blows, ridicule, and ultimately action for the rest of us. Thus action was taken to reinstitute American's dwindling sense of economic parity for all as our money has been stolen, slowly but surely over decades and decades, by small factions of the monied elite who wash their hands of the American public. Of course, as a Country whose National ethos has always been proud of our immaculate work ethic, some people have had trouble understanding what all the bluster is about and what the protesters are doing. In the mainstream media, pixels have whirled out stories that leave out vital connections, overlook main points, and downplay the purpose and magnitude of this populist unrest. As usual, the big money media machine is set to "spin cycle."
I am also someone who shares that uncannily American work ethic which alternately gains our respect from some countries while prompting bemusement by others. At one point, very briefly in my childhood, I lived in the top social echelons, but fortune has a funny way of shifting, and I began working three jobs in my teens to put myself through community college without much luck. My friends and co-workers have always called me "the hardest worker they know." Hell, I even won an award for "most diligent" employee for a job where I never made a dime. And my CV reads like a patchwork quilt of blue collar, white collar, and what really should be called "no collar" jobs as I tried to simply make money wherever I could. So have I worked 70 hour weeks? I wish that were it. But I've worked 100 hour weeks, sleeping between work and work so that I could feed my family, my son, with whom I lived in a single flat of 400 square feet because we could not afford any more than that. Social services were either not available to us, or else I never thought to use them. One year, we planted a vegetable garden in the dust of the backyard, we foraged for wild plums and blackberries from the trees in the nearby park and again, with pride, I made my own cobbler for us which we ate on the floor each morning because our home was too small for a regular table. To date, I can't walk past a decorative orange tree without calculating the value of the wasted fruit just out of my reach. And yet I've beamed with pride about it all, never complaining, simply glad to have a job and a roof over my head, glad to have the love of my child. My gratitude to able to work and work hard was always unqualified; I could always think of how much worse "other people" had it in far flung regions of the world, rationalizing that Nepalese villagers weren't grumbling at 5 am about having to make their tea. Plus, having had a serious illness at one point, I simply felt grateful to be alive, alive and pulsing with the energy, the vivacity to work and work, even if it meant my only time at home was spent in an exhausted heap where from the depths of my exhaustion, I would find a wellspring of inner support to sustain me, to keep me going as a good mother who was self-reliant, for above all, I value self-reliance and peoples' industriousness. Can I can jam? With the best of them. Can I knit winter hats? With the wool from a second-hand sweater? Name it. I can pretty much bake it, build it, or fix it. For two winters, we awoke to the haze of our own breath in our unheated studio. Did I ever complain? Not once.
So I announced to myself that "I am a Prairie Girl," decided life was a great adventure, decided character was forged through hardship and work, and that my character was indomitable, and I simply persevered.
Two nights ago, I was speaking with a friend briefly about the Occupy Movement. She is a cab driver, trawling the streets in one of the toughest jobs in one of the toughest cities. Previously, she had worked for the fish canneries up by the Bering Sea, living in concrete bunkers for months on end to bring in enough for the year. That girl has the spirit of a warrior. So she tells me that she had been camping out in between shifts, and that she felt very guilty because she was bringing in about $20 an hour. Suddenly, she began questioning whether she, a female cab driver facing life and death and assault every hour that she clocks in, without benefits, health care, room for advancement, or any hope of ever living not paycheck to paycheck, let alone purchasing any sort of "luxury items" whatsoever, and she began questioning if she had the right to call herself part of the 99%.
"What the Hell am I confused about?" she suddenly asked, "I have no future at all. What am I so indoctrinated by that I am even questioning if I'm somehow part of the economically privileged, wondering whether I can legitimately protest too?" Her words stunned me. There I was in them. Right in them. Intellectually supportive of the Movement, but not able to emotionally identify as part of the 99%. Because our Country isn't wrong when it tells to be proud of our hard work. But we forget that our work ethic is futile when we are no more than serfs living in the land of the robber-barons from Wall Street who use our own pride in our work to fatten their coffers, exploiting our goodwill. So I reject this. I reject them. I will not have my pride in my own self-reliance exploited for someone else's bottom line profits, profits which are based in work sent overseas, taken away from American workers in a mess of a global Ponzi scheme. I will no longer confuse my sense of industriousness with the financial exploitation of my dehumanized labor. And rather than whine about it, dramatize it, or languish in haziness or obfuscation, I will actively indict these systematic, robotic, soul-thieving, somnambulistic, and corporocratic leeches playing out the giddy drama of their corporate personhood by directly take action against their exploitation of my good natured optimism, my work ethic, my ethos, by supporting those who support others like me, and exposing what I've seen with my own two eyes. Because this morning, today, something came to my attention. Today, something caught my eye.
In today's America, CEO's make between 185-325 times the amount of the average American worker.
The latest number for the U.S. is 185 to 1 in one study and 325 to 1 in another -- and those numbers were not generated by groups that might have an ideological interest in downplaying the gaps between rich and poor.
But that's still not what caught my eye.
Returning to the still-brewing incident in NY, things have, at least for the time being, settled a bit. As Journalist Allison Kilkenny states:
"This was the first protest I've ever covered where the activists won."
However, all is not ducky in this battle for increased economic parity that rages on in the heart of New York, or the dozens and dozens of other cities which lend their support to this expression of sheer, unbridled populist reclamation.
What caught my eye today is that I saw something which I couldn't not see, and I hope to share what I see, to dispel any hype or confusion, held in this single image which is beyond any spin. In this morning's standoff, a tax-payer-funded New York City Law Enforcement officer ran his motorcycle over the leg of a legal observer from the National Lawyer's Guild, a trained observer who is simply an eye with a camera who is protected and valued by the United Nations for the purpose of helping to deter police violence and provide valuable evidence later in direct accordance with the spirit of the UN. The officer then left the observer there, as you can see clearly in the photo, pinned underneath the motorcycle with his green legal observer hat stuck under his leg. No amount of rhetoric can diminish this. No strategies of containment can undercut the callowness in this photograph.
How can anyone, anywhere, say that this is acceptable? By what ethical yardstick is this okay?
And this? This is not an ethical problem?
What about this? Is this ethically alright? Are the screams of this man hyperbole?
Let this lend a sense of proportion about the actions taken toward a group of nonviolent protesters acting on behalf of all Americans, acting on YOUR behalf, toward restoring our economic parity, without any hyperbole at all.
The only way to fight this Medusa is by turning her own image back on her, reflecting back the images which she herself creates to paralyze her. We do have that power. But don't look to the media for this action. You need to use the channels of power available to you. These are the greater social media circuits of the Internet, as well as word of mouth. Don't let these very real images be co-opted by the yellow journalists out there who create reality for the public like so many busy little wasps.
Now I have to get back to work. Keep up the good fight out there on the streets of America. Or, if you can't make it to the revolution because you're too busy working, please support those out there working hard to keep your labor valuable beyond the hands of those who would exploit your true human worth.
Find your local action :
To donate to support the General Assembly and Occupy Wall Street: Check out here
Or send stuff here. Look at this thread first for info.
Occupy Wall Street
118A Fulton St. #205
New York, NY 10038
To find out the latest OWS needs, check out Twitter Hash Tag #needsoftheoccupiers
In person: If you go to Zuccotti Park/Liberty Plaza/Park/Square you can also easily deliver money and/or goods straight to the people. They have committees who accept and take good care of your donations immediately and very graciously.
You can also donate to the Media Team. This fund is not the same as the General Fund.