After spending a few days in Lower Manhattan with sundry elements of the Occupy Wall Street movement in its least antagonistic manifestations, I've come to a handful of resolutions, observations, and advice (to give, of course...).
Let me start with a contextual preface, however.
Of late, I'd become of the mind that my opinion did not matter as much as my observation. When authoring a company blog was still considered bleeding edge, I liked offering an opinion. Blogging used to be a Dirty Sanchez on The Establishment, but if the web today is any indication, "blogging" is like crank-calling someone who still owns a land-line without Caller ID.
Frankly I didn't see how it helped my reputation to be ranting into the collective scream of all these herpetic permutations of "the blogosphere." Your Tumblr irony and your Facebook sensitivity made me obsolete. My blog was not waving, but drowning. Your Yelp was not drowning, but flipping the bird.
So. I actually thought I was going to Zucotti Park merely to observe...
I'm not sure yet if the shift in my tone was learned by osmosis, or is the result of having had it up to (note: my hand levered against my throat) here, but I'm about to say more than just two Canadian cents' worth.
Let me actually start with the advice, and work backward to the resolutions, so we end with some "si se puede"-style uplift and inspiration.
My first piece of advice goes directly to the white woman wearing the brand new backpack (I know my backpacks and yours had to cost around $120) holding up the sign "Member of the slave class." Be careful where you weild your S-word. Use it with the same care you'd use the N-word. Whenever someone uses the words "slave" or "rape" or "emprisonment" as metaphors, it diminishes the realities of a real lack of freedom suffered in the past and currently. Metaphors like this have the effect of hyperbole, but hyperbole has the effect of desensitization. Here, I'll give a much more mundane example of how metaphor can negatively affect a message.
Pussy. It used to be you could insult a man by calling him a boy (suggesting he's naive or inexperienced), or an old man (suggesting he's obsolete or not fit to move heavy objects unless you count bowel movements). In fact a lot of countries still prefer to insult men by calling them boys or geezers. Ours is the rare society that attacks women while insulting men. We don't realize this now because we take it for granted but well... suggesting a pussy is a coward and not a dope sex organ does in fact infiltrate our collective unconscious with chauvinism.
When a white woman wearing an expensive backpack calls herself a slave, it diminishes the slavery that resulted in the permanent displacement of black Americans. It diminishes the millions of people caged in sub-human experiments of low-overhead capitalism. Your $5000 debt to Citibank with .46 APR is not slavery. It sucks hairy donkey nuts, but it's not slavery. How about a new sign? One that says "Member of the Debt Class." Seriously. I doubt if most white Americans fear becoming slaves, but they will go into a dark room with a .38 if you remind them about their debt. Debt is scary enough as it is.
Now why am I so worried about the flippant use of the word "slave," you ask. This leads me to my observation:
Where have all the people of color gone??? Aren't we as dispossessed as the gutter punk who can't afford H or gluten-free snacks? Mind you I am purposely being simplistic in this matter. Of COURSE there are people of color in Zucotti Park. Of COURSE we're disenfranchised. My problem is that the collective bargaining taking place south of West 4th Street right now is not taken seriously, partly because the MSM chooses to interview 23 year old philosophy majors, and partly because there isn't enough antagonism. I tell you what: if the tens of thousands of existing non-White members of entitlement caucuses came down and joined the hippies, two things would happen:
1. MSM would have no choice but to interview a non-white non-college student, and
2. The 1% will be REALLY scared if they knew agitators didn't all look just like them.
Ethnic diversity is a prerequisite to revolution in America. This is a fact. This is also why the show will become a game-changer when the NYPD join (I'm positive this is just a matter of time). If you take a good look at The Blue, you'll find a lot of them are Black, Latino and Asian. I'm not kidding.
Finally, I want to address all the naysayers, most of whom are close personal friends. For once, I actually don't care what you think of my ineffective presence, my sense of entitlement, the contradiction posed by my simultaneously working for investors, the vapidity of fellow protestors (even the white girl calling herself a slave). I don't care if you think there is no message, or no unified message, or a poorly-phrased message. Here's what's going on in Lower Manhattan:
Tons of people are working together to make a cooperative living environment that communicates to the larger public. I have never seen so many people rally to provide services, protections, food/shelter/love to absolute strangers. It's like a dream come true. I can go into Zucotti Park right now and find a lawyer. Someone can find me and get their manga translated into English.... Maybe the reason it's so discouraging to everyone else that people are sort of just "being" altogether with no Watts/LA/Atlanta Riots-style violence is because we can't fathom the idea of everyone WORKING together, locally, communally. I went down there to observe but now I can't help but want to be a better neighbor. It's amazing that I haven't felt that yet, since I've been in NYC circa 9/11/01, circa 2005 Blackout, circa 2008 election, circa Brooklyn exodus. Even at its most divisive, the 99% want the rest of the 99% to know... well, that we're 99 motherfucking percent of the country. And that... is not a metaphor.