To Those Occupying Wall Street,
I’m sorry. I haven’t done anything. I haven’t retweeted anything, I haven’t commented on anything, or linked to anything, until now. I haven’t sent food. Or any other donation. And it’s not for of lack of caring, or not being able to see the problem. There are a host of problems. I’m part of the 99%, too, with $14,000 in student loans, and a job which effectively pays me minimum wage. I, too, feel like there’s no way out, no way up, and the forecasts for the jobs I’d been training for in academia are grim.
The thing is, I’m scared. Ground under. Paralyzed. Inspired. I’m a thinking being. I look at the way things have been running for decades, the rich getting richer and real wages stagnating, and I don’t have a cure. My roommate, another thinking being, says that capitalism as a system is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. He admires its elegance. And I suppose I do too, if that elegance is bound up in ensuring that the top bracket has everything, and its purpose is insulating the upper class from the tribulations that their mismanagement has caused. When the mismanagement of large companies (Enron, the auto manufacturers) threatens to tank our economy, I fail to see how it’s elegant. Cutting taxes and public programs doesn’t work: we have the proof. You might also say having large systems of spending even with a high tax burden doesn’t work— but I haven’t asked the Dutch.
Even with the myth of American capitalism in place, that enough hard work will get you anywhere, you can’t stop people from seeing that the system is broken when thousands of dollars worth of education buys you only food stamps and no medical coverage. Is it communist to want a basic standard of living, and for effort, work, and creativity to reward people further? I think the terms “communism” and “capitalism” have become crutches, foam lances, and we are tilting at oak trees disguised as windmills we mistake for dragons when we bandy them about. I also think it’s more anarchist than anything else.
Will the top bracket listen? Not unless there’s an actual threat. Not unless it’s actual class warfare. Things have to grind to a halt. What’s going on now, it’s just parades. But we’ve seen where it goes. Ask the French.
I think this, and my heart races. I think this, and I ask, “What are the real solutions?” I think this, and I wonder if I’m going to have enough money to pay the electric bill. I want to continue my education. I want to write. I want to see my words in print, my name on novels, on chapbooks, on academic papers. I want to have enough money to live with my friends, share a mortgage among six people, and not have to worry about if there’s enough money for dinner. I want to share a sewing machine and a few cats and dogs, some garden plots— maybe even a TIG welder when I’m feeling heady with desire— and I want to hold them in common with dear ones, modest goals, but shared ones. I want to get my teeth fixed. I want to be able to go in for a physical. When even these dreams seem too big to comprehend? I guess that says something.
I guess it says something also that Adbusters could suggest this, and it cascades in every direction in the hands of people ignited by its immediacy. The best invented traditions, the strongest movements, are always the ones in which people see glimmers of themselves, and grab and take and run. Wildfire. They’ve made it their own. What direction will it blow? We’ve got the flame, but we have no single banner. It’s a protest of the broke and broken, breaking through the silence with cries of “we can’t take this anymore.” It’s not a single cohesive cry, either, but a live wire scatter shock of a thousand thousand different reasons, a thousand thousand different voices. This movement has no center, no cohesive demand. It’s not calling for an end to anything, if you just listen. It’s a cry of pain. And these are the closest things it currently has to goals.
The unions have joined in. Occupy Miami is gearing up. And I? I am job hunting. I don’t expect real change. I expect this movement like many before to be eaten away by other agendas, the big dogs tearing it apart and fighting over the scraps.
I had wanted to write something less personal. I had wanted to write about the protests, the academics of it, the lack of a center, the call for change… I had wanted to write something disconnected and analytical. I don’t know if I actually could, watching my dear ones teeter on the edge, none of us with money for a doctor and scrapping to pay the rent. This is my piece then. This is where I am. This is where we all are. So with all this energy, this vitality, this momentum, what do we do from here?
If not in solidarity, then in hope,
Edited for flow and clarity, 1:43am.