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A Long Time Coming….A Long Time Gone.

October 20, 2011

So, I might have used this title before, but it perfectly addresses this post. I have wanted to write this post since the very start of October — but school has been insaneeee and I, LITERALLY (for all you fellow Parks & Rec fans), have not had the time or inspiration. I still do not, but I am on a bus to NY for the dual christening, so I will battle nausea and uninspired thought to bust this out!

The other reason this perfectly addresses this post is because this post is on the Occupy movement….which, in my humble opinion, IS a long time coming, a long time gone (as in has passed without this happening).

Oh, but quick side note before I forget….today I was at a macro social worker conference at the Hill. The beginning of the conference was in the Kennedy Caucus. One of my favorite bits of history happened in this room and as soon as I found out I was beside myself with excitement for getting to share in such incredible energy. As soon as I heard the Kennedy Caucus was the room that held the Watergate hearings, Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman mucking it up with Heineken in hand came to mind. I was sitting in the exact space where, in a drunken haze, Ralph Steadman jumped up and knocked over a Senator, spilling beer all over as good ole HST grabbed him down and pacified the situation so they were not physically removed and banned from the hearings. !!!!

Anyway, back to the issue of the now. Occupy Wall Street. Occupy K Street. Occupy Denver. Occupy Chicago. Occupy SF. Occupy Seattle. And so it goes, and so it goes….(read in the song from Closer way). Originally this post was going to be about the media’s….no. Originally this post was going to be: I Am What Is Wrong With America. And that was about how, the night before Occupy DC kicked off, I stopped in McPherson Park as I was walking to catch my bus — after a miserable day at work and just historically in life (5 October) — and the 20/30 occupiers that had already arrived were collectively deciding whether or not to take up a lane of traffic and march (something that is legal in DC). Personally, I am against pissing off commuters. Especially in a movement about the 99% — meaning, most of the people you are pissing off are the 99% and that doesn’t really aid the cause. I’m more about educating on the issues, positively. Anyway, I stood listening for 10 or so minutes, but I was exhausted, emotionally depleted and hungry. This guy asked me if I was going to stay and I said no. He asked why and I listed the above reasons. And, I just felt so disappointed in myself. This is why there’s so much corruption and greed and bullshit. That whole, if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem. Apathy paving the way for 1% of the population going hog while. The masses allowing themselves to be placated by shiny new technological devises that cost 1/3rd of your salary, made in developing nations off the sweat of the terminally oppressed.

As I walked away, telling myself: YOU are what is wrong with America. YOU are why CEO’s make 500 times the average salary of their workers. I looked around and saw many, too many, like me. The fight for justice is just too inconvenient. I’m meeting my friends out at a bar. I have too much work. My favorite show is on tonight. But, maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. Get back to me in the spring….

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing” – Albert Einstein

Okay, it is because of those who are ‘evil’, but the ‘evil’ can be ‘evil’ because of those who do nothing. We are either on the verge of total collapse, or an opportunity to refigure, reinvest, renew, rebuild — for all members of society. One often hears: Let’s make America great again! Political rhetoric. America was founded in violence. People fleeing religious oppression and intolerance to come to another’s land and act as intolerance, mass murdering oppressors. This is not to say there is not greatness in America. This is not to say there is not hope and opportunity in our system. But, we do have a terribly flawed system that the individual needs to have awareness of. The many layers of discrimination and oppression, classism pinned as racism, hatred and fear….We must wake up to the reality of what we exist in. How we exist. Both in the macro society we are a part of and the micro interactions that comprise our lives. Once there is the awareness, once there is consciousness raising, once we have struggled and wrestled with this awareness and talked it out, than we can reach acceptance. And from there, action. We can dismantle the flaws of our system and create the system we all reminisce America to once have been.

There is a lot of really wonderful things about this country. And there are certainly a lot of wonderful people. But there is too much power and money concentrated in the hands of the few, and far too many left in a situation that is unacceptable for a human being. Too many in a situation most would not allow their pet to be in. We can do better. We must do better. America is at a crossroads. I look down one fork and I feel hope in a way I have not experienced since the optimism of my youth. I turn my head toward the other and….I shut my eyes. I fear what I will see if I let myself look down that road.

The other post this was going to be was about the role of media in this movement. Perhaps the more accurate way to phrase that would be, the tone the media has been using. But before I get into that, continuing with my: I am what is wrong with America rant….My school is what’s wrong with America. Academia is what’s wrong with America (tuition most certainly is an issue of the 99%).

Here I am receiving my masters in social work, with a focus on social justice/social change. I have stacks of books writing on theories of social justice and strategies for organizing. I sit in class engaged in impassioned debates about what is just; how to act as agents of change. Yet, here I am tied to my desk, stacks of paper – paper – listing stats and facts on the chronically homeless trying to write a paper for Evaluation of Social Work Programs while also writing a paper for Ethics and studying for a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy midterm (all on the same day) with papers for Social Planning and one on a self assessment sitting to the side. They’re due two days later, so I can leave those on the back burner. For now. And there are marches and rallies and teach ins and demonstrations and camp outs going on two miles from me. And I can’t even leave my house, because I am too busy writing papers on change movements, while sitting in my bubble of ‘like’ at school. Do you see the insanity?!

Real life. Real change. Real organizing. Real importance. Going on – right outside my door. And here I am, being a social worker. Sitting at a desk, writing on applying theory to practice. The hypocrisy is maddening. If I wanted to be a sociologist, I would have gone to grad school for sociology!! (While I love sociology, from my perspective/understanding, sociologist sit around examining the problem, but do not attempt to seek out a solution once the problem is dissected. I do not desire to live my life in…what I consider a ‘half living’ way. If you’re going to invest so much time and energy into understanding a problem, why not make the logical next step and tackle possible solutions?).

<One long deep breath in….hold it, hold it…..forcefully exhale the rage>

Moving on, the MEDIA. I was interested in the portrayal of Occupy before I attended John Atlas’ speech on ACORN. Following that presentation — on the outright lies the media can put out; on how the media can commit non-profit slaughter; how the media plays a substantial role in movements — my interest in the media’s portrayal grew. I just did a quick check and, unfortunately, I cannot find some of the more absurd passages I read. So, from memory, let me address some of the ones I remember…

Calling protesters lazy and not wanting to work were pretty much the immediate reports. One of the reasons for these protests are the lack of jobs. The nation currently has an unemployment rate of 9.1%. And the recession ended in 2009. Apparently. The percentage of the 25-34 year old age range who live with their parents has gone up 25% since 2008!! Some of the criticism about this age range is that there are jobs, but they’re just too spoiled to want to work the jobs available. OR wages at minimum wage or less (illegally, but…still…without accountability or enforcement….other issues related to protest….how are laws carried out?) are far too little to pay for the bare necessities in this day in age, let alone enough to make a living off. So, yes, there are jobs. Those who went to college and have enormous debt might be able to get a job making 18k a year — before taxes. And the average student loans are around $30,000 (although I do not understand how that number is so low).

So, that’s not having, or “wanting” jobs. Lazy? Clearly the people writing that Occupiers are lazy have never participated in organizing activities. Organizing is one of the most stressful and time absorbing activities. Nor have the writers participated in an occupation. It takes work to put yourself out there like that. It is incredibly physically and emotionally draining.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire, had some statements that boiled my blood. Other multi-millionaires and billionaires had statements about “understandings” that boiled my blood. And others wrote about how a lot of people on Wall Street are barely making ends meet. Okay. So, that would put them IN the 99%. The protests aren’t against Wall Street period, it’s the 99% against the 1% who exploit and corrupt our pockets and government. It’s about shoddy, greedy practices sending our economy down the drain and then our hard earned tax dollars bailing out corporations who turn around and give the CEOs multi-million dollar bonuses. WTF. Yet, it’s just a bunch of lazy hippies wanting to complain instead of getting a job. Right.

The media is a part of the Establishment. Those in the media A. have jobs and B. a good percentage make a really decent salary. They’re threatened. Humans are very down with change. Especially when we’re talking about a complete over haul of a system with so many cracks, we have to wonder if it’s still operable.

Basically, as I see it, it’s about creating a more just system, looking out for the whole, allowing true opportunity for the whole. With such a wealthy country — we can, and must, do better. The wealth distribution must be more equitably distributed. Otherwise this run away train is going to crash straight into a brick wall…and it’s not the 1% whose gonna be splattered all over.

I know that once this week is over, I will certainly be spending a lot more time at the Occupy K St camp.

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