Some friends are bitching that the Occupation is holding up traffic.
They say that the demonstration today inconveniences the wrong people – if the 99% can’t get to work on time and their pay is be docked, who does that help?
I can see that revolution often disrupts a person’s commute. And I know that stock brokers don’t take the subway to work. But one woman I know continues to say the Occupation is misguided because a few waiters in Wall Street restaurants got laid off – as if those jobs weren’t tenuous already. As if waiters aren’t already getting totally screwed by Wall Street. As if thousands of people without homes and health care should be more sensitive.
Let me say, here, that I am fully aware that there are a lot of Occupiers who are misguided about a lot of things. And certainly there are so many voices represented in the Occupation that it’s noisy and unorganized.
And New Yorkers bitch about anybody who fucks up traffic for any reason.
But when I hear people who have comfortable jobs – who are still barely able to pay their bills, and who will be completely without health care if they get laid off – complaining that the movement is about to lose popular support because we are inconveniencing folks who are trying to get to work, I despair for our future.
There are plenty of examples of how working within the system, so nobody is inconvenienced, has gotten us no-fucking-where. Two things are stuck in my mind. First, BP and their friends in our government, including Barack Obama, have successfully convinced half of America that everything along the Gulf Coast is fine and dandy. No matter that whole communities are out of work, can’t’ breathe and have weird skin conditions from the dispersants in the environment. All is well. BP and Haliburton are free to practice business as usual. And secondly, in 40 years of working tirelessly within the system, the LGBT community has achieved the right to get openly shot at in the military – but they still don’t have equal protection under the law. In most states, when one partner has been hospitalized, the other cannot visit since s/he isn’t family. Both individuals better have their own health care since many employers don’t extend benefits to domestic partners. God forbid one dies without a will, leaving the other one homeless and at the mercy of state laws about property. Personally, I don’t see how being allowed to serve openly in the military is such a victory for the LGBT community. So many soldiers commit suicide these days instead of reporting for a fifth, sixth or seventh tour of duty in Afghanistan, that the US Military was having serious trouble attracting volunteers.
Meanwhile, the 12,000 demonstrators who surrounded the White House in an effort to get Obama to block the Keystone Pipeline didn’t inconvenience anyone. But word has it that the pipeline deal is so done that Bechtel has already been paid to build the damn thing. Obama said he’d delay his decision until 2012, but all he’s really done is delay the announcement until he’s gotten all those Lesser Of Two Evil votes. So much for working within this broken system.
Years ago, college kids took to the streets because of the draft. Our side said, “Hell No, We won’t Go.” The Establishment said, “America: Love it or Leave it.” Then, as now, the college kids may have been in the forefront, but people from every walk of life finally joined the chorus demanding an end to the Vietnam war. Similarly, during the civil rights movement, African Americans were leading the call for justice, but all kinds of Americans were also involved in those demonstrations.
And all of those demonstrations inconvenienced people. It must have been pretty inconvenient to be blasted with fire hoses, too. Scott Olsen was surely inconvenienced by that tear gas canister.
As a few Americans are taking to the streets today – again – to demand Human Needs take precedence over Corporate Greed, it seems like desperate times call for desperate measures.
Maybe there are more effective ways to demonstrate than marching in the street. Ways that would have a direct impact on the lives of the 1%. Seems unlikely, given that the 1% can effectively insulate themselves from any discomfort and inconvenience with their fortunes – especially when exercising our Freedom of Speech requires more permits than Fracking. If anybody has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.
Today, and every day, I fear for my friends in the streets – as they courageously fight for our rights, while we’re going through our ordinary routines in comfort. Any one of those demonstrators could wind up injured like Scott Olsen, or tear gassed like Dorli Rainey, an 84 year-old activist in Seattle.
She’s working for a better world, while we’re worried about getting to work.