Matt Taibbi’s take on OWS captured a part of why I went down to Liberty Plaza and got involved:
“We’re all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. The relentless sameness of the two-party political system is beginning to feel like a Jacob’s Ladder nightmare with no end; we’re entering another turn on the four-year merry-go-round, and the thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.
If you think of it this way, Occupy Wall Street takes on another meaning. There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. Or maybe you wake up one morning and your car is gone, legally repossessed by Vulture Inc., the debt-buying firm that bought your loan on the Internet from Chase for two cents on the dollar. This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of.
That, to me, is what Occupy Wall Street is addressing. People don’t know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.
There was a lot of snickering in media circles, even by me, when I heard the protesters talking about how Liberty Square was offering a model for a new society, with free food and health care and so on. Obviously, a bunch of kids taking donations and giving away free food is not a long-term model for a new economic system.
But now, I get it. People want to go someplace for at least five minutes where no one is trying to bleed you or sell you something. It may not be a real model for anything, but it’s at least a place where people are free to dream of some other way for human beings to get along, beyond auctioned “democracy,” tyrannical commerce and the bottom line.”
A lot of people are just now starting to pay attention to the Occupy movement – the folks who don’t pay much attention to the news can’t avoid it any longer and I have a feeling that a lot of you feel this way too.
I can’t speak for the library, just myself – but this is exactly how I’ve always felt – that our priorities are wrong. Just plain wrong. Here’s part of my list:
Credit scores, mortgages, 8 hour days in cubicles under flickering lights, the lesser of two evil politicians for office, shopping seasons instead of nature seasons, individuals commuting in cars alone on 6 lane roads, blowing off the tops of mountains to power Times Square billboards, undemocratic workplaces, endless consumption of the next-big-thing-gadget, American exceptionalism, us vs. them, them vs. us, good guys and bad guys, limits on freedom for ‘our own safety’, security and surveillance, target marketing, viral advertising, blaming the poor, factory farms, rent increases, buildings sitting empty while people go homeless, foreclosures so banks can get rich, CEOs living like kings on the backs of workers, 2.3 million U.S. Americans in prison, U.S. black people imprisoned at 6 times the rate of whites, conflating the ‘freedom’ to buy something 24-hours-a-day with Freedom, 1 in 100 U.S. black women in prison, government run executions, skyrocketing obesity in the U.S. while children in the Horn of Africa die of starvation, U.S. funding of foreign military police that are used to crush dissent, and that insidious idea that unless you’re buying-in or making a wage, or working for a company that you simply do not exist . . .
I couldn’t take it anymore. And maybe some of you felt the same. And “they” are terrified of that moment when we cross that line, when we decide to go from being sick of it to saying “no.” So when you sit down and refuse to participate any longer, they yell “You can’t opt-out, it stops the gears from turning!” and they pepper-spray you and arrest you. What’s the most threatening thing to the system as it stands? When, as Taibbi puts it, you go on strike from your own culture.