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Culture Human Rights Occupy

An Occupier Responds to the NYT

“It will be asterisk in the history books, if it gets a mention at all.”

This is how a NYT piece, titled The Frenzy that Fizzled by Andrew Ross Sorkin, starts on Occupy Wall Street. Some culture writer thinks he can rip our movement.

“While the movement’s first days did not receive much news coverage, it soon turned into a media frenzy. Images of the Wall Street protesters getting arrested were looped on news channels and featured on the covers of newspapers. […] By the end of the year, Time magazine had named the protester its Person of the Year, perhaps rightly given the revolutions taking place around the world, but the magazine also lumped Occupy Wall Street in among the many meaningful movements taking place.”

The sarcasm is present throughout. Occupy is wrongfully categorized with “meaningful” events. He gets directly to the point next.

“But now, 12 months later, it can and should be said that Occupy Wall Street was — perhaps this is going to sound indelicate — a fad.

Listen here, you bourgeois writer trying to keep your hack privilege by being a stiff critic and poo-poo’ing whatever is too poor for your refined taste.

I slept for five weeks in that park, and I met people from all over the country who are perplexed by the control corporations have on our country. We fed people, 3000 a day, we clothed and sheltered people, 300 a night, we had free blankets, and jackets, and cigarettes, and did I mention free food? And we never asked a penny from anyone. We had donations from all over the country, and we would have continued our experiment in direct democracy indefinitely had the mayor and police not shattered our society in which we did not even turn away the homeless and the poor.

That is not to say that Occupy Wall Street had no impact. It created an important national conversation. […] Its message has subtly been woven in the Democrats’ position on everything from taxes to student debt. Have any new regulations for banks or businesses been enacted as a result of Occupy Wall Street? No. Has there been any new meaningful push to put Wall Street executives behind bars as a result of Occupy Wall Street? No. And has the movement changed the debate over executive compensation or education reform? It is not even a close call.

Doesn’t the fact that despite our national spotlight, corporations continue to evade any serious oversight, weaken existing regulations, and that there has been no criminal accountability for the massive fraud that led to the 2008 economic collapse only emphasize the virtue of our movement? Doesn’t it speak to what we’ve been crying out about all along, that these companies have too much control and too little accountability to society? Doesn’t it show how badly our movement has been needed?

You can debate our redistributionist principles, or anti-corporate zeal, I would welcome (and we did when the park was fully Occupied) Tea Partiers or Ron Paul types to challenge us on our ideas or economics. But what I cannot stand is some hack writer diss us so he thinks he can demonstrate he has a career.

I am very sorry you will never sleep in a park with strangers and share food and blankets with them under the stars. You probably visited for a couple of hours, but I can guarantee you your yuppie ass did not sleep there, because if you had, you would have found dozens, no, hundreds of young intellectuals ready to confirm your ideas about justice, equality, and a better world. Not a harsh or angry tone would have touched your ears that night, because our movement was never built on hate for the few, but love for humanity.

That love for humanity is still pervasive at the weekly General Assembly’s at Liberty Park around 7pm on Fridays, and there are twenty to thirty people still making time for direct action or whatever they do at General Assemblies. I’m not really an organizational, institutional personal, so I usually skip formal meetings. I believe activism is in talking to people and sharing ideas and building commonality. Building community. We’re still doing that.

I’m really sorry you as a privileged NYT writer desperate to keep your spot, maintain that aura of exclusivity cannot see the immense power we accomplished as a movement, even on the macro-scale of how many thousands of tourists and counterculture types we collected into one spot and built a new society where money was not an issue anymore? We showed humanity there was a better way, we proved it and that’s what was so dangerous. We’ll have to do some things better next time, larger tents and more people for safekeeping — but we transcended the society we lived in, and built a better one. That’s why they had to shut us down.

Every time you see a homeless person on the subway, that’s when our society has failed. We have food, clothing, and housing for this person, but it hasn’t gotten to them. Do you understand that, Mr. Liberal NYT Writer? Can you understand that, having had three meals a day every day of your life? You clearly side with a society that is failing its citizens, a land which is failing its denizens.

Do you think corporate control is a joke, considering that you work for one of the top 500? Do you think anyone thought the corporate voice needed to be more represented in the system before the Supreme Court ruled that they can funnel unlimited and anonymous amounts into political campaigns? Do you think your food and your environment and your country is safe left at the discretion of another man’s profit? Can you even trust your dog’s food?

You probably live in a nice house, have a beautiful wife, in a charming neighborhood. You must have a lovely commute to work. You should know there are 40 or so people, mostly kids under 30, who sleep nearby at Trinity Church every night. On the sidewalk, in the summer heat exposed to the mosquitoes. They’ve slept there for a longer period now than the movement managed to stay at Liberty Park.

You have more money than these kids, but there is something they have that you don’t, Mr. Liberal NYT Writer: ideals. These people have not a dime to their name, but they have ideals. They continue the fight and sleep on church property every night, and deep in every one of their hearts is the Mexican who washes dishes in every restaurant in town, the Polish waitress, the scientist driving a cab, the housekeeper who chooses that over prostitution, the girl who chooses to be an escort, the Filipino nurse who sends money to feed her extended family back home.

At the other side of this, is the employer who’s exploiting five illegal immigrants, the medallion owner doing the same to legal immigrants, the sex traffickers and moneyed men who will pay for abused girls, and the Philippines government for taking a cut of every remittance sent back home from women working abroad in the advanced industrial countries. Most of the time, these immigrants are paying for the care of sick relatives back home if not their entire family.

There are exploiters in this world, and there are exploited — and it is very clear, Mr. Liberal NYT writer who you side with in this world. There is a middle class instinct to look down on those who have less than you, because the middle class is so busy fleeing from poverty — but this is a very ugly instinct in human nature.

We may be scum to you. Our grime and unwashed appearance may cause you to take us less seriously. But I would rather have the grim from my buddies at Occupy than live in the the septic and whitewashed mentality you live in.

In the fall of 2011, questioning anything about the movement was not too popular. Doing so was an invitation for withering ridicule. 

This is not true, besides the Fox types (O’Reilly ran a hit piece every night), mainstream liberal outfits claimed Occupy was just an infantile protest that wasn’t going to accomplish anything and there was no point of going. Liberals like you were hating on us.

I only went to Occupy three weeks in, at the behest of a friend, and I fell in love my first day. Night, rather. I saw two lovers huddled in the rain, lying on some cardboard and tarp. And when one commented it was raining, the other said, “It’s not gonna get any drier” and they pulled the tarp over themselves and went to sleep. These people had a love, I realized that first night, that other people would never experience in their entire lifetimes. You, I am certain, Mr. Liberal Writer, fall in that latter category.

This is the shocking part, you’re liberal and write for the intelligentsia, but you have so much hate for our movement. We did so much good, and you claim to be blind to it. We changed the national conversation, we got two GOP candidates (Gingrich and Perry) to question “vulture capitalism” as practiced during Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. Obama has stolen our rhetoric and continued his neocon wars. The Democratic platform now calls for raises taxes on the top 2%, something which we can claim was our idea as well. We just handed the Democrats an election, they plagiarized our party platform, and you say we accomplished nothing.

I will admit, Occupy’s message of economic inequality is hardly original. People have been raving about that for years, from Progressive-era farmers, women’s suffragists, striking workers throughout the 20th century, Michael Moore’s numerous films, Jack, Bobby and Teddy Kennedy, Rage Against the Machine, homeless activists, etc.

We didn’t invent the idea of taking public space either. Cesar Chavez and the chicano movement, the takeover of Alcatraz Island by the American Indian Movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committees in the segregated South, Bloombergville in 2010, and Egyptians and others in the Middle East uprisings all preceded us in this.

You can even be a Tea Party-type and challenge us on our ideas directly. But what I cannot accept is some bourgeois liberal writer (and hack) tell us that we did nothing in that park, and deny the effort and sacrifice of tens of thousands of activists nationwide who brought their souls to a park to fight for social justice, their bodies and bank balances be damned.

In ten years, when we have 100,000 people at the Brooklyn Bridge, it will be *you history does not remember, Mr. Hack Writer. I am very sorry you projected your own sorry future onto our movement. Your thoughts have no bearing outside the social circle and accompanying reality you inhabit.

The problem with the movement, as many other columnists have pointed out before, was that its mission was always intentionally vague. It never sought to become a political party or even a label like the Tea Party.

It wasn’t vague, and if you talked to anyone in our movement for more than a few passing hours before you went out to eat at a pricey restaurant with your significant other, you would have seen every single person in that park was intent on removing corporate money from government, corporate influence from politics, and ensuring economic growth helps the entire spectrum of the population, especially the bottom 20%. Perhaps few would articulate it as well, but none would disagree.

Here is our difference, and why I throw epithets at you like “bourgeois” and “liberal”. I don’t believe in the system anymore. I don’t believe you can vote for a guy and he’ll promise to represent you, because he’ll only represent the people who pay for his campaign. I used to believe in judges, but a funny thing happened November 15, 2011, the day we were evicted. A judge had ruled that we were to be let back into the park with our tent and belongings, but several hours later, a superior judge agreed but ruled we could not bring tents and belongings back inside. How hard is it for the mayor to phone a judge and promise to take care of him in the future if he ruled a certain way? Not difficult at all. So even judges are not sacrosanct for me anymore.

So you want me to participate in a political system that gives corporations more power over me? Indeed, you want me to believe in it. Do people look stupid to you? (Apparently they do, because you wrote that stupid piece with its self-circular logic.)

By the second or third time I went down to Zuccotti Park, it became clear to me that Occupy Wall Street, which began with a small band of passionate intellectuals, had been hijacked by misfits and vagabonds looking for food and shelter.

You only went down there two or three times, didn’t you? That was the beauty of our movement. Unlike your bullshit society, we didn’t turn anyone away on account of money. As cities spent tens of millions cracking down on Occupy movements, they shuttered dozens of homeless shelters at the same time just before the coming winter. With less than $600,000 we fed everyone who showed up. Imagine what our movement could have done with the $17 million in security costs to NYC alone.

You deride our taking in of vagabonds, by which you mean homeless people. Ironic, we take flak for taking in the refugees of bourgeois capitalism. From the likes of bourgeois writers for the bourgeois NYT.

I vividly remember watching one protester with a sign that read “Google = Jewish Billionaires.” Another protester ran over and ripped up the poster. The messages had become decidedly too mixed.

Look at the Tea Party sign below.

There are hundreds more such idiotic statements on the Internet. I look forward to your hit-piece on the Tea Party next week. It should contain something about the message becoming decidedly too mixed.

While I immediately reject the anti-Semitic sentiment of the sign you claimed you saw about Jewish billionaires, this was both a strength and a weakness of our movement. We never claimed a monopoly on truth, and hence even had 9/11 Truthers and Ron Paul-types attend the park. I remember during the Occupation, a man read the Bible aloud every morning at 7am. There was no fascist control of speech at our park. I’m very sorry you can’t understand that. You’re almost like the Egyptians who don’t understand that Obama can’t arrest the guy who made the anti-Islam videos on YouTube. But how is that, considering you write for the NYT? Oh yeah, you’re a bourgeois liberal hack, I forgot.

We have not only “rebalanced” the debate, as ruling-class types like Eliot Spitzer must admit — we have touched an immense chord with the public on the way money works in this country, and I guarantee you, we won’t stop until we have some justice on that front. This is what you’re scared of, Mr. Writer, that everyone will have their chance in this country, and you won’t have your priveleged spot. You are very right, Mr. Liberal Writer, far better peoples’ newspapers and media will be built and you will not have a spot higher than others any more, and you should be scared for that.

But even Mr. Spitzer questioned, “We do have to ask, ‘Now what?’ ”

It’s so funny, you published this piece on November 17th, the day of our one year anniversary party. It means you didn’t even wait to see how our big reunion turned out, you and your liberal hit piece crew pulled out the obituary file on our movement and ran it the day of, without waiting to see if our movement was dead or alive. For your information, and more importantly, for your readers, we had several thousand people pack the park that day, and myself and 30 other activists stayed up the whole night in the park waiting for a second police eviction that never came. We took back our park, if only for a night. If you published your piece the next day, after the attendance of thousands of activists and a briefly revived Occupation, your it-will-be-an-asterisk-in-history rhetoric would have looked foolish.

So when you ask “now what?”, Mr Liberal Writer, I suggest you ask yourself that in ten years, if your hack ass is still employed by the NYT, which I doubt it.

By AFarooqui

I write about the dichotomies present in religion, gathered mostly from discussions with average Jews, Christians, Muslims and atheists.

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