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Occupation Street

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupation Street

"You know how we are always talking about being amazed by the fact that people aren't running down the street, screaming," Petersen says.


"Well, they're doing it now.  Over 100 fucking countries," he says.

"I know."

He waits.  "That's a good thing, right?" Petersen asks.

I don't know.

"Maybe.  Maybe not," he says, answering his own question.  "But it's a start."


Believe it or not, I am tackling this whole Occupy Wall Street phenomena.  And since I am committed to not making this a political blog (and I think I succeed more often than I fail, given my obvious political leanings), I feel confident I can do so without going all politico.  Because, honestly, the parts of it that interest me really have little to do with partisan ideology.

I received a FB comment from my friend Bill in CT, in response to the Death Penalty post on Friday ( ).  Bill, like many of my friends from CT, leans hard to the right.  His comment was, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Thanks for offering a thought-provoking post without proselytizing."  I took a lot of pride in that.  It's not easy discussing these kinds of topics, especially when it's a such a one-way forum, without injecting personal viewpoints ad nauseum.

Which is the reason I didn't want to touch this Occupy shit.  First and foremost, I don't even really understand what's going on or what exactly everyone is protesting. And apparently I'm not alone.  If the popular, mainstream media is to believed (and if you can't believe your popular, mainstream media [e.g., Yahoo News], who can you trust?).

I just know there are a lot of people pissed off.  Which always catches my attention. It's being billed as the 99% against the 1%, a consolidated organized effort to end...corporate power, the Rockys of the world against the nameless, faceless powers-that-be.  Seems like a pretty good cause, no?  What the protestors seem to be saying, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that having a 450 to 1 wage differential between CEOs and the average worker is unfair.  This, of course, broaches dangerously close to the whole "no big government" vs. "'no big government' is a euphemism for 'less regulations on big business'" argument.  I'll leave you to discuss that quietly amongst yourself.  I think one of the reasons I've been somewhat successful at not delving too deep into politics is that, really, in the end, I don't give a shit.  I look at it like this: Was my life any different under the last two presidents?  Right, left, how has my day-to-day life been affected?  It hasn't. Not in the fucking least.  But here's what does pique my...curiosity.  Dissatisfaction. Anger. People taking to the streets because they are fed up and not gonna take it anymore.  Call it the boxer in me, but I've always liked a good fight.

In my exchanges with Bill one thing comes across: we are each, on opposite sides of the political spectrum, pissed off about the way things are being run.  Now if Bill and I were to sit at a table and try to remedy how to fix the "problems," we'd probably differ radically in our proposed solutions.  But first you have to get to that table, ya dig?  I'm more a "let's storm the bastille and then we'll figure it out" kinda guy.  Or maybe I just like the thought of stirring up trouble.  Or do I any more?

You might remember this post from a little while back with my friend Duane "Lives In But Is Not From Texas" S. (  We were talking about a proposed rehab going into his neighborhood.  He wanted my opinion.  And I admitted to being conflicted.  I think one way as an ex-junkie, but quite differently as a father with personal equity.  Which reminds me of a conversation I once had with a counselor in rehab.  I was bitching about the evils of capitalism (a favorite junkie rant), and he rolled he eyes, saying something to the effect of "Yeah, well, you won't hear too many private property owners bitching about the evils of capitalism." At the time, I was, like, "Fuck you, man."  But he was right.  All those social causes I cared so much about when I was piss poor and didn't have anything? Um.  What were they again?  Now that I have some money, own my own house, it changes. Does that make me a goddamn phony?  Maybe.  But whereas I used to be in favor of things like busing ("Why should the people in the hills get all the good schools?"), now that I have a kid of my own (and live in the hills), I don't want the city telling me my son has to go to an inferior school.  I want the best education for my boy.  So we bought a house in a region that will ensure that.  In short, Joe Version 1994 would want to kick Joe Version 2011's ass.  But if he tried, Joe 2011 could afford a goddamn good lawyer to sue the shit out of Joe 1994.

Because, like my buddy in England, Dave2, says, it all comes down to In Whose Interest... (

I used to have a writing professor, Tom Hazuka, who told this great story about being in an acting class. One of his classmates was trying to play the part of a villain, and he was doing the whole twirling of the mustache and ol' stink eye, and the director stepped in and said, "No, no, no!  Even the villain doesn't think he's the villain..."  Who is the bad guy?  This invisible banker-type on Wall Street?  He's just a man with a family of his own (i.e., his own interests), and I promise you, in his mind, he believes he is doing the right thing.

It's easy to direct one's ire at at pie chart.

 or whatever the fuck one of these charts are called.

But pie charts aren't actually calling the shots, and as much as we can personify evil with the face of an old, wrinkled white man, who is cackling as he burns orphans, that is far too convenient.  Because even the villain doesn't think he's the villain...

My friend and fellow blogger Jenny Dreadful makes an interesting point over at her blog Popsicle Stand (scroll down, past the part about laughable fantasy covers) (, about feeling conflicted when it comes to what's going on over at Wall Street.  

She writes, "My income is in the lowest 10th percentile. I don't have health insurance. I do hold a full time and a part time job.  Have I "occupied"???  Fuck no. I can't take the time off of work. The day before payday all I had for dinner was a can of chickpeas. I sure as hell am not occupying nothing but a goddamn grocery store when I get paid. And that, my friends, is the sad truth about America. I support and cherish those struggling, those counting pennies and tightening belts to make it to the protests, those people for whom it is not easy to protest -- but I'd like to kick the middle-class brats who are mad because mommy and daddy won't pay for college, or because they have to stop shopping at Hollister and work a shit job."

Sadly, or maybe not so, I am no longer struggling like that.  And I feel a strange tinge of guilt.  Because there was a time not so long ago where I was.  The question is, do I owe more to those I suffered with in the past, or to my son and my family and the future?  I don't know what the right answer is, but I sure as fuck know what I am doing.  And my boy trumps all.


I am watching what is going on, if from a safe, comfortable distance.  And call me Robert Smith, but I find it...fascinating.

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At October 22, 2011 at 9:53 AM , Blogger Jenny Dreadful said...

Well, fuck. Look at that.


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