Just babbling for now. Maybe it will get more structured. Which means that I will probably get carried away and by the time I’m done my girlfriend will be pissed.

I’m not entirely sure what direction this post will take, but it’s based on a conversation I had with a friend, regarding a thread on his facebook page. This is all regarding the occupy movement. A lot of people don’t seem to understand it; I don’t know if that’s because they simply don’t care, because they’re lazy or because they listen to conservative talk radio. Whatever the case, it’s worth knowing about.

You don’t have to agree with it, and you don’t have to understand it. But if you’re going to DISagree with it, you owe it to your own integrity to understand it.

I understand that not many people, especially conservatives, will not seek out information on Occupy. I think it’s unfortunate, because I think we could all benefit from open discussion especially where our differences and disagreements are concerned. Whatever my opinion is, that just isn’t the case. People grow up in drastically different environments from household to household. I got home from school and could go catch frogs, go inside and eat a sleeve of chiparoos, get lost in the woods, go for a bike ride, go for a swim or put on a video game. A friend of mine who lived not a mile away would come home from school (in Elementary school, mind you) to find his house locked, parents home. They would not let him in until he did some insane chore like stain a side of his house. That happened.

He’s one of my best friends, but we definitely have some differences regarding some things. And I’m sure the environments in which we grew up have something to do with it.

At some point, we grow up. We find a homeostatic balance, and we chill there. Most people don’t like drastic changes. You don’t see a lot of people with fluorescent orange paint in their houses. And you don’t see Ted Nugent hanging out at Communist meetings. People seek comfort.

Unfortunately it breeds a lot of ignorance, which in turn begets out groups. Which in turn begets out group homogeneity. If you’re “white” and reading this, know the stereotype about how all Asians look alike? Well, my friend’s father, while stationed in Korea found out that they think the same about us.

I don’t know a whole lot of people–even less in my parents’ generation–who intentionally seek out opposing view points for the purposes of education. This isn’t necessarily easy to do; the same people who are readily accessible in the media are often the same types promoting out group homogeneity. I’ve changed presets on my car stereo because of people like that.

It’s unfortunate, because I like to know where “they” are coming from. Because, you know….”they’re” not really “them.” “They’re” “us.” With life circumstances that may have differed only slightly.

I’m not here to tell you what you should think. I’m inherently apolitical. I don’t like politics. I like them even less so since studying the philosophy of Logic…especially the part about fallacious logic.

Anyway. I’m here merely to explain the mentality of the Occupy Movement as best I can. I’m not a conservative, a liberal, a Republican or a Democrat. I’m not Occupying anywhere. But I have marched with the movement, I’ve helped them set up camp, I’ve made friends within the movement and I’ve brought them  tarps to keep water out of their tents and hot water for tea in the winter. I would consider myself one of “them.” But that doesn’t mean I’m much different from anybody who doesn’t.

Maybe I just get my information from somewhere else.

Just to get some bearings on this post, I will start with how all this came about (several weeks ago, so I’m not all worked up about it like I was then, but it’s still relevant).

This friend of mine recently toured around several cities’ occupations for a few months. He learned a lot about the movement, about how different people in different parts of the country went about things (both pertaining to the movement and in general) and he met some cool people. He also seemed to have found out something about himself and what he is capable of.

He’s a few years younger than me. I started college “late” (by about 10 years) and in my freshman year, he was in a few of my classes. This was a couple years ago now. So, as seems to be the progression of things: Young guy gets fired up and passionate about something. Older, more conservative people surrounding him figure he’ll get it out of his system eventually, so they humor him and let him have his playpen.

Well, sometimes it doesn’t go that way (see: Henry Rollins). Sometimes people have an awakening, and sometimes they become a part of something bigger than them. This is the case with my friend regarding the occupy movement, and in general its members and affiliates who through it have seen the impact that they–as individuals–can have.

A debate was sparked on a thread on his wall (I still can’t quite take myself seriously when referencing facebook in any serious regard, but it is what it is), in which he defended his positions and the movement, and the more conservative/skeptical/jaded/oblivious (they would call it “older” and “more responsible”) people he knows attacked it. Belittling his position without ever really saying anything of substance, they told him things like “when you grow up and get more life experience, you’ll understand why the movement will accomplish nothing” and “let me know when the world changes because a bunch of college kids go on strike.”

Not only does this do nothing for anybody but waste time, it shows the lack of understanding on the part of his antagonistic friends/relatives, as well as a complete lack of anything other than their own subjective experiences with life.

At that point in the discussion I interjected, and I guess it was at that point that this post was inevitable. Actually, it was inevitable when my girlfriend got into a debate with my next door neighbor regarding the same subject…but this more recent experience pushed it into reality.

Anyway.

I interjected, saying that I am older. I have plenty of life experience. I started working at 15 years old, at HomeGoods. I got the job after I got home from school, pissed that I couldn’t afford anything, so I got on my bike and rode towards Post Road. On the way I thought about where I’d like to work. I decided the answer to that question was “anywhere but food service.”

I got a job at HomeGoods and started at $5.15/hr. I have worked ever since, and that was 14 years ago (age 15). I currently own a home and a car (both of which I make payments on). I work full time, and pick up extra hours either whenever I can stomach it or whenever I’m short (or if my girlfriend is short). I am also a full time student, and as of now (but not as of this coming fall) I have not cut back on hours at work to maintain my full time status at school. I have a 3.98 GPA, am a member of an international honor society and nobody is responsible for paying for this education but me. And nice as it would be if my dad called me up and said, “Hey, I make plenty of money and I’m paying for your younger sister’s sporadic education, and I know it must be hard for you to afford to live, let me help you out with your loans,” I don’t expect it, and honestly I would be uncomfortable if he did.

I have also stood up for myself regarding unfair treatment at jobs. I’ve done something about my situation. At my first job (HomeGoods) I didn’t make enough to pay my 1 credit card bill and live my lavish lifestyle of going to the mall and/or flea market on the weekends. I asked for a raise, which they denied me. I then asked for more hours, which they also denied me. I then gave my two weeks.

After that ended, I had a couple months off. Then my friend, Shaun, gave me a ride to Wal Mart for my interview. I got the job. I don’t remember what I started at, but I think it was something like $6.50. Maybe a little less.
I worked part time in Papergoods/Chemicals (paper plates, toilet paper, laundry stuff). I soon transferred to the Foods department. The department managers there loved me. Jay from sporting goods was wondering when I would enter the “rising star” (management training) program. After graduating High School, I switched from part time to full time, and from nights/weekends to days.

The inventory guys liked me a lot, because I worked my ass off and kept the shelves filled without their help. And when I would finish my job early (usually) I would help unload the trucks. I eventually transferred to ICS (inventory control) and was regularly assigned to the Food department. I got a raise (now at $7.50), Trish the food dept manager still had her shelves filled and all the help she needed setting things up. And the trucks got unloaded more quickly.

I also learned every other department, got licensed on the forklift and joined the safety team. I developed a spreadsheet-style system of charting the back room. It was on a clipboard. If anybody asked me if something was in the back, within 10 seconds I could tell them if it was/wasn’t, or have it’s potential location down to 1 pallet (out of about 200).

When the ICS team lead went to the Toys department, everyone wondered if I would take the position. Dave (team lead) told them I was too smart for that.

Actually I’d noticed something. I noticed that while I was making $7.75 at this point, the start pay for a new hire in my position is $7.50–I was raised to this upon transfer, but raises are supposed to accumulate and transfer. They are done by percentages. Translation: They transferred me as a new hire, rather than someone with 2 years of experience and 4, 5% raises. Translation: They owed me about $800. I asked Dave about this. He said I was correct. So did salaried management. But not the personnel manager. She told me raises transfer some other way. I can’t remember what she said, but nobody else in the store knew about it.

I gave my two weeks, and got a raise to $12/hr working for myself on boats.

In addition to my full time work/school, I also have a side job. For just over a decade I have been refinishing wood on yachts. I’ve worked on 5 of them, one for 3 or 4 years, one for 1 year, another for 3, one for two and another for one. At one point, it was my full time job. I have worked on so few over the course of the 10 years I’ve been doing this because I am GOOD at what I do, and my clients recognize that, and call me back. Three of the boats mentioned were owned by the same individual. It was his boat that I was employed on full time. I also think it’s worth mentioning that a guy who can afford to buy a $250,000 vintage, 35 foot, all-wood motor sailor isn’t going to take shit from some scrubby kid who’s trying to rip him off.

I guarantee that I work at least as hard as anybody reading this for what I have in my life. I do not drink alcohol (except to toast weddings), I do not smoke cigarettes or weed and I do not to any drugs. All for personal reasons though I could care less (for the most part) if you do.

What does my own work history have to do with anything? I am just giving any reader a bit of background into somebody involved with Occupy. I am not a spoiled young kid who went to college for a degree I didn’t think about, and graduated into a stagnated and stifling jobs market with a loan I don’t feel like paying because I’ve never had a bill for my entire life. I’m not a dumbass hippie stoner whose main goal in life is to follow jam bands around the country as some sort of statement against “the man.” I punch a clock; hate my job but am going to school to improve my life; have a house; have a car; have bills and pay them on time but sometimes I don’t. I get stressed out and I listen to talk radio and sometimes get stressed out about that, too. Just like you do.

So, when I hear somebody say, “You’ll understand when you get more life experience,” I’m pretty sure they’re referring to THEIR life experience. After filling them (the people in the argument that spawned this post) in on my own, they were astounded that I shared his viewpoint, but that they didn’t want to get into a “second argument” while involved in the current one. I told them it was fine, and that I’m less inclined to argue than discuss or debate, and that if insults are their idea of discourse I’m not inclined to participate anyway. I was just letting them know that they might be missing a few points as well, experience or no.

This idea, this reduction of the American Dream from “If you work hard, you can make it” to “If you work hard, you might make your bills on time” isn’t OK with me. And that’s kind of the root of the Occupy Movement as a whole. To settle for a shitty TV service instead of being able to bring your children to Yellowstone should be a choice, not what can be afforded with 2 jobs. I brake my ass every day, and during the semester work an equivalent of over 100 hours to get where I am. I acknowledge that this is both my present choice and a result of the choices that I have made in the past.

I also consider myself fortunate.

I consider myself fortunate to have been born into a middle middle class family, with reasonably educated and intelligent (NOT the same thing) parents who were born into far worse circumstances than I, and who worked their asses off to provide me with a life and with opportunities better than their own. At least 3/4 of my grandparents had the same mentality.

I grew up healthy, I had access to a great education (although I could have made better of it) and my concern with getting a job was to afford the new Green Day cd rather than helping out with my parents’ bills.

I’ve lived in the city (Providence) since 2003. I was pretty clueless when I moved here, and it wasn’t until well after that I realized how different a lifestyle it is. I’m not talking about the loud music or pants belted at the knees. That’s just pop culture.

I’m talking about the extreme poverty that I am surrounded by. The owner of the house across the street died, he was in probably his late 70s. The house was condemned; I think something is wrong with the foundation. In any event, nobody is allowed to live there.

I noticed that the spigot in my driveway was constantly left on. I blamed my girlfriend. Until I caught one of the people who were still living in that house filling up a 2 liter soda bottle in my driveway. I told him it’s fine, just make sure he turns it off. There is no water running to that house–it’s condemned by the city.

Next door to me is a pretty big family. And I mean family family. Not a stereotypical huge household of immigrants living in the inner city. This is a husband and wife, and several children–biological and adopted. Honestly I can’t quite figure out how everyone is related, and they have a lot of other family members over, especially during the summer.

Two years ago their house was shot 7 times. It was a mistake. The drive by shooting was meant for a different address. They have small kids. They weren’t overly concerned, because it was a mistake. This isn’t atypical for them. It happens sometimes. Let me reiterate: Two years ago their house was shot 7 times. This was an honest mistake as far as they were concerned.

The other next door had an older woman, her son, his friend and friend’s girlfriend living with them.

Shortly after moving in, the older woman (70s) was arrested. She was selling heroin. Shortly after, her son was arrested, can’t remember why. Shortly after, the house was being foreclosed on. The couple (they had a young son) had been paying the rent on time every month. Apparently their landlord wasn’t paying the mortgage with it. They were forced to move.

Since I’ve moved in, at least 7 houses have gone into foreclosure on my street (maybe half a mile long). There have been several shootings in the area, and my newest next door neighbor now has a full home dvr surveillance system because about $10,000 worth of stuff was stolen from his house.

I’ve seen fights, we have a neighborhood drunk, the house behind me is section 8, a drunken woman demolished her boyfriend’s SUV (directly in front of my house )after following him to his other girlfriend’s house.

This is normal for my neighborhood.

Did I mention that there is an elementary school on my street?

When you hear the term “underprivileged” it doesn’t mean “WE WANT MORE OF YOUR SHIT,” it means that these people are born into and live within such extreme poverty that they don’t know any other way of life. They don’t see any other way of life. Overcrowding in the city and often poor family structures don’t make it easy for children to cope and contend with a scholastic environment. Inner city schools don’t tend to be coveted.

From the start, these kids do not have anything close to the life I had growing up–and my father had 3 jobs and picked up a gallon of heating oil on his way home on payday to heat the house through the night.

Yes, they have to transcend it. Yes, a good portion of the burden is on THEM. But how vanishingly few are able to? How many 10 year old children who sell crack for their parents because the cannot get a criminal record (true story.) are likely to finish high school? How many who are raised around gang violence and are ostracized for not glorifying it are likely to be top of their class?

And how many parents with legitimate but minimum wage jobs are living in impoverished areas neglected by municipalities? How many times do they have to be robbed and humiliated before they become a part of the underground economy just to make ends meet? And how much pressure is there to do so when the legitimate economy afford them no way to make ends meet, while the underground economy will enable to them to provide their children with everything they need?

Booker T. Washington, in Up From Slavery, gave an account of emancipated slaves who would work all week to make $3. Then spend almost all of it on a carriage ride up and down Pennsylvania Avenue all day, so that they can appear affluent. The psychological pressure to belong is overwhelming. He also said that it is up to the individual when it comes down to it. But also that it will be hard, because they weren’t born into families of lawyers.

This isn’t about handouts.

This is about companies expanding to the point of being faceless consistently firing experienced workers and rehiring for the same position at a lower rate. Experience takes time. Time=age. Age typically=family.

This is about a friend of my father’s, who was laid off after 25 years to cut costs. It’s also about that same guy, who with $500k in the bank figured out how to milk unemployment so he never has to work again in his life.

Sure, he put into the system his whole life and lost his job, but it’s not supposed to be about “I GET MINE,” it’s supposed to be about “shit, that sucks, hope this helps until you find another job.” Thing is, he’s probably the first to complain about welfare fraud. Right behind the scumbag that fired him to increase his bonus. It does come from other angles. There are generally lower income people that milk it as well, but those are far fewer than most people would like to believe, and I am here to give you a concept of what the Occupy Movement is all about by allowing you to relate through my own, personal experiences.

Also, check this link out.

Sure, this shit is legal. But this is about it being OK. This is about it being status quo.

What this isn’t about, is me.

I’m doing ok. I’m breaking my ass, but my life is improving. I’m putting money in savings and can afford to work a few hours to take some courses that are more specific to what I am going to do with my life.

I have decent health insurance and reliable transportation. I’m not addicted to anything but bicycling and music. And tea.

I’m fortunate to have lead the life I have. But almost more so, I am fortunate to have been brought up with the background I was brought up in. I am privileged in that regard.

No, not privileged like “Mom, why does Donnie get to stay up until 11 on Wednesday nights to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 and I don’t!?” This is privileged as in “I didn’t have to worry about getting accidentally shot when I grew up, my parents didn’t have to force me to sell drugs to survive and because of that I could attain an education. My father wasn’t raised by a man who could not attain any social status greater than a janitor because he was the wrong color. Because of that I can become what I want to become, or at least have a serious shot.”

This isn’t about me.

This is about everyone who comes after me. This is for those who cannot afford an apartment working full time, never mind affording child care for a second job. Actually, more specifically, this isn’t really even for them. This is for those kids whose parents can’t get ahead because of gigantic corporations and gigantic government that is more concerned with bottom line and with career preservation than with what will come after them.

Saying “I got kids to pay for” as an excuse to not resist injustice is all well and good. It’s anybody’s prerogative. But my own admission that this will not affect or improve my life (materially) is also an admission of the same on your part.

This isn’t about me, this isn’t about you. This is about the future that we will see come to fruition, and about everyone who has to inhabit it.

It’s about the big agriculture throwing away enough food on a yearly basis due to aesthetic quality control measures (I can’t remember the name of the book…but this one is along the same lines) to almost wipe out the world food crisis single handed.

It’s about thinking beyond your back yard, beyond your “life experiences” and (to quote Richard Dawkins) “valu[ing] a future more distant than your own.”

I can’t speak for what it will accomplish. I can’t speak for the intentions and actions of groups in other cities or countries, or on other continents. I cannot justify violent and rash actions by Occupy members portrayed in the media.

But I can speak to the realities that they are fighting to alleviate.

It might change the world. It might do little more than getting a daytime homeless shelter opened.

But at the very least it’s sent a message that things are not ok, and we aren’t ok with that. The “1%” didn’t become that way by being stupid. The ridiculously rich “public servants” in office know what this is about. They aren’t confused at all. But like I said, they aren’t stupid, and they know that if they said, “You know, they’re right. You’ve been cornholed your whole life, it isn’t going to get any better, and your children are going to have cancer from their drinking water. But I’m all set and that’s all that matters,” I don’t think it would go over very well. Not for them at least.
I heard a conversation yesterday on a local radio show. The woman who called was a liberal, born into wealth and overly generous with it. She did a poor job of conveying her mentality to the host. He respected her position, though disagreed. Once off the line with her, he commented that “being born into wealth plus wealth guilt is how you create a liberal.” Not what she was getting at…but as a conservative talk host (I actually kind of like his show, he’s not as crazy as a lot of them.) it’s part of his job to paint caricatures of the “other side.” I think everyone is too quick to run with the stereotype. And I hope through this rant, at least one person learns that it’s not at all about what “we” want, or will get out of it, about who gets what handouts. I am more likely to get headaches trying to explain my position to a pedantic, condescending pricks who aren’t interested in my thoughts or viewpoints and are only interested in telling someone that they’re wrong for disagreeing.

Now, I mentioned I consider myself fortunate, and I do. But I make no apologies for it. I was lifted into the fortunate circumstances that I would be born into on the shoulders of a hard working family who wanted their children and grandchildren to have better lives than them. I’ve owed it to them to not squander what they’ve passed down to me with idiotic decisions. And I haven’t (for the most part, I’ve done my share of stupid things). I’m not going to apologize for what I have, because what I have, I’ve worked for, or my father worked for, or my mother, or three quarters of my grandparents.

Historically, we have all broken our collective asses in my family to improve our own lives, but more specifically and more importantly the lives of those who will come after us. The Occupy Movement is a continuation of that tradition of imparting to the future a world that we ourselves would want to grow up in. It’s a subject for a different entry, perhaps, but I personally am simultaneously horrified and almost too optimistic about what that world will look like.

At this point I’d say I’m about done. But I’m sure the extremely cynical and opposed will still be saying “SEE! HE JUST WASTED 4,300 WORDS OF MY TIME AND DIDN’T EVEN SAY ANYTHING!!!” So in the interest of those who cannot put two and two together, those who are willfully ignorant and thoroughly dismissive, or simply for those of you who don’t have 4,300 words worth of time when someone says, “Yeah, but what are you trying to accomplish?” I offer a summation:

The Occupy Movement is more of a mentality than a specific statement. It is more aimed at the combating of objective injustice. I specify “objective” because some people may view the inability of the Red Sox to beat the Yankees as injustice. I would call that subjective injustice, I would also go so far as to say that in the scheme of things, nobody gives a shit.

It is about calling attention to and hoping to alleviate the suffering of those who cannot (do NOT read that as “don’t want to) raise themselves above their current situation.

It is about disproportionate taxation, and it is about misappropriated tax funds that if properly appropriated would eliminate the issues of class/wealth taxation in the first place.

It is about the fact that a “truth-o-meter” needs to be on screen during a fucking presidential debate because the average viewer cannot know whether or not the man running for the job of “IN CHARGE OF THE COUNTRY” is being completely honest, spinning it in his favor, or flat out lying.

It is about the fact that mainstream media (mostly on the right wing side of things) consistently downplays either the existence of/the severity of/mankind’s contribution to/mankind’s ability to remedy climate change (or a combination of all of them) in the interest of the profitability of big oil and government’s vested interest (on the liberal side) or conserving and adding jobs by expanding our existing infrastructure (on the conservative side).

It is about the bipartisan and polarizing politics that prevent even people I talk to on a daily basis from understanding why I have the opinions I have, and vice-versa.

It’s about the fact that an old woman can be molested at the airport for extreme security measures that statistically have not improved airport security.

It is about the fact that everybody who wants to improve their lives should be able to, or should at least have the opportunity to try.
I’m pretty sure that with very few exceptions, most people would align with everything I just mentioned. Basically it’s about open dialogue and communication, it’s about seeking out that which we are ignorant of for the sake of understanding. It’s about the suspension of prejudice, exclusivity, polarity and potential misconception in the interest of mature discourse and compromise in the best interest of all groups involved, rather than a specific few–be those few the “1%” or the legitimate “welfare queens” who DO want to freeload through life.

This link is actually a good representation of the concept. Just generally working together, because obviously something isn’t going as planned.

It is not about those people “getting a handout” or “feeling entitled” to “your money.” But an inner city kid should not have his fate sealed to repeat history just because his scumbag father is currently punching the shit out of his mother because she spent the money for dinner getting her nails done but he wanted it for drugs. It doesn’t necessarily mean “give him a bunch of free money” but maybe having enough social workers to handle the amount of caseloads like this would be a good start.

It is also not about my opinion. Sure, I have one. Sure it weighs on my decisions. But it only matters to a very small extent, and usually not in the scheme of things. It’s about individuals everywhere, educating themselves, looking at individual situations and saying “that’s fucked up.” And then doing something–or at least trying to do something–even if it isn’t going to benefit you directly. About not being complacent just because at the end of the day you don’t have to see that homeless dude again. It’s also about not jumping to the conclusion that that homeless guy is that way because he just doesn’t want to work.

I do have my opinions, but largely I’ve left them out of this. I’ve resisted a lot of urges to add my spin or a sarcastic comment meant to jab at people who disagree. But that gets nothing accomplished. At best I get a laugh out of the people who agree with me anyway. At worst, I’ve alienated those who’ve come to the table in disagreement.

So, like I said. You don’t have to agree with it, or even understand it. You certainly don’t have to be a part of it. But if you’re going to disagree with it, you’re going to look awful stupid if you’re clueless.

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About Joseph Lyons

I have a degree in anthropology from Rhode Island College. My focus was in biological anthropology but I also have a broad interest in cultural anthropology, archaeology and linguistic anthropology. This blog is intended to be for the development of my own positions and ideas, mostly regarding paleoanthropology and paleontology in general, with a heaping helping of evolution on top...but also includes bits about a lot of different aspects of culture, primarily race, gender, privilege, the environment and my own personal relationship with anxiety.

Posted on 07/09/2012, in Political mumbo-jumbo. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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