Friday, October 28, 2011

Why I Will NOT Occupy Wall Street

I am a part of 99%. Up until two months ago I was absolutely the working poor. One month ago my food stamps ran out, but now that my income is above the poverty line, I earn too much to reapply. I still need bailouts from The Bank of Stanley & Crystal.
I also understand my privilege in all of this. I definitely could have chosen to be a commercial performer in the entertainment business instead of a concert dancer. I am certainly bright enough to have gone to law school or business school or pursue some other profession that guarantees huge annual salaries. (Even though paying off those professional school loans would have majorly set me back for sometime anyway.) But I didn’t. It’s not my passion or purpose to do those things and I am okay with that. I’m not in this life for the money.
Yes, I want to be able to live without worry. No, I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. Yes, I think the American versions of capitalism and democracy are incredibly flawed. Yes, I think government and big business are way too intertwined. Yes, I think there needs to be a revolution in this country so that the wealth is more evenly spread. And yes, I am happy that a world wide population of people are mobilizing after what has seemed to be an unending era of apathy and complacency that has spanned my lifetime in the U.S.
Exhibit A: The original Adbusters ad poster doesn't even answer its own question.
But I absolutely will not sit outside downtown day after day with no clear articulated goals (see Exhibit A), purpose and tangible action plan. Especially when the goals are really to overturn a system of government. Are you prepared for a the next Civil War in the United States of America to pop off in 2012?

I’ll wait...

I didn’t think so. 

Big business has been funding (read: influencing) our government since its establishment. The end. That's not going to change over night, and it's definitely not going to change with setting up some tents in the park outside the sky scrapers downtown.
More than anything though, I think what gets under my skin is the incredible privilege demonstrated by those participating in this on a daily basis. The number one reason why I will not occupy Wall Street is because I have to go to work. And I'm pretty sure that anybody else who really is concerned about paying their New York City rent, ConEd, keeping some food in the refrigerator, and paying down their student loans is also at work. Honestly, the only people who can afford to sit outside for a month and a half are people who have nothing to lose any way, and that is not the 99%. Maybe it is the growing 9.1% of the unemployed, but I repeat, it is not the 99%.


Stan said...

Thank you. I've missed your Lovestutter posts. Enjoyed this one.

Nando_em_Brooklyn said...


I just recently discovered you blog. I enjoyed your post on why Dance Education is important.
This post however, left me a bit perplexed, specially when I read it right after the other.

I have an advanced degree in dance, but have been working as a graphic designer/art director/marketing director for the past 15 years. I believe that dance education is more than educating the body, it is also educating the mind to read the body, both our own and others. Having said that, I think that our education system is as lacking when it comes to learning to read images. I say this because I believe that the Adbusters ad does indeed answer the question and does so in a way that you agree. That is, we as a nation need to value labor not just for its ability to make profit. They say this by placing a dancer on top of the Wall Street bull. Dance above Wal Street. Creativity over profit.

OWS is not looking for a Civil War. They, we, are looking to change the hearts and minds of a nation that has been lulled into a stooper by rampant consumerism and a dream.

As for Big Business funding/influencing our government. Of course they always have. The issue is that while in the past 40 years corporations have cut their taxes in half, our taxes have gone up ... and they think they still pay too much.

I, like you, must go to work every day. So I did not go to OWS. But I am grateful that they, not having work or prospects for work once they get out of school, took to the streets in our name.

If we believe that the value of things is not always in the potential for profit, then we need to make our voices heard, we need see the value in what we do to make it so, and not allow ourselves to be divided by those who seek to make us disappear, by cutting off the funding we need to create and teach the art forms we so treasure.

With love and admiration,
Fernando Maneca

Sydnie said...

Dear Fernando,
Thank you so much for your readership and your thoughtful response to this post. I have to say that I absolutely agree with you regarding dance education being much broader and deeper than a physical knowledge. I definitely see your interpretation of the Adbusters ad. Other interpretations I had was since the dancer is perched on one leg that they are looking for balance, or to tame the bull (the out of control consumerism & greed).

Really my point about the ad is that this protest lacks focus, clarity and a plan of action. For me, a fault of the movement is that its message and purpose is left open to far too much interpretation, and if anything is to be actually accomplished the purpose and goals need to be outlined with laser focus. I am also aware that many people champion the OWS movement for its lack of clarity because that fact alone has opened it up to be a mass movement that's not divisive.

Still, as much as I can appreciate there IS a movement after so many people have been as you say, "lulled into a stooper," I am a woman who believes in action. Let's not just talk about it, let's be about it -- and that can't happen with out focus and a plan.

That said, I totally support those who took to protesting that had no jobs, or homes, so they had nothing to lose. I completely respect that, but I also suspect many folks who took to Zucotti Park for 2 months had a bit more privilege than that - a privilege that allows them to pay NYC rent, yet choose to sleep in a tent.

I agree OWS is not looking for Civil War, but I do think that's the type of action that is necessary because big business and the 1% have the money (and therefore the power) and will do whatever is necessary to hold on to it. For me, a better, more effective tactic that would yield tangible results is for the 99% to support small business only: to divest from major national bank chains and corporate stock holdings and invest in one another. If we pay ourselves we can start to regain some economic control and therefore call a few more of the shots.

I say all that to say, I challenge OWS to take tangible action.

Nando_em_Brooklyn said...

Supporting Small Businesses has been my method of choice, as I am one of those who is of modest privilege (that is, I have a job that pays relatively well and so does my wife and our kids go to public school), I can sometimes afford to spend a bit more on something in order to 'put my money where my mouth is' so to speak.
But I believe that I, we, need to do this openly, vocally, in public, so as to perhaps inspire others into action.
OWS deepened my commitment to my beliefs. I know many who marched, as my kid's school organized a few support marches, my boss marched with her family, and so did many of the artists I work with.
So keep on keeping on.
We need to write and call our representatives, to make sure they know what we expect them to do on our behalf. Our voices must be louder than the 1%'s money. Politicians may feel that without their money they can not run their campaigns, but they need to remember that they can't get elected without our vote.



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