Detroit may have an occupation, but I’m currently commuting there. As much as I’d love to set up a tent and live in the middle of downtown Detroit, I need wifi and electricity (and my external hard drives) so I can continue to work and hopefully land a real job. Also it’s fucking cold out there! This morning is the first morning where I’ve woken up and seen frost outside, so I hope everyone downtown is keeping warm. On that note, if you have any spare blankets, winter clothes, mylar emergency blankets, or hand warmers, #occupydetroit is in desperate need of them!
One of the Fortunate Ones
“Get a JOB!”. It’s become almost as much a mantra for those who oppose our cause as “We are the 99%” has become for us. The funny thing, is the few times I’ve been confronted by these Bizarro 99%ers, the only response I can muster is “HAD a job!”. Since it mimics their condescension towards us, it seems an appropriate response, but what I would like to yell back is “I quit my job to be here because I support exercising our right to peacefully assemble and want to help call attention to corruption of our government and restoring the rule of law!”. But by the time I’d get all that out of my mouth, they’d be four blocks away and I’d be yelling at air. That’s not productive at all.
As they shout at myself and other Occupiers, little do they know, I’m not a lazy,
smelly hippie who’s been camping out here for days because I have nothing better to do; I’m a productive hard-worker who hasn’t held a job outside my chosen industry since I was 16. I’m a print-production professional with a decade of experience, a musician with a gig working for a multi-million dollar entertainment company, a small-business owner, and a guy who is no stranger to slamming entire pots of coffee as I plow through 90+ hr workweeks. Or at least I was a month ago before I left all that behind to do this. What I was and still am though, is someone who understands that it’s not as easy as simply “getting a job”, and that for thousands or millions of my peers, it’s most definitely not that simple. Instead of “had a job”, I suppose “what job!?” would be a better response. With national unemployment over 9% and Detroit’s at well over 20%, it’s pretty clear; there are very few jobs to be had.
But the cry “Get a job!” is telling; either most people who deride us don’t understand the complications of getting a job, I’m assuming they already have one, or think we’re just standing around with our thumbs in our asses waiting for someone to offer employment to us. Or worse, that we’re a group of overprivileged young individuals raised and supported by the “dying” middle class who expect everything to be handed to us as has allegedly been the case our entire lives. The fact is though, that in our current economic climate, for our generation and others, even a master’s degree is no guarantee for employment serving coffee to snooty jerks at Starbucks. Thankfully, twenty-somethings are becoming a decreasing demographic in the #Occupy movement as it gains momentum, but the core demographic still remains; educated young Occupiers who have joined the cause because they can’t find work (amongst other reasons) and have instead created an alternate society where their acquired skills can be put to use.
The evidence is all over; #Occupy movements have created sophisticated computer networks with which to communicate both internally and externally and we have used social networks to their full potential to help our message reach as many as possible. Media teams are full of film and multimedia production students or graduates, Medic tents at each Occupation are populated by med students and volunteer EMTs, you’ll find certified teachers and education students giving teach-ins, lectures and running open-forums. You can even get a haircut or take a yoga class. #occupywallstreet has over 70 working groups that have been autonomously created by an individual or group possessing a certain set of skills that they want to lend to the Occupation, and the other Occupations are following in the same footprints. Though misleading, perhaps “HAVE a job here!” would be a better response from those unemployed to the “Get a job”ers yelling at us from the sidewalk. Or maybe we should simply ignore them. After all, we have working group meetings to attend to.
The first morning was perhaps the most surreal awakening ever. I remember hearing the sound of a police siren in my sleep and the bustle of New York City faded into consciousness. I was laying on my back, and as I opened my eyes, the tall buildings surrounding Liberty Plaza slowly faded into view. Byron and Nathanael were nowhere to be found, so I stumbled over to the Kitchen to find eggs, coffee, and bagels waiting. It’s a nice thought to look back on this morning, as the food line now consistently stretches from the Kitchen at the center of the park, all the way to the northwest corner and is usually a good 30-minute wait during meal times.
That morning, I wandered in circles through the park trying to meet as many as I could. I have at least 10 numbers in my phone from that morning that I never attached names to, numbers that now mean nothing to me as those people have become lost in a sea of faces and names from the hundreds of people I’ve met in the last few weeks. I write this last line with a sense of bereavement. Each occupier I met has provided an enriching enlightenment on my view of the world. After my experience the first day with such an influential working group, I decided that for the next couple days, I would just focus on meeting people rather than trying to make a difference in working groups. After all, I needed to figure out what this was all about before I started influencing things, right? This is a decision I regretted later.
I came back to my sleeping area and found Byron. We debated whether or not a Kangol hat and green storage bin next to our camp had been abandoned or not, and decided to let them be. This storage bin would later become my most valued possession during my stay, holding all my stuff together so that it wouldn’t get separated during the day by Sanitation, Town Planning, or other Occupiers as they constantly tried to reorganize to keep pathways clear and make sure there was enough space for everyone to sleep in.
Suddenly, a march started up! We wound our way around the park several times, each revolution gaining more people and more momentum, and then we were on our way to City Hall.
*some names have been changed for privacy and shit