If you're not enraged…

This is what democracy looks like.

For the longest time, I haven’t had a clue what to say about the Occupy movement.
I guess I still don’t.

I’m always scared to talk about politics and what’s going on in our country. I don’t feel qualified; I spent the first 25 years of my life enjoying the sort of blissful ignorance that kids who grew up in an insulated and comfortable environment tend to enjoy.
I didn’t understand the issues, and I didn’t really care, because they didn’t affect me.

To some extent, it could be argued that I still live a pretty comfortable life. Never mind: To every extent possible, I live such a comfortable life. I’m a little strapped for cash these days, yes, but good lord, I’m fortunate.
I have no student loan debt. I’m working full time as a freelancer and have a glorious apartment in one of Chicago’s loveliest neighborhoods. I can afford to buy organic at the grocery store; even my cat’s kibble is from Whole Foods. I bought a coat from Anthropologie this fall. (It’s really nice.)

But something happened a couple of years ago. Something snapped. Maybe it was meeting the Knight, whose political beliefs were so pervasive in his life and, eventually, our relationship that I couldn’t ignore them. Maybe it was becoming more active on Twitter and realizing that the stories on TV, the radio and the newspaper barely scratched the surface.

Maybe it was just being on my own for long enough that I realized something wasn’t right despite the lovely bubble I live in.

It doesn’t really matter how it happened, but I got mad.
Really angry.
I’m mad at politicians, even Democrats I’ve helped vote in.
I’m mad at the big banks, even the one I trust my money with.
I’m mad at big businesses, even the ones I patronize regularly.

And I am mad at the people who don’t understand refuse to understand.
The people who call Occupy protesters dirty hippies or self-entitled rich kids looking to party.
The people who yell, “GET A JOB!” (Umm, helloooooo?)
The people make fun of the 99 percent despite being deeply entrenched within its ranks (and in denial about it).
The people who think the Occupiers should go home because they’ve made their point.
People who think change can happen inside a ballot box.
And at the ballot box, people who choose to support candidates whose power stems from fear.
Oh, and people who compare the Tea Party to the Occupy movement in any way. Disgusting.

Much of what’s going on in the country today still isn’t directly affecting me, but that’s…not really what this is about. That kind of thinking is selfish and ignorant and all too common. I’ll readily admit that I’ve been part of the problem. I’m not proud of it, but it takes a while to inch your way down from the pedestal of privileged kid who doesn’t get it to citizen in the trenches, working in even small ways toward some kind of solution.

Regardless of how little the many grievances of this movement actually apply to me at this moment, I am the 99 percent.

Which is why I went downtown last night to walk with them.
I made the possibly irresponsible choice to put my work aside and march on the two-month anniversary of the original Zuccotti Park occupation.
In large part, I was a tourist. A frozen tourist. I could scarcely contain my giddiness to finally be part of something I’ve eagerly retweeted and argued in support of for the past two months. I took pictures and grinned like an idiot as we made our way up LaSalle St. to block off the bridge for the better part of an hour as traffic came to a screeching, frustrated halt.
I went hoarse screaming chants with the crowd, in time with rhythms beat out on overturned plastic pickle tubs.

I wore my Anthropologie coat with a “Stand Up! Chicago” button pinned on. My Chase credit card was burning a hole in my back pocket. I tweeted from my $400 smart phone and looked forward to cocktails later with friends in a warm, cozy bar. And it did not make me any less a part of the movement. I was right at home with the communists and the anarchists. The hippies and the Veterans for Peace. The union activists and traffic workers. The people with homemade signs, even the ones who nearly knocked me over with theirs.

I may have been a tourist, but at least I was there. I was so happy to be there.
I’m thrilled we blocked traffic and pissed people off. I’m glad we disrupted the work day. I’m pleased we made people nervous. I love that we refused to be ignored.
I’m happy to be angry. This feels like enlightenment.

This may not bring about change we can see any time soon, but it’s going to change a hell of a lot more than doing nothing will.

Call it one big party if you want, naysayers. But everyone’s invited — including you.
One: We are the people.
Two: We are united.
Three: The occupation is not leaving.

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48 Responses to “If you're not enraged…”

  1. Len Says:

    Outstanding. A powerful expression of what it is all about
    Welcome.

  2. Mike Phillips Says:

    I understand doing something for something you believe in.
    And I understand trying to draw attention to the cause.

    What I don’t understand is how pissing people off, blocking traffic, and keeping me from getting where I’m going – which, could quite possibly be my source of income – is doing anybody any good. 

    • paigeworthy Says:

      It’s doing good because sometimes — no, okay, MOST of the time — you have to be a little disruptive to get through to people. In my mind, the small inconvenience of an hour delay on the roads is a LOT better than how hard we’re all going to get screwed if we let this crap continue.
      These protests are planned and scheduled, and you can work to avoid the jams if you really need to get somewhere.

      • Mike Phillips Says:

        Sorry, I just don’t get the strategy. I think there are other ways to get through to people without intentionally antagonizing them, especially the people who you probably want to help spread the message. Because, as we all know, the 1% have jet packs and can easily go over the traffic blockage. It’s the 99% who are suffering from the lack of mobility, in this case.
        Maybe it’s me, but antagonizing me is a quick way to get me to tune out.

      • paigeworthy Says:

        What other ways do you suggest to get through to people?

        We can agree to disagree here, I guess. If you’re going to tune out a movement because you think they’re antagonizing you by blocking traffic, I…well, that just seems silly to me.

      • Mike Phillips Says:

        Organize. Write. Cultivate powerful allies. Distribute material, maybe.
        I’m just saying that if someone wants to get me on their side, poking me in the chest isn’t a good start. It does not make me sympathize whatsoever. It’s just how I feel about it.

      • paigeworthy Says:

        That’s fine.
        I just feel like…you should sympathize because this is about you.

      • Mike Phillips Says:

        I’m not saying that I don’t understand what this is all about or that I even disagree with the movement itself. I just don’t agree with the strategy.

      • Prtpier Says:

        As someone in the crowd of protestors, just want to point out, at no time was this crowd so enormous (too bad) that the ample supply of police on hand, on bikes (and the many out of sight in nearby alleys in squads) couldn’t have easily cleared the streets they infact had opened for us to walk down in order to let emergency vehicles through. Methinks you protest this one aspect too much so’s you don’t have to look at the real issues.
         

      • Mike Phillips Says:

        My comments have nothing to do with the issues.

      • tudutoo Says:

        If you examine every single movement that’s even taken place in America throughout its brief history, it involved “taking it to the streets.”  The Women’s Sufferage Movement, The Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War protests. . you name it. . .it took place in and on the streets in every corner of this great nation.  I lived through the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War (“Conflict”) protests.  Letter writing, using the Internet exclusively, writing articles for major rag-mags. . .NONE of that is as power as the physical presence of human beings and the outcry and voicing of their objections.  It’s akin to the comparing the benefits of talking to a doctor vs. actually being seen by a doctor. . .only one of these approaches is going to net you any measurable and meaningful results. 

      • Kevin Flaherty Says:

        Even beyond that, there’s the safety issue. Ambulances, fire engines, etc. Yes, these may be planned out in advance, but certainly not everyone knows that they’re coming. And what happens if something goes wrong for somebody in one of those cars — seizure, heart attack, etc.? They’re stuck.

        I’ll admit, those aren’t necessarily everyday occurrences, but they are commonplace enough to merit serious concerns.

        Appreciate the passion. Appreciate the beautiful prose (as always) even more. But there has to be a better way.

    • tudutoo Says:

      Mike, you wouldn’t have enjoyed the Civil Rights Movement or the Women’s Sufferage Movement or the protests against Vietnam . . .all took place in the streets, on the sidewalks and involved massive numbers of people carrying signs, chanting their rants, calling for action and/or rights. . .it’s the way it’s always been done.  That it inconveniences you is unfortunate.  Look at it this way, these people are willing to do the hard part so that people like you and like me might have a fighting chance to enjoy a restoration of  “We The People” to our rightful place relative to governance of OUR country.  Be a Patriot and give yourself a little more time to get to work.  Don’t dislike the people standing up against tyranny, dislike the REASON they have to stand up against tyranny.  You do NOT want an Oligarchy in America.  . .oh. . .wait. . .we already HAVE an Oligarchy in place.  We should ALL be supporting the Occupy protesters as they call for and deman a restoration of our Democracy.  God bless you, Mike.

  3. Fresh and Foodie Says:

    Well done.

  4. Barrie Says:

    Enjoyed reading the honest emotion here … and that facts that prompted its expression are a reality we too accept are worthy of opposing as so many are.

  5. Matt Cheuvront Says:

    I needed to read this. Thank you for sharing an honest look into the Occupy movement. Well played.

    • paigeworthy Says:

      Man, Matt, it was hard to write. I always feel so dumb about talking about this stuff — but it seems something at least a little coherent did come out. Thank you for reading, friend.

  6. Katie Says:

    Good read Paige, I like the idea of embracing small businesses and spending most of our holiday dollars in independent, or owner/operated franchised locations. I bought a coat from Belmont Army (probably as good as Anthropologie) and I feel good that I bought from an indy store vs. a conglomerate that rips off Etsy artists for their profit.

    • paigeworthy Says:

      Uuuughh, yeah. I’ve read about some of the crap Urban Outfitters has pulled with indie artists. It’s really a shame.

      I AM looking forward to doing most of my shopping at independents — on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 26) and beyond. http://smallbusinesssaturday.com/

      • Katie Holland Says:

        That sounds awesome Paige! Also, check out Simon Mainwaring’s book We First. I can let you borrow a copy too. He has a great campaign for businesses interested in creating programs that give back with their revenue http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZloSRGIzRc

  7. Kyle Rohde Says:

    Well written as usual my friend – I’ve also found it tough to decide how I feel about the movement, having grown up basically the same way as you, though I’ve also consistently been Republican-leaning, at least from an economic perspective. Great job of expressing that confusion and how you got through it.

  8. Gregg J Says:

    I really liked this article Paige. You’ve given a rational description of your feelings that probably a lot of us share and also, importantly, you haven’t let the politicians “on your side” off the hook. They are almost more to blame b/c we expect them to have our back, not the banks and corporations that lobby them.

  9. Caleb Gardner Says:

    Well done, friend. And I’m jealous – I would be out on the streets with you if it weren’t for my little guy at home (he tends to demand most of my time).

    Nothing like a little civil unrest to get the conversation going. I haven’t been in a good protest since the war in Iraq started.

  10. Sonja Says:

    THIS: “Much of what’s going on in the country today still isn’t directly affecting me, but that’s…not really what this is about. That kind of thinking is selfish and ignorant and all too common. I’ll readily admit that I’ve been part of the problem.” Completely agree. The selfish and ignorant attitude is what’s getting our country nowhere. What I like about the Occupy protests is that they are forcing a conversation to take place.

  11. Laura Scholz Says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this and participated in the movement. I, too, am confused as to what to think, as to what needs to be done, because yes–voting isn’t doing it! Which hurts my liberal bleeding, voted-in-early-election-even-primaries-since-I-turned-18, political science degree-holding heart.

    And while most people may look at the luxuries my husband and I share, in reality, we are one job loss, one health crisis away from being in a really shitty place. Probably would be already without the support of our families. And yes, we are educated (advanced degrees times three) and well-employed and hard working have no student loans and grew up relatively privileged and yes, we have made financial mistakes that have threatened our livelihood, but the realities are still there. Me not being able to afford health insurance without being marriage to him. Me not being able to pay any employees health insurance. Banks lending crazy amounts of money for housing and not being the ones threatened of getting thrown out of THEIR homes they could no longer afford. A justice system that believes and enforces the antiquated practice of awarding alimony. The fact that my friends who are college graduates are getting paid $24,000 a year with no health insurance because that’s the shit people can get away with. That my brother-in-law is an addict with no health insurance, re-inforcing the cycle of addiction and unemployment, something that would render him homeless without the generosity of family and friends. The fact that hard work and education and being a good citizen do not guarantee that you will live well or even scrape by.  That GE paid $0 in taxes last year–meanwhile, this is the first year in five that I’ve been in the black with the IRS all while making less than $60,000 a year.

    So, I get it. I get that I am closer to the 1% than most, but things look really scary out there for those who don’t. That big businesses have too much power, even if it is more convenient to order those cute compression socks from amazon.com and keep my money at Wells Fargo (because the people I work with there are locals who needs jobs and are good to me, even though we do have two credit union accounts). I’m not convinced these things need to go away entirely. But government is supposed to represent those it serves. The little people. The oppressed. Not ensure more wealth for those who have too much and ensure the downward spiral of those who have too little.

    What *is* the point of the movement, though, other than to attention? Is there any sort of action plan? Blueprint? Way to educate people who think we’re just wasting government resources and blocking traffic. How do we get the 99% to understand they are the 99% and will never, ever in this lifetime be in the 1%, no matter how much they’d like to believe hard work and bootstrapping will get them there.

    Again, I have a lot of stay about this, but have had no forum with which to share it, so thank you.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Gratitudes.

    From someone who couldn’t join, to someone who did. I’ve been vocal, but it feels like a lot of shouting on my part. I keep trying to do more writing.

    One thing that I heard another person, an adjunct professor of economics at an NYC University, say: you’re letting other people know they’re not alone in all the outrage they feel and the crazy situations they end up in, often even despite “doing all the right things”. That, to my heart, out here as more cheerleader than tourist even, has been something I’ve been grateful for. The more audacious the protests, peaceful yet blatantly in the way and “interrupting your regularly scheduled programming”, the less the people who have felt like they were a bank’s inconvenient speedbump to progress realize they’re not alone, that it isn’t just them that thinks this is nuts, and that we’re a lot more connected than we realized.

    So thanks… Hope life conspires to get me out there too soon enough. In the mean time I owe you one just for going out there and posting this. Glad to hear it felt good to you to be out there… 🙂

  13. Justin True Anderson Says:

    It does effect you.  No one is wealthy when poverty reaches the state it has in our country.  Thank you for stepping up.

  14. Harvey Kahler Says:

    I’ve either had a cold or something else to do – how many more are like me?  I’m grateful for all those who have the courage to go out to demonstrate.

  15. Sweeney Says:

    Love this. It’s sort of our duty has human beings to get angry when this sort of widespread injustice is going on, regardless of how slighted we are by it personally.  Similarly, as disconnected as we all can be sometimes, it can be downright euphoric to be with large crowds of people fighting for something…

    Glad you were able to go out and join them!

  16. Rachel Says:

    This is a good one.  🙂

  17. Tudutoo Says:

    Outstanding commentary all the way around, Paige.  I envy you. . .living in a city large enough to host a movement of such size and grandeur.  I too, no matter my relative success, am the 99% and I stand up and for the Occupy protesters.  YOU GO, 99%. . .WE’RE WITH YOU ALL THE WAY! 

  18. Siobhanhkolar Says:

    I like that you wrote this, thanks.  It took you a while to get out there but you went, and how many more like you, like me, are there.  Keep us posted. Are you going back? What’s next?  And thanks to Jack Spatafora for posting, he got my family talking and that’s how I found it. 

  19. Dan Stafford Says:

    Love it. Thank you.

  20. John H. Ritter Says:

    We must also vote.  We must not discard the tool that is the ballot box.  Otherwise I am 100% in agreement.

  21. Sara Schroeder Says:

    I enjoyed this, as someone who was with you [unknowingly] on the 17th! 

  22. Laura Says:

    It’s refreshing to read this after all the OWS ignorance I’ve seen on social media lately.

  23. Santa goes indie. Says:

    […] 31, 2011 I’ve tried to be more aware about where I’m putting my money in the past few months. A few weeks ago, I moved all my funds to a local bank, and though I’m still a sucker for a […]

  24. HipsterScum Says:

    I’m so happy you had the opportunity to vacation in Protestland. It’s deplorable that you applaud yourself and have no shame in saying you did it while wearing name brand clothes and using a $400 smartphone. I guess I should you give you credit for having the guts to be so openly two-faced. You aren’t part of the movement, you are the problem. You and every other hypocrite who lives the life of luxury (I wonder how those student loans got paid off so quickly?) while pretending to be an unemployed auto worker or steel manufacturer. That is why this movement won’t work, why it gets a bad rap, why you are all sorry excuses for the heroes that fought for Civil Rights. I’m not saying you have to be broke, homeless, or had your fortunes stolen in a ponzi scheme to participate in these protests, but for God’s sake have some humility. If everyone down there walked around with a pompous attitude talking about how you’ll protest for an hour or two then go get martinis with your girlfriends then the Occupy movement should just give up right now. 

    Reading the comments from your fellow hypocrites it is pretentious and sickening to even compare yourselves to the heroes of the 60s and 70s. Those people had it rough, those people made it their life’s work to fight for their rights. You buy one coat from a non-name brand store, walk in front of some cars, and think you are saving the country. What you are doing is pathetic and the fact that you applaud your own actions is a dictionary definition of “clueless”. 

    • paigeworthy Says:

      LOL.

    • paigeworthy Says:

      Couple of things.

      First: I have never tried to hide how fortunate I have been in life. 
      I didn’t have student loans; my parents set aside money for my sister and I to go to college. I was lucky. I was also taught early on to be careful with my money, not to rack up excessive credit-card bills and not to take what I have for granted.
      And I don’t.

      The movement will work; it won’t happen immediately, but it’ll be a catalyst if nothing else. And YOU are part of the problem when you say I’m not qualified to fight. It takes all kinds, and I’m one of them. Y’know, the 99 percent? Times have changed, and so have the way people and protests work. 

      I am self aware and have more of a clue about a lot of things than many. And if you don’t believe that, well, at least I’ll actually sign my name to what I say. Your comment was pathetic, and the fact that you couldn’t even own up to your words is a dictionary definition of “trolling,” Hipster Scum.

  25. Expat Mum Says:

    There’s no doubt the country is in a tight spot, and I support people who are angry enough to shout out loud – I just wish someone would actually say “Ok, here’s what we need to do”. I never see or hear any plan of action. Shouting and getting angry is great to galvanize people and piss people off if need be, but at some point there has to be a strategy. 

    • Anonymous Says:

      Sure:

      1) Get enough people shouting and angry and stomping together to the point that both parties realize that they’re being called on the fact that most people consider Goldman Sachs being the largest donor to both parties to be a bit of a dead giveaway that both parties are, to some extent, being bought off.
      2) Get enough people shouting and angry and stomping together to the point that most corporations that are paying egregious salaries to cronies as “C-level execs” that they realize we all can call having just two or three or four competing products to choose from doesn’t really let us choose not to give them our money, that this is a gigantic company town in effect, and it collectively stinks.
      3) Get enough … &etc. … that people taking defensive positions naysaying protesters as unproductive homeless lazy jobless wealthy pinko leeching spoiled bratty … &etc. … that people taking defensive naysaying protesters as not here soon enough rich spoiled lazy wealthy not really helping … &etc. … is what it is, naysaying and tearing down and it collectively stinks, and then maybe they’ll quiet down for a change and the fence sitters get off the fence and the lonely don’t feel so lonely. 4) Get enough going on _at the protests_ besides just shouting that ideas are generated, decisions made, and other work kicked off. These aren’t just protests. They’re workshops in activism. They get people who were never interested in activism before interested to get moving and do more.

      The mass cycling day “critical mass” is aptly named for the same reason.
      Sometimes the best strategy is to just get _more_ people involved so that
      you get _movement_. That’s why they _call_ it a movement, after a time, if
      the arguments are compelling enough, if they’re shared between enough
      people, opinion shifts, and if the opinion shift is big enough, demands can
      be made. Demands like:

      1) Enact rules that restrict what corporations can do to influence
      government. Need an amendment to do that because SCOTUS said previous laws
      were overreach? Fine, let’s try. If we fail, at a minimum we let
      corporations that have corrupted government know we will mash opprobrium
      into their face when they do that until they don’t feel quite so much like
      that any more. A bit like how they get called on astroturfing now.
      2) Enact rules and redo the tax code to reverse the trend towards income
      inequality, something which is both inherently rigged in a way most people
      feel is amoral and — even if it isn’t — is a gigantic damper on the
      economy and slowly dragging down the U.S. as a whole.
      3) Shift the tone of the conversation for a long time to come, because
      enough people have been taught and decided to believe that (a) bad things
      come of corruption like this and (b) we can actually do something about it
      rather than being apathetic. And we don’t have to take abridgment of
      freedom to assemble and speak in protest laying down at the same time
      corporations are described as having “the same rights as people” to spend
      large amounts on politicians and political ads and lobbying.
      4) See (3).

      There is, of course, probably more that can be said. Lots more. But there
      you go. More or less starting with trying to sustain the protests. Because
      though it sounds to some like mere angry shouting, there’s more going on
      and more thought than you may have first heard.

  26. Still enraged. And exhausted. — Paige Worthy Says:

    […] it was a motley crew…but I loved them for being out there. Speaking their minds. I always have. What are you doing, you bystanders who are so quick to judge? Does a mohawk make someone’s […]

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