LETTER FROM AMERICA: RESISTANCE IS NOT FUTILE
by our American correspondent TIM “NAPALM”Â STEGALL who has been writing about punk rock culture (for magazines ranging from Flipside to Alternative Press to Guitar World) and playing in punk bands (The Hormones, Napalm Stars) since his ’80s youth in small town Texas. He currently Occupies The Media at his blog, A Heartful Of Napalm. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead”Â
Occupy Wall Street: It began as a suggestion from culture jammers Adbusters to their email list and became a reality within weeks. As of one week ago, it spread to 10 other American cities, including Los Angeles (which I’d left in March after a year-and-a-quarter) and Denver (where I’ve been living since leaving L.A.). By mid-week, those ten cities had multiplied five times. By week’s end, that number more than doubled.
The mainstream media refuses to take it seriously. It reports it as a silly curiosity, as a buncha crackpots in dreadlocks and piercings or unemployed tech-heads who “don’t really know what they’re protesting.”Â (So, the Tea Party aren’t fucking ill-focused and dangerous loonies?) The message, instead, gets spread via alternative media: Blogs, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter, YouTube clips. And city-by-city, it spreads like wildfire, attracting hundreds, including ordinary citizens, young, old, and even some disaffected former Tea Baggers who have seen the light.
Sounds more than a little like the early days of punk rock, doesn’t it?
The American people are fed up. They’ve been crushed by a system that has been designed to screw the many in service of the few. The inequality has gotten worse over the last 30 years, since our own Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, was elected president. And that few have become fewer. Hence, “We Are The 99%.”Â
They are tired of being foreclosed on illegally, of being humiliated at minimum wage as CEOs earn thousands of times what they earn. These are people who followed the system, only to have the system call back and leave a two word message: “Fuck you.”Â
They want a system more equitable. They want money and corporations to not run everything, including government and politics. They want the rich to pay their fair share of the tax burden. They want jobs, and they want to be able to live better.
They want the life they were promised. They want to eat right, be able to pay their mortgage, to pay off their college loans, to afford the medicine they need. They just want what’s right.
They’re not the freaks and spoiled malcontents mainstream media is portraying them as. If you want to know the face of the 99%, you could do worse than go to the blog,
We Are The 99 Percent:
Photos of ordinary people, handwriting their stories, staring out grimly at the world from grainy photographs. Something tells me these photos are the new version of the Depression-era images Walker Evans brought to James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Grim, hard-bitten, determined.
In the words of a young lady of my acquaintance, when she reposted on her Facebook wall the video of US news commentator Keith Olbermann reading the statement of purpose from the NYC General Assembly: “All of my adult life I have had this vague feeling we are getting fucked but couldn’t put it all into words. This statement is those feelings and thoughts come to life. Before you call me a commie understand that I have no issue with success. I have issues with greed. Those are two things that have nothing to do with each other.”Â
Despite the best efforts of the mainstream media, the 99%’s message is spreading fast, and being heard. Many old hands are paying attention. I asked MC5 bassist Mike Davis, no stranger to insurrection himself, what he thinks. His answer? “It is heartening to see that people are finally aware of who is running this country, indeed, this world! While I believe armed revolt will never happen, and that is the one true way to change things, maybe enough pressure will be forced upon the financial powers to actually correct some small things to quell the disturbance. I tell you, if the fat cats have control of the guns and police, they will prevail. Sorry to say, the system is too well ensconced to change that much. But….if we restore some might to our labor unions, and undo the destruction that Reagan imposed, that would be a move in the positive. This country was sold out by the capitalists to China a few decades ago. The reason there are no jobs is because all manufacturing is done elsewhere. How do we correct that? But, yes, it is exciting to see solidarity amongst the people across the board.”Â
Well, Mike, armed revolt certainly won’t spring from the 99%. The entire thing, despite not having clear leaders (aside from the General Assemblies, where policy is discussed and debated), has been planned as a peaceful uprising. Hence, when the NYPD wades in does things like lead protesters onto the Brooklyn Bridge under false pretexts in order to enact mass arrests, or wades in as they did at midweek in a haze of head-busting and macing, they look the villains they are. And then labor unions and ordinary people join in solidarity or donate to the cause. The message and the cause capture the imagination. And even spread to the world: I just saw through Facebook that now your shores are seeing the organizing of an Occupy The London Stock Exchange action. Welcome! You’re the 99%, too. We all are. Let’s see if we can change this shit. Together.