Friday, November 18th 2011
Jonah Matranga, frontman for post-hardcore legends Far as well as onelinedrawing, New End & Gratitude, has offered an honest & engaging perspective on the ongoing Occupy movement, as well as three points of advice for anyone taking notice of what’s shaping up to be the most relevant and potentially pivotal American uprising in our lives.
I’ve been stuck trying to write this piece for a while now. Like a lot of you, I’m sure, I’m overwhelmed by everything that’s been going on since Occupy Wall Street started. The last 4 years went by really quickly. I’m hardly sure what happened. I only know it hasn’t turned out well for our country. Truthfully, I’ve only really started to pay attention over these last two months. I have the Occupy/99% movement to thank for that. Whatever else becomes of it, I’m forever grateful. I’m happy we’re gathering in public spaces, hanging out, talking with each other, yelling at each other, arguing on Facebook, finally using this social networking tech to actually spread information beyond what we ate for breakfast or the latest celeb breakup. All of this, already, is a victory. My favorite slogan-y thing these days is, ‘You Can’t Evict An Idea Whose Time Has Come.’ That and, ‘I hate drum circles, but I hate corporate greed more.’
By the way, since people are still asking about this, here are three simple things that Occupy/99% is about:
1. Close tax loopholes for mega-rich people and corporations.
2. Repeal Citizens United.
3. Reinstate Glass-Steagall or something like it.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s okay – this is for you. More on all that later. For now, this is personal.
The Occupy/99% movement lit up for me when I stumbled onto the We Are The 99% Tumblr page. It immediately personalized the financial collapse for me. Story after story. Actual people. As I instinctively went to write and post my personal story & pic, I realized I felt some shame. I wasn’t nearly as fucked as so many people on there. I have a little money, I haven’t had some health nightmare, been laid off, gone underwater on a mortgage, been crushed by college loans. Maybe I was just being whiny and entitled thinking my story was worth telling. Maybe I shouldn’t bother getting involved, maybe it’s more complex than… All these thoughts raced. Before I knew it, I was ready to blow it off. But I didn’t. I wrote:
I’m 42. I make art for a living. I have a 17-year old daughter. We live in a small apartment. We live simply. I’m worried that we won’t be able to afford college. I’m worried that she won’t be able to find a job or afford health care. I’m worried that when I get older, there won’t be help for me.
I am the 99% and so is she.
When I followed through and posted my story in various places, I felt my stress and worry about all this in a way I never had.
Simultaneously, I felt more alive, more connected to all the worried, confused, angry people around me than I ever have. If you do nothing else with the Occupy/99% movement, at least write your story simply and directly. Whatever it is. See how it feels to share it with the people you call your friends, with your co-workers. I’ll bet it’ll scare you, and I bet it’ll open you up.
I’m someone that’s pretty skeptical of movements or groups of any sort; they mostly tend to feel just like scenes or trends to me, with exclusive language, fashion, ideas, all that shit. Occupy/99% immediately struck me as different. I loved how vague it was, and I loved the idea of just acknowledging that we’re part of a much greater whole, despite all our splintered beliefs and lifestyles that are given so much airtime in our media. After visiting several encampments personally and researching countless others, I continue to love it for those same reasons. Even if you still have confusion or straight-up disdain for this movement, you really are part of the 99%. It requires no belief or opinion. It’s just a fact. And by the way, if you’re part of the 1%, you’re just as big a part of all this. You’re not the enemy. The enemy is us forgetting we’re in this together. It’s ripping our society apart and wrecking anything that was ever cool about this amazing country.
I’m not going to drown you in numbers (this time, at least). Just trust me when I say that the level of wealth very few of us have
compared to the level of poverty so many of us live in is disgusting and beyond your wildest nightmares. The problems facing us – our wealth disparity, our dying middle class, our individual and collective debt, our failing schools, our rising unemployment, our skyrocketing health care costs – aren’t by accident. There are specific policies and choices that have led to this place. We can fix this. That’s what this is about.
To that end, I’ll just leave you with some simple ideas and some links to things that tell a straight story and give more simple, great ideas. Please use them in discussions with people wanting to spread more lies to divide us and blur our focus. I want to make this as easy as possible for us to get educated and involved in one way or another.
Okay, three things. Just try these. If you do this stuff, and you still think Occupy/99% is ridiculous and whatever else, well… just
try this stuff and we’ll talk.
1. Tell your story. Talk with your friends.
How are you doing, really? Do you have money? Do you have a job? Do you think things are going well for you and your family? For other families? What are you worried, angry or scared about? What would you rather see? Post it publicly. No opinions needed, no charts. Just how you’re doing. Really. See what conversations come from that. See how it feels.
2. Educate yourself.
Watch Inside Job and/or Capitalism: A Love Story. They’re both direct, entertaining and very well-researched. They are the quickest way I’ve found to get real about what has happened to our economy (and therefore our country) in the last 30 years. Inside Job gets pretty heavy and dark. Capitalism gets a little Michael Moore goofy. Both of them drive home so clearly and poignantly the truth; that so many of us (just about all of us) really have been ripped off over the past few years, over the last few decades.
Watch and share the YouTube clips made by The Story Of Stuff folks. Brief and brilliant.
There is so much more, but these are all a great, simple start.
After those first two steps, I can almost guarantee that you’ll want to…
3. Do something, anything, whether for yourself or someone else.
This is my favorite list of stuff you can do to Support The Occupy Movement, in both content and tone. None of the items on the list are too big a deal. They don’t involve drum circles.
Consider this: Beyond whatever problems you may or may not be experiencing, whatever you think of all this, 30 million of us are in households that exist on less than ten thousand dollars per year. Consider how much your voice, when joined with others, could help people living lives you will thankfully never have to. Of course personal responsibility is always worth discussing… and it’s an easy wedge used by the mega-rich and the politicians they pay, used to upset, distract and divide the middle and upper-middle class. It plays on and exacerbates our selfishness and lack of compassion. Don’t fall for it.
Finally, while we’re here, a coupla personal rants that have been bouncing around in my head:
To President Obama and the Democrats: There’s a seriously fun party going on, being attended in large part by people that were really excited about you in and about 2008. You’re late. President Obama, I wrote a song for you, sent more money than I could afford, made phone calls, hassled my friends, defended you from Right and Left extremists alike. Here is the inspired electorate you requested. You need to stand with us now. Now.
To Occupy folks that don’t vote and/or rant about revolution: That’s silly. Voting isn’t the be-all end-all, but when the Left didn’t turn out in Wisconsin, Wisconsin ended up with Scott Walker and workers got fucked. Hopefully that’ll get fixed, but I guarantee you if voters had just shown up for the Democratic candidate, all that awful stuff wouldn’t have happened. I’m still annoyed at people that say Gore or Kerry or Obama were/are just like Bush, etc. I have big problems with the Dems too, but it’s just irrational and apathy-producing to say they’re all the same (they’re all fucked, and therefore so am I, so why bother). I’m similarly annoyed when people say that capitalism is inherently broken and awful, and the only way to fix this is to tear the whole system down and start fresh. That’s silly. We humans have been pretty great at screwing up any number of ideologies. Mostly, your exclusivity and extremism sound just like Glenn Beck to me.
That’s all for now. It’s a start. It’s a mess. It’s nowhere near finished. It’s fun. Just like Occupy/99%. Let’s do this.
Keep up with Jonah Matranga at his official site.