Work: it’s what we do to eat. It’s where we meet most of the people we know when we first move to a new place. It’s where we spend most of our hours awake, and sometimes sleep there when we’re tired and nod off behind the computer. We are the one country that people from other nations think that, “lives to work.”
What happened to that? When did it begin that teenagers didn’t hold two part-time jobs to pay for their first used car, choosing instead to sit and watch idly as their parents sweat and curse on their days off from work to do it? When did hanging up a list of chores to accomplish on a Saturday morning before running out to the park cease to happen? When did kids stop getting beaten with the wooden spoon covered in sauce (gravy, you weirdos) for talking back?
If you have lived or visited a metropolis (Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York) it is in front of you, staring you blankly in the face while rummaging through the trash can, excited to find black and white cookies mindlessly discarded by someone too self-important to care to turn the sink water off while brushing.
I interviewed an Occupier this week, after my eyes found his “FREE HUGS” sign in the crowd of dreadlocks and bare chests in Union Square Park. A few days earlier, I had enjoyed my first falafel sandwich on the steps along with other professionals on their lunch breaks. That time was a bit more pleasant, and I secretly hoped for a re-run of the falafel adventure.
Instead, after watching controversy on the local news that morning, I stepped out in hopes of learning the perspective of an Occupier. I took the time from running to one of my many jobs I hold. I hope someday my hard work will pay off and I will make my dreams come true. To be honest, all the bare chests intimidated me, and I could feel my mother’s judgement creep up in the back of my throat. Yes, it was hot, but the very prominent nipple area of my interviewee seemed to have too much perspiration for what I consider to be a comfortable hug.
I’m all for hugs, and I’m all for free speech. Both make me weep, equally. I’m angry that billions of dollars were lost out in the wilderness somehow (right?), and that jobs were lost and rich men got away with incomparable crimes, like stripes paired with plaid. I want justice. I welcome free speech. Though, I think that using my words works better than stomping my foot.
I learned something from my heavily made-up, male subject. He hails from Oklahoma (that’s in the middle), a product of his state university’s theatre program. He once dreamt of performing in a Broadway show. He gave that up to “come here and do this.” I have yet to figure out what doing “this” is. I’m still processing. He gave up his dream to hold a cardboard sign advocating for hugs. Sadly, hugs don’t push legislation. Hugs don’t stop senators and representatives from making amendments to bills removing more rights from us. Hugs don’t pay the bills. Hugs don’t keep the electric on or the water running.
That hug would have felt so much better if the guy that gave it to me would have answered the question I asked him, “What do Occupiers say to critics of the movement that claim it is disorganized and incapable of understanding how to use the democratic systems in place to initialize legislation that might just result in the change you seek?” Click here to inform yourself about legislative proceedings, New York .
The last time I asked that question to a twenty-something protestor linked to OWS, I was in Philadelphia. That young gentleman communicated that he was unaware that individual citizens could sit in on committee hearings at state and local level. He told me it didn’t matter because he would have to take a day off of work to go to it. At that time he was unemployed.
Democracy means you can, and should, be informed of the process of governing and get involved as you deem necessary. Congratulations to the young people getting involved. Now go educate yourself and actually do something other than chant. I’m here to help.
*The New York Assembly’s press office had not responded to inquiries by the time this article went to print.