Occupying “Barricades”

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The names of all characters in this story have all been obscured somewhat so that everyone with the exception of myself can maintain plausible deniability.

It was Thanksgiving Day 2011. I fucking hate Thanksgiving. One of my earliest memories was of having to choose between playing a Pilgrim or an Indian at a pre-school Thanksgiving day pageant. I recall telling the now faceless authorities of this degradation ceremony that I wanted to be a Pilgrim because I was already Indian and knew what that was about. I remember seeing “myself” or what I was expected to look like as an “Indian” reflected back to me, and feeling totally alienated from it in front of an audience. My love for the theater and my hatred for myself were doubtlessly both born in the same moment.

It’s been the same choice every year ever since. “Do you want to go to mom’s or dad’s for Thanksgiving? Are you Indian or are you white? And why aren’t you grateful?” Mom understood at least. She still calls Thanksgiving “Black Arm Band Day.” My favorite Black Arm Band Day memory was watching a Star Trek movie in a nearly empty theater. My love for sci-fi and my hatred of myself were both reinforced every Thanksgiving.

This is an inventory of the baggage I brought with me to ZuccottiPark along with my old man’s Pendleton blanket, a sleeping bag and my usual canteen full of scotch and at least two fat-joints spliffed with old, dry, stale, but non-the-less tasty tobacco from the res around 3:00am on Thanksgiving Day 2011. After all these years I still refuse to make any kind of solid choice between being Indian or being white and Occupy won’t ever change that but it had created new identity issues for me at the time. I wasn’t entirely sure to what extent I was a part of the #OWS community given all of the goddamn “privilege” I bring with me into the movement. The time off from my day job as a Business Intelligence Analyst gave me the unwanted headspace to marinate in my own toxic stew.

A charming, charismatic, yet seemingly highly unstable and irrational woman of color with a bug up her ass over institutionalized racism and police violence on accused me of being a racist and a scientific one at that on our private email list for publishing findings from a survey on the demographics of occupywallst.org users. The findings clearly suggested that over 80% of the movement’s online audience was white, and she seemed to think this would only attract more white people of privilege to the movement as if this would somehow discourage oppressed minorities from participating in the movement.

The charge had offended me not only as (something of) an American Indian who joined the movement precisely as a reaction to painful degrading experiences of racism and oppression like she had, but also as a social scientist as well. My senior colleague and I began discussion about how we should use the survey tool we had developed to study the “race question” without perpetuating harmful stereotypes associated with it and we set aside times for meetings for this discussion as well which no one had bothered to attend. My senior colleague informed me that this person had apologized to him for accusing me of ‘finding a professor with an ethnic sounding name to cover up my racism’ but she never apologized personally to me about any of the incident, which was so bitter and ugly that a mole on our email list had publicized it. The Brietbart people, my enemies actually kinda had my back whereas my comrades where attacking me. It was weird and alienating as fuck.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2011/11/04/RACISM—–Occupy-Activists-Clash-After-Internal-Survey-Reveals–OccupyWallStreet-812–White–16–Black

I knew for damn sure that I was a highly effective, up and coming revolutionary by this point in spite the alienation. I wanted to focus on celebrate this new radical aspect of my identity by protesting by refusing all food and company in the midst of the celebration at the park, which had of course had just been underhandedly and brutally evicted.

I encouraged myself to smoke as much pot and drink as much “firewater” as possible in a deliberate attempt to transform the worst elements of my self and my cultural legacy into a half-assed personal protest. I wrote “No food till tommorrow, fuck Thanksgiving long live the Revolution. 11/24/2011” on a photo I took of food that had been donated to Zuccotti which I posted to the wall of my Facebook profile. Six people clicked like. I heard from my dad that it unsettled my Aunt.

I think in hindsight that I was trying to make a statement about how I am honestly more grateful for weed and scotch than I am for all of the “privilege” that my identity admittedly allows me to enjoy relative to others, like being able to afford more weed and scotch than those less privileged than me for example.

The Brookfield Security force wouldn’t let me past the barricades they surrounded the park with, with my sleeping bag and canteen through so I stumbled back home and smoked myself back into a delirious sleep as the sun came up. I politely refused all offers of fellowship from everyone including my best friend in the movement, a doctor of anarchy as well as Priss.

Priss had been in the anarchist scene a lot longer than me. She was and is a highly effective social media organizer within the movement which is why her name has been deliberately obscured more so than others as I don’t intend to attack her as much as I intend to deliberately attack the social forces which have unfortunately but thoroughly perverted the best of her intentions with selfish, tainted, egoism beyond the hopes of any redemption or reconciliation from my perspective.

She had told me that she had never seen anyone apply business-style web analytics to activism before. I had a lot of respect for her experience in past actions, her knowledge of journalism, the media and especially her cutting edge social media organizing skills. I enjoyed working with her on the one hand, especially online given that we had such similar approaches towards activism and organizing but I usually tried to avoid her because I felt really bad about not being sexually attracted to her.

The boldness of her advances caught always caught me off guard. They were always mixed in with serious conversations about the movement, digital tactics, my ethnographic research on BDSM and my quantitative work on everyday sadomasochism. She had an expectation based on our mutual commitment to non-monogamy and our interest, but non-overlapping in kink that we would ‘combine our harems’ as if I had one…at the time.  I always felt bad about not returning her texts about meeting up and how she dropped her kid off at her dad’s. There was no possible way to avoid hurting her feelings when she’d try make out with me after meetings. I should’ve put my own feelings before hers, but she was really trying and I felt sorry for her. I eventually caved and made out with her at least twice, telling myself, “it’s for the greater good and for the Revolution.” I’d leave as quickly as possible afterwards feeling very uneasy with myself.

She had walked right past me with the camera she was using to livestream with that night as if I hadn’t been there, so weak had I rendered myself with self-loathing, hunger and intoxicants. I recall watching her text and then receiving texts from her asking me if I was in the park. Rich saw me though, we made eye contact. I looked away as if I hadn’t seen him several times throughout the night. I knew on some level that talking to him or Doctor Anarchy would remind me of better versions of myself and spoil my morally masochistic pity party. Justin(?) made a speech along the lines about how we were still occupying the square in spite of how we had totally had our asses kicked because we all listed to each other, (which couldn’t have been further from my experience) and how he loved everyone. Another Hero of the movement, whose first name, like mine begins with the letter H, said what was up to me after he helped initiate a pretty cool, ‘lay-down-for democracy’ action in the park. The recent memory of pitting my capoeira and my judo against his Wing-Chun in an honest but friendly sparring match at Magic Mountain, (the premier underground squat of #OWS), a few weeks or so earlier reminded me of a less pathetic version of self in spite of my best efforts to spoil the day. We bowed ever so slightly to one another out of mutual respect.

I vaguely recall meeting up with Priss at the movie theater. She was surprised she didn’t see me in the park and curious as to why I didn’t talk to her. The movie theater reminded me of my only pleasant memories from thanksgiving. Priss, which is short for a very common Oneida name, one of my maternal aunts shares it in fact. Everything was reminding me of my mother. The movie was A Dangerous Method which was about Jung’s early meetings and subsequent fall out with Freud. The movie captivated my intellect as I’ve been a huge fan of Freud ever since I took a class devoted exclusively to his writings at the New School in 2006 with another guy that Priss was and I believe still is dating. I didn’t need a psychoanalyst to explain my own oedipal complex to me.

I could clearly hear, from somewhere deep down inside me, the maddening screams of my integrity, desperately appealing to my intellect with dreadful warnings about sadistic oedipal taboos as I held her hand and cuddled up to her during the film. She smiled warmly however.

We decided to go to the New School Occupation after the Movie. I was and still, as of now, belong to the sociology department of the New School. Priss is an alumnus if I’m not mistaken and neither of us had yet visited the occupation. The security guard at the base of the escalator leading up to the student center on 5th avenue off of 14th street, (which was in my opinion graciously left open by the authorities of the institution) greeted us warmly and directed us upstairs after he checked our ID’s.

Priss and I both saw a sign which read no photography posted on an overhang along the long escalator up into the student center which had been transformed from something mundane and orderly into a complete spectacle. I didn’t approve of how the space had been covered in graffiti but some of it was pretty good and I was transfixed by all of it all the same.

The smells of left over Thanksgiving day meals had made me salivate with hunger. The leavings reminded me of dead picked over animal carcasses and I wasn’t tempted to break my masochistic fast with anything mildly spoiled and gamey. I was happy to run into a few friends from the first incarnation of the Arts & Culture Committee in spite of how one of them gave me shit about how I didn’t allow myself to be arrested during a trial mission to sleep out on Wall Street Weeks before September 17th.

I noticed that Priss had her phone out and was taking photos maybe about a dozen or so feet away from me. I was feeling excited for the first time all day and I decided to take a photo of a slogan or something that I liked. I had been towards the very back of the student center, which extended back towards, but past the escalators in a U-shape when I turned and noticed some occupiers setting up a barricade out of tables and chairs behind one of the entrances. Their collective attention was fully occupied by their task. None of them were facing me. I didn’t recognize any of them. I couldn’t see any of their faces and I decided in the spur of the moment to take a photo of them putting up the barricade. It was an iconic moment and a rad photo as I recall.

They all looked up and pointed as soon as they saw me standing their pointing my phone-camera at them and their leader turned, instantaneously charging at me, lashing out, screeching “YOU TOOK PICTURE OF ME!!! I’ll KILL YOU” in her foreign (Greek if I’m not mistaken) accent. I recognized her instantly before she tried punching me (poorly) in my mid-section. It was (someone known as) Georgia. We had had bitter confrontation in the early days of the assemblies over which website should represent the movement. I used my arm to gently brush her aside after she threw something like a punch at my stomach. She clung to my arm in an armature’s attempt to grapple with me and take my phone out of my other hand while her disciples of young white males clad in skinny jeans, flannels, and other assorted hipster activist wear surrounded me like pack animals.

I was utterly stunned that this was happening. It was like watching something out of a bad movie, like a poorly produced Fight Club Homage that I was now also playing a part in. It was with wonder more so than fear that I first realized how Georgia’s followers reminded me of Tyler Durden’s Space Monkeys as the beta of the group approached me while Georgia let go of her grip on my arm as her mind presumably began to get a grip around the fact that she had just seriously tried, and pathetically failed, to assault me.

I had perhaps broken an arbitrary rule that they took it upon themselves to impose upon the space, but I knew, and Georgia’s body language was telling me that she knew as well as I did that she had broken a much bigger taboo of non-violence. She shrieked something I can’t recall at me. I definitely recall saying “fuck you” to her, Her beta enforncer told me not to talk to her like that, I told him “fuck you too,” looked back at Georgia, pointing my phone at her and said “you tried to hit me.” She had also threatened to kill me as well.

She was seething with pathetic, impotent rage, with her fists lowered at her sides but still clenched with self-righteous anger when she uttered through her clenched teeth and pursed lips, “you’re big enough for it.” I couldn’t believe that she had tried to justify her actions even though what she said was every bit as true as her implied admission that she just had attempted to assault me.

Their Beta took charge of the situation from her and told me they wanted to see the picture. I wouldn’t let them take the phone out of my hand even though they tried, but I stayed calm, showed them what was on the screen and agreed to delete the photo of them setting up the barricades. They demanded that I delete the photo of whatever slogan I had just taken a photo of as well. I complied. They demanded to see the rest of the photos on my phone, many of which are of priceless moments over the course of the movement, many others where personal. They said I had taken more photos and demanded my phone.

They were so bold, righteous and self-justified in doing so that I was actually playing along with them according to our rules of non-violence rather than kicking the shit out them for already having broken the taboo by using intimidation, threats, implied violence, and harassment.  They get away with their transgression in their own minds through the same sorts of rationalizations that police use to legitimate and veil their sadistic desires from themselves. I’m not judging as I have similar sadistic desires myself and no veil of rationalizations between these desires and my consciousness save that of consent. These nameless “space monkeys” had traded their authentic individuality for militant ideology and they had given me every bit of consent my sense of ethics require to have allowed myself to indulged my repressed urges for violence by practicing my favorite ways of hurting people on them.

I mention it not to try to sound macho or anything but in order to point out that I am sick of having to manage violent fantasies as a result of incidents like these while trying to re-acclimate to bland cubical life, which I ironically sought out like a narcotic after about a solid year after swearing off my admittedly perverse fascination with corporate America after I had been laid off and Liberty Plaza had been evicted. I’d go to therapy for it, but there aren’t many therapists folks like me can trust, and the one I had been working with before Occupy had started stopped calling me back months ago, hence all these posts.

The space monkeys ceased their attempts to rifle through rest of the photos on my phone after I sarcastically asked them if they wanted to see my porn as well. Priss and I went on our way after she told them that I was an organizer and a student there. They didn’t surround, search, and attempt to intimidate her, or demand that Priss delete any photos. She wasn’t a “big, white, raging heterosexual male” and therefore not a legitimate target for the reverse racism and amateur violence which has gone rampantly unchecked in this movement and which these accounts are intended to document and expose. Georgia felt every bit as justified in attacking me as her space monkeys did in their attempts to intimidate me and take my phone as Chepe did in his attempt to go for my throat many months later. Those that “struggle against oppression,” to reiterate, have used their “cause” as a means of legitimating and obscuring their pathetic, but none-the-less sadistic attempts to oppress others far too often within this movement as far as I’m concerned.

I can only assume that I took a hit of whatever weed I had left in my one-hitter device and shot of whatever was left in my canteen as Priss and I decided to go to a dinner for food. I was grateful for nothing else other than the fact that it was past midnight and the worst, but perhaps most eventful Thanksgiving of my entire life had finally fucking ended. Little had I realized that my shittiest and most degrading experience of my holiday weekend was still yet awaiting me.

I recall trying to tell Priss about why I hate Thanksgiving as well as my heritage. She made it clear to me as she had at other points throughout the night that I was ruining her date. She decided that we should go back to the student center of the New School because she didn’t want the journal she had been producing to be found and associated with that particular occupation in light of what had just gone down.

The security guard had welcomed us back in. Georgia was glaring down at us with measured anger as Priss and I climbed the long, gradual ascent up the stalled escalator, which Georgia had ‘barricaded’ with a plastic table. I said something along the lines ‘Hey did you miss us?’ She politely told us that they were closed for the evening, as if the security guard downstairs hadn’t just let us in because we were in a building that was open 24 hours for students and activists; as if I wasn’t a paying student of the New School and Priss wasn’t an alumnus, and is if Georgia was somehow in charge of a leaderless revolution against oppressive alien authority. I didn’t point any of this out to her at the time as I wish I had as I was beyond tired, numb and apathetic at the moment. I was also admittedly a nube with lots of confidence, self-respect, and identity issues. Priss was happy she got her papers from Georgia who willingly and quickly handed them over to her.

I read online, at Priss’s place the next day were I had reluctantly agreed to sleep over and with her against my better instincts and out of guilt and a masochistic desire to please, that the barricades that Georgia and her lackeys had set up the night before in the student center had been left abandoned without any struggle as if it was some sort of statement or message or something, and as if there hadn’t been any struggle.

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