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.

My Girlfriend’s MTA Masturbatory Assault

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I hadn’t talked to Lorna for about a whole day. I was angry with her for going out on a few dates with a pick up instructor that I had wanted to take some lessons from to make a long story short. We had just finished having make up torture and sex when she told me she had caught a man violently masturbating after starring at her around 1pm on Wednesday the June 19th 2013 on the 6th avenue L train Platform.

Lorna had been heading towards Brooklyn. She walked past a chubby, seemingly average-joe caucasian guy in his mid to late 40s in jeans and a polo shirt who had not yet begun masturbating. He had been standing about two arms’-lengths away on her right and three women and one man had been standing to her left about an arm’s length away.

Lorna had been staring off into space, totally zoned out into her own thoughts for about a minuet or two, when she suddenly noticed his rapid hand gestures in her peripheral vision. He was shaking something. She did a double take. His zipper was open, his dick was out and he was shaking it really fast.

Lorna clearly articulated that this was a violent session. She couldn’t help but smile a bit as she did so, presumably partially due to the sheer absurdity of the situation, as she told me how utterly disgusting it was. It also seemed a bit like the smile of a cop who is trying really hard not to cry in order to get his job done at a crime scene to me however. There was something subliminally dissonant about it given that she was telling me that it had been slightly traumatic, unsettling, disturbing and violating.

Lorna couldn’t tell if the guy immediately put his naughty bit away when he realized that she realized what he was doing. He hunched over and turned his body away, but he kept his gaze focused on her as he began to slowly skulk behind a case of stairs. Lorna said this creeped her out even more. “Him looking at me looking at him looking at me.”

Lorna moved around the opposite side of the staircase, towards the Manhattan bound side to see if he was still there, which he was, slowly moving away down the platform. He began to pick up the pace and run once he realized that Lorna was still returning his gaze.

Lorna loudly yelled, “Yeah you better run” as he began to run away. She said she was hesitant to use her voice at first but it began to grow louder as she began using it until she was loudly shouting “YOU BETTER RUN YOU FUCKING SCUMBAG!”

She walked back to the Brooklyn side of the train where she had been standing in order to call attention to the situation. The three other women and the man who had been standing there all had frozen looks of disgust on their faces. They didn’t know what the fuck to do. Lorna asked/pointed out “did everybody see that!?!” Most of them didn’t move but one women slowly nodded her head in shocked agreement. The Brooklyn bound L train began to make it’s screeching raucous approach and Lorna couldn’t quite hear the woman’s muffled, drowned out reply and Lorna said “everyone on this platform should feel violated. That man that just ran away had his penis out and was jerking off before he ran away.”

They had heard her, but then the train came. Lorna said she felt like she had to catch her breath before she got on the train. She sat down, put her sunglasses on and shed a tear or two. This hadn’t been the first time she had been sexually assaulted and the experience had conjured up a flashback.

The stranger shaking his penis at her wasn’t the only issue. The entire situation, including and perhaps especially the act of using her voice to call attention to the situation had re-traumatized her. Other adults on the platform were slow, if not completely unwilling and unable to acknowledge the situation even though they had been affected by it, much like other highly trusted adults from Lorna’s past were unable and unwilling to acknowledge things far more severely traumatic and disturbing than what I have just attempted to describe above.

I knew that I should write the incident down and post it ASAP for many reasons. I’ll confess that the story started out on a fairly absurd and entertaining note as I’ve already suggested. Neither of us were particularly shocked or surprised that something like this could happen. Lorna’s not only well aware of how widely under-reported most sexual assault, abuse and rape are but also why so much of it, like the experience she had just gone through remains so widely under-reported.

Calling attention to the assault, trying to convince people that they saw what they just saw, and that what they saw was someone being violated, seemed to conjure more trauma than the actual assault did in this case and I imagine that this is often the case. I recall that my younger sister seemed more outraged about the cops calling her slut after they interrupted some guy taking her clothes off in the back yard of some house party than she did about the guy himself, not that she had in any way consented to it.  I imagine that the casual witness is forced to acknowledge that they too could have been violated if the witness were to go through the process of acknowledging the violation they just saw of another. Indeed it’s entirely possible that some of the people waiting on the platform with Lorna could have been violated themselves or perhaps one day they will be given the prevalence and nuances of sexual assault.

It’s not normal to point out that sexual assault, abuse and rape are normal in our society. The fact that Lorna consented to me writing her story was reason enough for me to write and post it. I found other instances of this specific behavior when I tried to find a specific word or category for it online. I found other recorded instances of this behavior even though I couldn’t find a proper frame for it. Jenna Sauers on 9/7/2011 described how the NYPD failed to assist her after a man publicly masturbated while gazing at her for about 20 minuets. The man actually waved to her at one point and I would refer any readers who want to see a first person view of what it looks like to have someone stare at you while masturbating in public to her blog post. I made the photo for this essay out of her YouTube clip.

http://jezebel.com/5837687/a-guy-jerked-off-to-me-on-the-subway-and-nypd-didnt-do-a-thing

Readers can find plenty of examples of other readers blaming Jenna in their comments for putting herself in the situation as if she had somehow created it for herself. I imagine that many of these comments could have caused her at least as much trauma if not more than actually having someone stroke a penis in her direction, which by itself continues to strike me as pathetically absurd compared to how profoundly disturbing it is to actually observe people pretend that the raging elephant in the room isn’t there even though, and perhaps precisely because, it could attack them as well at any moment. Worse even still, perhaps it already has.

The prevalence of sexual assault, abuse and rape in our society so thoroughly exposes how thoroughly unjust our society is that it’s impossible to wrap one’s mind around it without at least having to conquer truly legitimate fear. I imagine that it must be understandably easier for most people to pretend that there’s no reason to be afraid rather than it is for them to conquer their fear and to do something about the problem. Worse still is that it seems to be rationally easier for many people to insist that the victim’s trauma was the result of decisions made by the victim as opposed to much larger problems in our society that can just as easily and indiscriminately make victims out of accusers and which we all therefore have a responsibility to respectively acknowledge and address, if only for the sake of self-interest.

It’s important for me to acknowledge that I’m aware of the fact that I’m writing a story about a woman using her voice from a male perspective and doing so in part to deliberately make a selfish point of my own about this social problem. Sexual assault has been a major problem for me throughout my life even though I’ve never been severely sexually assualted. Most of the women who raised me have been however and this trauma has seeped into and forever tainted our relationships in ways in which I can barely comprehend with great reluctance.

As a man, and one who strives for as much dominance over life as I can possibly manage too at that, I believe it is important for other men to realize that sexual assault, abuse and rape is almost every bit as emasculating for us as it is for the women in our lives. Feelings of powerlessness, shame, fear, insecurity and anger are contagious and can be transmitted without ever needing to actually experience the actual trauma of a violation. I relearned this lesson late last summer after a close friend and one of the most effective organizers in the movement was attacked and raped while heading back to her apartment from mine.

Furthermore even though sexual assault as we know it is typically viewed as a problem for women created by men (which it surely is), the more fundamental truth is that it is very poorly documented compared to how common we know it to be. It therefore seems possible and likely to me that people of every and any gender, male, female, and otherwise can and are raped, can be a rapists themselves, or can be deniers of rape independent of their gender.

Male sexual assaults are of course even less thoroughly documented and understood than assaults against females. It therefore seems entirely possible that many sexual assaults against males are under-reported not only out of fear of stigmatization in addition to trauma, but because many men may not even be aware that they are being sexually assaulted when it’s happening. This has certainly been the case for me. This is why men specifically have a self-interest in documenting, understanding, predicting, controlling and to the best of our ability eliminating these pathological behaviors from our society.

Occupy Bar Room ‘Brawl’ Mop Up

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Chepe and I met up at ZuccottiPark last Friday the 21st. The weather was refreshing, there weren’t any demonstrations or too many people we knew to distract us from coming to terms over our fray. I told him from the onset that he took a lot of venom out anger by taking the time read my story, wrap his head around were I was coming from and by making the effort to meet in person. I respected his response. He had wished he had managed to get in contact with me sooner. I asked to hear his side of the story since he had already read mine and he agreed to let me take some notes for a follow up reply to the story. I also mentioned that I had big reservations about having identified him as well as others in the story and he said he could tell from what I had written.

He began by telling me that he remembered virtually nothing save for a few scant but important details after the fray since he had been drinking a lot. He remembers Corujita asking him “what’s something someone should never say?” Chepe said he didn’t remember saying “If you ever call me a spic I”ll kill you” specifically but he said that he stands by whatever he did say.

Chepe explained that he has been called this specific racial epithet (which I’ve only spelled out as it’s been used in direct quotes as I’m sure the careful reader has observed), many times over the course of his life. He recalled a lot of trauma in the process of responding to Corujita’s question.

He talked about his racial identity a bit and how he can pass for Chicano or a bourgeois intelligentsia which clearly implies whiteness. He explained how 80% to 90%  he’ll typically attack someone for calling him a s***. One of the only times he wouldn’t attack someone for calling him this would be if he needed to hold down a job and he told me about being called a s*** by fans at sporting events where he’d work as a vendor in the stadiums. He told me he’d been through plenty of times of feasts as well as famines.

He told me about the mother of an ex-girlfriend who suddenly looked at him in new-found shock after she learned about his ethnicity and she began talking real slowly to him in a stereotypical white southern drawl so that he could understand her clearly, even though she had known him and had been speaking to him in English for about a year at that point.

I acknowledged that it must have been difficult for him not to attack his former ‘almost perhaps/practice, mother-in law’ while we both chuckled over the absurdity of that particular story.

He told me he knew a few Cherokees and didn’t think that white people with indigenous heritage get mocked with the same sort of epithet’s that Latino’s have to deal with such as “mud man” or “beaner” with s*** being the worst and most common. I was tempted to interrupt him at this point with my favorite racist joke ever which is “What do you get when you have 64 Cherokees in a room? A full blood!” in order to begin respond to this notion which I’ve listened to my parents struggle with since I was small child running around with as little clothing on as possible.

I understood how the word triggered him into a particular head-space that wasn’t based on some abstract summary of social circumstances but rather upon actual experiences of derision and hate. He understood that I hadn’t felt comfortable using the word what-so-ever but that I did because his head-space had triggered my head-space. He understood that the words ‘check your privilege’ can drive me into a similar rage based almost entirely upon my experiences with #OWS alone. He suggested I do so over twitter after I had done an interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity. He thought it was a funny burn and stood by his words even though he now had a much clearer understanding of why I found it offensive.

He indicated that he became aggressive before I did but he didn’t know if there was any baggage with regards to our racial identities and politics. Corujita’s question had conjured everything for him.

He said that he did remember me using the word ‘s*** and that he also remembered going for my throat as well, although poorly he admitted. The next thing he remembered was being on the floor with me on top of him, then us getting up and then shaking hands saying it was cool before I left. He said the bartender gave him a free shot since I had called him a s***. He said his tailbone hurt for about a week after that. I laughed a bit since I was a little pissed that he played the race card for a free shot. He said he ‘lost a fight and lost it pretty well’ and we shook hands.

We went on to have a conversation we had both been meaning to have since before our fray about our perspectives as revolutionaries. I knew the details would get technical from this point out and Chepe said he knew in advance that we had a lot of differences in perspectives so I stopped taking notes, not that the rest of the conversation which went on much longer than our retrospective of our scuffle.

He asked if I had ever been to an anti-oppression training. I haven’t as I am quite honestly afraid to go to one given how prone I am to flipping out with rage just by having to listen to conversations about anti-oppression. He mentioned how horizontalism can become puritanical to the point of actually preventing the kinds of spontaneous, free, humane associates that it’s supposed to help create. He mentioned further that language, or the terms used in anti-oppression pedagogy such as ‘privilege’ can be used for purposes and ends beyond the scope of their intended meaning. I was glad that we agreed upon this much at least and I further suggested as I shall continue to, that the language that he and others use perpetuates a harmful stereotype overbearing white leftists speaking as if they represented everyone’s concerns which essentially distracts us from the fact that anyone can be an oppressor and indeed that the worst thing about being oppressed in my opinion, is the urge to share the pain of oppression, and the subsequent social isolation that occurs upon doing so.

Occupy Bar Room ‘Brawl’

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I was sitting in Zuccotti Park, during a solidarity demo with Gezi Park in Turkey, talking and catching up with Brendan who I hadn’t seen in a while. He and Colin were talking about a book about the demise of a major network where Brendan’s father had worked. Brendan asked me how I’d been, I told him that I’d mostly been broke, looking for work, killing time and trying to get my head straight by writing an article and lots of essays. I told him I was going to write about Chepe attacking me a few weeks ago (on May 3rd 2012). “Pysically?” He asked, “yeah I said and I told him my story.

I was hanging out with Corujita at a wake for Bud aka Besouro, a capoeirista and animal rights activist who had sadly away from leukemia in spite of being an incredibly fit and active straight edge vegan. He had helped Corujita overcome a very debilitating knee injury and he helped remind me how much I enjoy playing capoeira. He had been playing for about four or five years at the time and was far less jaded by years of capoeira politics. I had been playing for about ten or eleven. He inspired me to smoke less pot before we’d play at Zuccotti or at Washington Sq. His loss was a huge loss for a lot of people from a lot of different communities to say the least.

Corujita and I were both bummed out to say the least and we were glad that we had a birthday party to go to for Kat after the wake. It was proper rouge’s gallery of seasoned #OWS organizers and protestors at Odessa that Friday night. It was good to catch up, fraternize, swap new schemes, old stories and drink cheap scotch. I recall going off on my cannibalism rant against vegetarianism and veganism. The thought of eating (certain) people doesn’t appall me in the slightest and I can appreciate why certain indigenous peoples’ were and likely still are into eating other people. I recall telling a short story that I heard Baudrillard tell at the New School about a South American tribe that ate a missionary after they kidnapped and forced him to live among them with full rights and privileges, which he seemed to enjoy at least until the tribe wound up eating him. I told everyone that Baudrillard suggested that cannibalism was an expression of love. I now recall that my old man told me that our ancestors once practiced cannibalism as well as a matter of fact, and I told Mark, who was at the party that night, that he was exactly the kind of person that I would want to eat, not because I had any animosity what-so-ever towards the man but because he had a soul far kinder and nobler not only than my own but quite possibly everyone else in the movement as well. He understood that I wouldn’t actually eat him and he took it as the strange compliment it was intended to be.

Chris spontaneously devised a drinking game. The object would be to continuously speak about a randomly selected topic without pausing by saying anything like, like, uh, um, ahh, etc. Chris, Captain, Danny, Dawn, myself and later Richie wound up drawing topics such as ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire,’ the similarities and contrasts between #OWS and the rebel alliance from Star Wars (my topic of course) Thompkin’s Square Park, Metaphysics – which Danny killed if I’m not mistaken and other topics that don’t stick out quite as well in my mind. It was good clean revolutionary nerd fun.

I got up to stretch my legs after a few rounds of the game and started standing and talking with Corujita by the bar. Chepe approached her. She had told me earlier in the evening that they had had a bit of history together. Chepe and I had a bit of history together as well. I had given him the three hand clickers that I would use to take early morning head counts in Liberty Plaza during the first weeks of the occupation. He had given me a lot of shit on Twitter several months later about how I should check my privilege after I did an interview on Sean Hannity’s show.

I don’t recall what he said to Corujita, or what she said back as she leaned closer toward him, however she gave him a look which said ‘hey! I’m glad you finally said something to me this evening, what’s you’re next move!?!’ He submitted his gaze down to the floor, and which indicates intimidation and insecurity. His shoulders slouched over his chest. He turned and looked up at me, raised his chest and his shoulders again and he said “If you ever call me a spic I’ll kill you.”

What happened next came quickly, my instantaneously outraged instincts however momentarily froze time for me and my mind began to wrap itself around the situation.

I hadn’t been a part of their conversation at this point. I didn’t even know what they were talking about. I didn’t know why he thought I would call him a s*** in the first place. His implication that I would do so as well as the more general implication that I’m some sort of racist really pissed me off.

The thing that made the familiar old ‘red mist’ appear in front of my eyes however was the fact that he had just threatened my life. His raised shoulders and chest conveyed that he not only thought he was justified in doing so, but that he intended on backing up his threat. The belief that he seemed to have in himself that he was in anyway capable of taking my life or of doing any harm what-so-ever to me in our current situation made me take him seriously in spite of the fact that I didn’t didn’t think him capable of doing any harm what-so-ever to me in our current situation even though it was obvious that he not only felt justified in doing so and that he wanted to do so. So, For the first and presumably last time in my life  I committed a sin against my own values and tersely said “spic” in order to find out if he really would back up his threat to kill me for using the racial slur he suggested. Sure enough, Chepe attacked, and probably cause he wanted to look tough in front of Corujita more so than because I’m an oppressive racist, because I’m not.

He lost the fight he started well before he ever attacked me and attacked like a sloppy, drunken armature. He lashed out with rage and clearly without much idea of what he was doing, simultaneously trying to grab and shove me. I grabbed him close to his collar with my right hand and by his scrawny right arm with my left hand taking a classical Judo stance. I shoved my body and it’s weight into his (which was significantly less than mine he was at a serious disadvantage even if I hadn’t spent most of my life training and even if he had) while I used my grip to shift almost all of his body weight onto his right leg, bringing his left off the ground, as I brought my right leg across our bodies so that I could use it to reap his supporting leg out from under him, sweeping him to the ground. The same technique, otsoto-gari, applied with more force or less control and restraint would have killed him by smashing the back of his skull and the most important parts of his brain upon the filthy floor of Odessa Café, but he repaid my generosity by thrashing and struggling after I had swept him down to the sticky bar room floor gently.

I patiently wrapped my right arm around his neck, pulling it and it’s trunk off of the floor a bit so I could shift and outstretch my right leg under his shoulder and pull his body by his right arm with my hand on his tricep across my outsretched leg, in a ‘scarf’ position I was taught to refer to as kesa-gatame. He eventually stopped thrashing his arms around and I decided to let him up after he said I won this round. “this round” I thought to myself out loud. Would this happen again? and did he actually think he stood some sort of chance against me even though I had just beaten him without even having to injure or cause him pain? The worst aspects of my personality automatically wanted to inflict pain and injury upon him even though my intellect knew that I had handled the situation with less violence than he had and that I should leave before the craving to seriously fuck him up came upon me.

Chepe told the bartender that we were cool after I let him up. The bartender pointed at me and said I didn’t look like I was cool, which I wasn’t at all by this point to say the least. I did my best to play it cool however and I told the bartender that I was heading home as I shook his hand and threw on my coat. I knew I had my debit card on me before he even considerately asked me if I had a tab to settle up and I shook Chepe’s hand, did my best to smile and told him “it’s all in good fun” just before I left. I didn’t mean what I had just said to him at all of course, but I did my best to play along so as to not cause any further problems. capoeirista’s call this malicia.

I was murderous when I got home, and inhaled the fumes of as much indica as I could in fit into my lung cavities in order to calm down while I told my roommate Tim about what had just happened. Tim’s a part-Korean high-school dropout who was raised on the south side of Chicago by a single mother, but who can pass for white, and therefore has often been told to check his privilege as well. Chepe had talked and started shit with him too and Tim laughed his ass off after I finished my story. He gave me props for dominating Chepe without having to hurt him and he said he thought Chepe was stupid for continuing to talk shit to me after I had done so. I was inclined to agree with Tim’s assessment.

The next day I received a series of text message from Richie, one of my dearest, closest and most trusted comrades in the movement that read…“Dude I wonder if you can learn from your practices of being a consensual asshole, to maybe stop being such an asshole to friends and comrades in ways that are not only unconsensual, but also incredibly traditionally oppressive. IMHO (5/4/2013 4:12pm)

I began writing my response back to him which read “and I wish my comrades wouldn’t make threats to kill me an then attack me, so I guess none of get what we want.”

My response was sent at 5:30 probably well after I looked up from the message I had composed only to find by some great but not at all unprecedented coincidence, none other than Kat and Richie sitting right in front of Lorna and I on the L train. I looked over at Lorna and said ‘get the fuck out of here,’ then looked over at Richie who still hadn’t seen me yet and held the face of my iPhone to him and said ‘dude what the fuck?’

Kat asked what happened, she didn’t know what happened until after it happened and she patiently listened but noticeably stiffened up when the word s*** came up in my story. Richie and I shook hands with each other and noticeably bowed our heads out of our eternal and fundamental mutual respect if not our perfect understanding for and of one another.

Lorna suggested that I might not want to refer to anyone by name when I told her that I intended to write and publish this story online.

My friend Amye from Revolutionary Games told me that calling chepe a s*** wasn’t the wisest thing I had ever done. She suggested that my use of the word could’ve offended other people who happened to be in the bar. I pointed out that he had actually been the first person to introduce the word into the conversation that evening for reasons which are still completely unclear to me. We got into a long conversation about the incident. The fact that I had uttered a racial epithet was a bigger moral issue for her than the fact that he had uttered a death threat. She told me about how the word Jap affects her, as if I had no idea how the word s*** might have affected someone else. I told her that I could relate because I feel the exact same outrage every time I’m told to check my privilege, because it stereotypes me as white (which means bad and evil in our community) and it completely disregards my ethnicity and the Oneida aspect of my identity, it turns me into a stereotype of the very same people who harassed and terrorized me as a child and who I joined #OWS in order to fight against as well. It is alienating and enlightening beyond belief to be portrayed as that which you have been conditioned to hate and all the more-so by people who claim to be on your side.

I told Brendan, during the solidarity rally with Gezi on 6/15/2013 that I had to write this story and a few more besides, but that I planned on changing names so as to not identify anyone like Lorna suggested as it’s also the ethnographic convention I learned from the New School. Brendan said fuck that and plenty more besides. He looked offended as he basically told me, among other things, that this is revolution and not some ‘kumbaya shit.’

We had been talking about the Hunter S. Thompson Story from Songs of the Doomed in which the great doctor of Gonzo had sent a guy who had been taking credit for his writing to jail by planting a revolver on the plagiarist before entering a courthouse after they had done crystal meth together. Brendan recounted how Thompson wrote about himself screaming ‘fuck you I’m Hunter S. Thompson you mother fucker.’ I told Brendan that I am Hunter S. Thompson with the same spirit that I saw the gladiator slaves in Kubric’s depiction of the Third Servile War of Rome yell “I’m Spartacus!” Brendan not only indicated his understanding and agreement but told me that I not only had a right to tell my side of the truth but also a responsibility to go “Gonzo” on self-righteous assholes like Chepe. We both agreed that there could be shitloads of flack, that it would be for the best in the long run, and as always that I should “take the initiative, smile, get the killing done and take the flack” in spite of any and all consequences.

I was unable to disagree with anything Brenden had said. Moreover I realized that my reluctance to publicly tell this story as well as others about the movement indicated to me that something has been very wrong with the movement for far too long now. I have been acting out of fear to speak out about the prejudice, discrimination, physical attacks and even sexual harassment that I have experienced in this movement, sometime by hypocrites who have actually attended and/or taught workshops on anti-oppression. I have been afraid to publicly tell the whole truth about our movement, afraid to break norms of the movement that have been oppressing me and clearly others as well. I felt ashamed about feeling modest about potentially tarnishing the reputations of people who haven’t thought twice about the harm that they have attempted to inflict upon me and no doubt others as well. We’re all public figures in this movement and revolution is a contact sport for grownups. I’m tired of taking the suggestions of anyone who has ever told me to step back and lower my voice so that others might tell me to ‘check my privilege’ and to anyone who has or ever plans on telling me to do so based on the judgments that they may apply to my skin tone or my dick…fuck you I won’t do what you tell me.

Suicide Notes

please kill me

 

 

More Americans are killing themselves. Suicide is most common among individuals who are relatively young or old but a recent 10-year longitudinal study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that suicide among baby boomers, people roughly between the ages of 35 – 64 has increased nearly 30%. This number only hints at the extent of the epidemic given that many suicides are unreported. Guns are still the weapon of choice of those who murder themselves but prescription opiates such as OxyContin and oxycodone seem to have become a signature method of this generation as well. Poisoning deaths increased by 24% over the duration of the study. This increase in suicide rates coincides with a dramatic decrease in the financial prospects of many people in this county and the study cites the economic recession as the major cause of the suicide epidemic.

The magnitude of this epidemic is apparently so vast and intuitively illuminating as to the extent of the failure of our society’s institutions that both political parties seem to prefer to ignore the issue rather than attempt to frame it towards political gain.

But what exactly does the suicide epidemic tell us about our society? Nothing terribly good at a first glance which is probably why most people turn away from the issue much like most mainstream media and politicians.

It tells us, among many other things, that Durkheim articulated something profoundly true in 1897 when he suggested that suicide has social causes even though it is an individual act. He argued that suicide was most closely correlated to the extent to which a person was integrated in their society as well as the extent to which their desires and expectations of life we’re ‘morally’ and pragmatically ‘healthy.’

Durkheim observed that Protestants were more likely to kill themselves than Catholics who were in turn more likely to kill themselves than Jews. He argued that the former faiths created comparatively closer-knit communities and classified suicide that resulted from an experience of loneliness or ‘not-belonging’ as ‘egoistic suicide.’ He believed that men killed themselves more often than women, which they do now as they did then, essentially because they have fewer obligations to, and less support from, other individuals in society.

Certain slaves or wives would throw themselves upon funeral pyres or into tombs, samurai, kamikaze pilots, ‘terrorists’ and other individuals will ‘altruistically ‘commit suicide for some sort of ‘greater good’ of society and Durkheim classified this tendency, the dialogical opposite of Egoistic Suicide as Altruistic Suicide.

Durkheim also observed that suicide rates coincided with dramatic economic recessions. He noticed that they coincided with dramatic economic growth as well however. People kill themselves when their expectations of life cannot be met. Rich individuals with extravagant expectations will kill themselves just as surely as poor individuals with modest expectations will kill themselves if either individual is ever unable to realize their desires even though the rich person’s material needs may indeed be over indulged in spite of being unfulfilled. Anomie specifically referred to an experience of malaise, discontent, restless agitation and lack of fulfillment which was the result of affluence and over-indulged material needs as opposed to poverty and penury. He believed that the ‘modern’ moral deregulation of socially acceptable material expectations he observed in his time was endemic and constant within trade and industry and ‘Anomic Suicide’ is arguably Durkheim’s most damning and morally poignant as well as his most subtle and discreet critique of capitalism.

Fatalistic suicide is the opposite of Anomic suicide. The suicide occurs because an individual’s passions for life cannot be experienced because they are oppressed by rules, institutions and various social agents.

Suicide by Durkheim ultimately forces us to wonder if suicide is a actually a choice that people make for themselves even though it is arguably defined and viewed as such in mainstream western culture just as Durkheim’s sociology, (like that of other founders) forces us to become aware of the extent to which we are making fully rational decisions free of external coercion and compulsion.

Durkheim argued that egoistic and anomic suicide had an affinity with one another and are probably empirically indistinguishable, as essentially were and are all the social causes of suicide which are just as invisible to our everyday senses of perception and consciousness as the fact that the Baby Boomer Generation is engaging in mass suicide. It certainly seems likely that many Baby Boomers probably feel alone and disconnected from society, incapable of maintaining the American Dream they were indoctrinated with as well as the middle-class standards of living they were coerced into pursuing and which still seem to serve their generation as the measuring sticks of their worth as individuals.

All of this said however, why are the Baby Boomers the one’s killing themselves? Baby Boomers have arguably worked the least towards and benefited more from capitalism than any other known generation in recorded history.

So why aren’t those of us who must live in the polluted wake of their decadence and destruction killing ourselves (more often than usual)? Suicide is the third leading cause of death of people ages 15-24, which is of course highly unjust, but why haven’t suicide rates increased for the Millennial Generation? (people born between 1980 and 2000). Why, despite un-payable debts, the degradation of unemployment, or the invisible and legal degradation and harassment that ‘privileged’ Millennials are forced to endure in workplaces and their parent’s basements and why, despite the inability to own homes, manage households and create families, and why, despite higher rates of obesity and even depression more paradoxically still are Millennials ironically more optimistic about their future than Baby Boomers?

Furthermore, why the fuck haven’t I killed myself yet? Seriously. I realized on my last mushroom trip with my unfortunate girlfriend that people kill themselves while experimenting with psychotropics not in order to escape the effects of the drug, but rather because the drugs make the patient/victim realize that it is impossible to escape certain limitations and confinements that society places upon us. I recalled a moment from early childhood, long before I had ever learned anything about seppuku, which has since always been a source of stimulation for my imagination, when I pointed the first blade I had ever earned toward my abdomen because I was curious about the sensation that it might produce within me as opposed to wanting an escape from anything as far as I can remember. I’m not sure if there’s any meaningful difference in hindsight even though I am grateful that my mother chose not to pump me full of any drugs in spite of whatever the therapist may or may not have said to her, because the process of autonomously medicating myself over the recent years has helped me come to understand and accept my own suicidal tendencies well enough to articulate them through writing.

Am I integrated with society? I’m too white to be Oneida and too Oneida to ever be white just like I’m too male and too white to ever be an Occupier and too prone to boredom to occupy a career I don’t actually care about as I am a park for it’s symbolic significance, and I could go on so yes, it seems that I’m certainly integrated with society in spite of myself perhaps if only by virtue of the fact that I’m clearly in locked in bitter, egotistical conflict with it.

Are my expectations of life morally and realistically acceptable? No, not at all. I expected that I would enjoy a higher standard of living than my parents and grandparents would because I was educating myself more and pushing myself harder than they ever could have pushed me directly out of spite in order to push back at them for having pushed so hard and expected so much out of me in the first place. My mind still hasn’t fully accepted the crass lifestyle compromises that I and many others will have to make in the near future but worse even still is that I grow progressively unable to endure the limitations that school, work, and debt have become upon the full realization and expression of my creative potential.

I am tired of the effort that I have to exert in order to silence the incessant trumpeting I hear from every giant pink elephant in a corner of every space in every house, home, family, classroom, dojo, job, street, park, group or any social role that I have attempted to occupy. The realization that I have (barely) repressed desires to kill myself didn’t strike me as profound as the realization that I have actually been indulging my death wish, as countless others in my true occupation have, by articulating things that would encourage other people to want to kill me, in the hopes that someone else might put me out of my misery. Friends on Facebook were startled by the number of comments involving gun violence on the link to an interview I did with Al Sharpton during the first week of the Occupation of Zuccotti and I imagine that the asshole in Chicago with the badge and the baton would’ve put a little more force behind the baton he swung at the soft spot on the top of my head if only I had shaken my tambourine at him a little more vigorously before I started running away from him. My stronger, slightly more dominant if not more naïve instincts toward life can only subdue my insidious instincts toward oblivion only so well or so it now seems to me.

What’s keeping my generation alive? Are we Millennial more tightly interwoven with one another? Is social media preventing egoistic suicide by creating tighter communities and even families than churches, governments, corporations, schools and households? Perhaps. It seems to me that Millennials are more likely to accrue social stature by means of accruing social esteem by means of creatively expressing and presenting special moments of experience that shape and define the identities they aspire to live (as well as the items of consumption that define and express their identities) via social media, whereas status for the Baby Boomer Generation has been traditionally measured and displayed through the accumulation and ownership of various forms of material property.

Are our expectations, those of the Millennial generation, for life realistic? Have we truly given up our hopes for the first world comforts and luxuries that we were raised in? My generation has no idea what’s realistic to hope for from life. I imagine that the future of the U.S. and the global culture of capitalism it has created will be truly amazing or truly catastrophic, or perhaps this is just wishful thinking on my part. Either way it seems difficult for many of us to identify any stable basis for happiness other than our own unique, authentic means of self-expression. It seems to me that potentially ‘successful’ Millennials have little choice but to fully cultivate the creative impulses that previous generations were forced to alienate themselves from in order to survive the demands and limitations of an older, obsolete form of capitalism that was not yet based upon the increasingly free exchanges of knowledge, services, and content.

One suggestion made by a researcher that seems intuitively correct to me is that perhaps it is the hope and excitement having to ‘live not a worse life, but a different live. Capitalism as we know it is breaking down and crumbling, we will have to live differently, but its shadow is long. What kind of a different life is feasible in the wake of its collapse? Alternatives have always existed and have always made it harder and easier for those of us aware of them to endure that which we’d prefer not to.

References

 

US suicide rates surge, surpass road fatalities

http://rt.com/usa/us-suicides-crisis-cdc-report-761/

Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/health/suicide-rate-rises-sharply-in-us.html

How Healthy Are Today’s Young Adults?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-blumenthal/millennial-health_b_862162.html

Do Millennials Stand a Chance in the Real World?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/magazine/do-millennials-stand-a-chance-in-the-real-world.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

From Mic Checks to Privilege Checks: How Occupy Fails to Address (Straight, White, Male) Privilege

Image

 

 

I didn’t think Occupy would accomplish anything when I first started working with the movement. I didn’t think it would last longer than a day. There were individual friendships but no group solidarity what-so-ever at any of those early meetings before September 17th 2011, and in many ways there still isn’t. We didn’t really start supporting one another and working together until the NYPD brutalized us into cohesion last fall and the truth of Occupy is that we consistently stop supporting one another and working together whenever the NYPD stop brutalizing us. The most frequent, consistent and symbolically violent attack made by Occupiers upon other Occupiers within this movement is the ironic demand to “check your privilege.” The concept of privilege as it is used in this phrase refers to the social advantages that certain straight white men enjoy over other individuals of other orientations, ethnicity and genders. This concept also automatically and incorrectly implies that straight white men necessarily oppress other people who are not straight white and male in order to maintain their privilege. This concept further and even more erroneously and dangerously implies that people who are less privileged than straight white men are incapable of oppressing others precisely because they are oppressed themselves, as if straight white men are the only ones capable of oppression. This essay isn’t about the kind of caucasian, male, hetero-normative privilege that I am supposed to check as much as it is about how the check itself is oppressive and how it ironically prevents an actual redistribution of privilege from ever occurring.

The practice of calling out the privilege of, and demanding that straight, male, caucasions step back and give others, that is non-straight, male, caucasions the chance to speak isn’t considered and defined as divisive, exclusionary, let alone as discriminatory within Occupy due to the seemingly widely shared agreement within the movement that ‘reverse-racism,’ or more descriptively perhaps, reverse-discrimination doesn’t exist. A myth which enables those without privilege to use their voice within Occupy to silence the voices of those who are perceived as possessing more privilege as if this’ll somehow enable the voices of those who are more marginalized to be better heard. A privilege check isn’t really a demand to be silent as much as it is a demand for a masochistic confession of guilt from the privileged so that the oppressed might momentarily reverse the hierarchy of oppression and egotistically experience what Nietzsche called the ‘pleasure of mastery’ via ‘the pleasure of violation.’ The chatter of the confession however ironically ensures that privileged occupiers wind up speaking more than marginalized occupiers if the bait is swallowed.

My objective however isn’t to argue that discrimination against those who are perceived to benefit from conventional discrimination is still discrimination or even that occupiers checking each other’s privilege is bitterly prejudicial not to mention discriminatory, as much as it is to argue that privilege checks are an unfortunate, redundant, counterproductive, self-defeating waste of collective time, energy and sacrifice. Devoting all of my time, energy, material resources, and commodifiable skills towards an advertising career, finishing my research and PhD, and/or charming my way into some rich girl’s family would’ve been a more reliable way to have furthered my own privilege compared to working with Occupy over the past twenty-two months. I’ve knowingly ruined my chances at any sort of career in spite of the fact that I’m drowning in student, medical, credit-card and IRS. I’ve made a generous sacrifice of blood for the movement last summer in Chicago and I’ve sacrificed a digital strategy job and therefore my home for the past eight years as well I fear in order to work with Greenpeace this summer. I have checked my privilege, my social advantages over and over again.

I’m Oneida according to my mother who I lived with during the school week. A direct descendent of the rouge tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy who had been practicing democracy in America long before it ever became the United States of America. The Oneida are perhaps best known for keeping George Washington and his army from dying of starvation at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778. They were attacked by the rest of the Iroquois after the Revolutionary War ended, Washington set aside some land for them which encroached upon in subsequent generations, and many of them moved to a reservation in Wisconsin, and from there into the racial ghettos of the city of Milwaukee, from which my family managed to move into a working class suburb of Polish-Americans which prided itself on educating some of it’s children into middle-class workers. The white people of this town neither perceived, nor treated me as white. They would tell me I was Indian as their sadistic children harassed and attacked me in one way or another on what seemed like a daily basis. They knew I was Indian (as opposed to Oneida) because I tried to learn the language, a traditional pow-wow dance style and lacrosse in order to fit in with the sadistic children from the res and the Indian Community of Milwaukee who would tell me I was white when they attacked and harassed me.

Racially oppressed people of all varieties can and do oppress other people precisely in order to feel less oppressed themselves via ‘the pleasure of violation’ and racial oppression, much like rape, is something which unfortunately occurs between friends, family, and acquaintances more so than total strangers. The police used to beat my step-father long before I became his first son and they would needlessly search through his car and question him in front of his children even after he got too old for beatings. He used to call me ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ because of how white my skin is. My mother recalls deliberately ignoring the way he would deliberately neglect to give me anything to eat, not because he hated me or was consciously trying to punish me but because he loved me and because shit always rolls down-hill after it’s been eaten recycled. He would grab my head and fart in my face so often that I grew up under the impression that this was socially acceptable.

The means of oppression in my father’s house on the weekends with him, my stepmother and the gay artist she had been married to before he had died of the aids virus was a bit less complicated and tended to revolve around spoiling and guilt, privilege indeed more so than neglect and degradation.

I was but I wasn’t Oneida in my father’s house, just like I was and wasn’t Oneida in my mother’s house. I’m too Oneida to ever be white but too white to ever be Oneida. My mother tells me that things have changed and that Oneidas look like whites, African-Americans, Hispanics and even Asian folks these days but my identity will never be acknowledged in the minds of world that can’t think about American Indians without also thinking about head-dresses and whooping calls and this unfortunately ironically includes the #OWS community of NYC which of course prides itself on combating such ignorance. Being told to check my privilege or to step back and let someone else speak up after throwing on a suit and challenging stereotypes on MSNBC or Fox reminded me of being harassed by Indians at weekend pow-wows even though challenging stereotypes about Indians was something I had to do daily at school.                            

I wouldn’t have joined Occupy in the first place had I not already been painfully aware, not only of the vast inequities in the distribution of wealth and privilege but also how these inequities ruin the chances of every individual in this society from living out their specific version of a fulfilling life. My critical consciousness and awareness of privilege and oppression is far more advanced than that of anyone in this movement morally sadistic enough to demand anyone else to check their privilege and I am far too outraged to patiently elucidate the ironies of oppression to the hippocrates of this movement, even though I know that I must rise above my rage in order to truly be a change that I would like to see. Anyone who has come to occupy to listen and to be listened to has effectively engaged in a privilege checking process by virtue of collective participation itself and any demands made on that individual by another individual to check their privilege while in midst of collective processes is essentially the same thing as halting the movement of the whole heard so as to beat a once lame dead horse.   

The first time I was publicly told to check my privilege wasn’t because I talked about Occupy on a few cable news networks but because I found and reported that well over 70% of the followers on occupywallst.org were white/Caucasian and I’ve since seen the same trend not only on follow up surveys on st.org but also on peoplebrowsr gender breakdowns of all the big Occupy twitter hashtags. All the pages and channels I have access to Facebook Insights and YouTube analytics for confirm the same trend and all of this raises an important question relevant to a critical discussion of privilege in Occupy Wall Street. Who is Occupy Wall Street? The individuals who work within the movement and who represent spectrums of genders, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, and educational experiences and political intentions? Or is it the people who consume the news we produce because they want to know what we have to say? They appear to be overwhelmingly single, heterosexual, white, angry males who can’t earn enough to pay off all of their debts like white males are supposed to be able to.

The answer to this question hardly seems to matter however given that both groups should at least in theory be working together if this truly is a movement of the 99%. Telling predominantly white males, assumingly educated enough to know about privilege, and likely single precisely because they’re broke and in debt that they should check their privilege will only alienate them away from the movement, make it smaller, weaker, slower and prevent the sharing of privilege, or a flow of mutual empowerment from occurring between individuals which in turn will not create any kind of social movement capable of creating the massive redistribution of wealth necessary to abolish the inequalities in privilege by distributing ever more of it to those who have need of it.

Moving the Movement

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It strikes me that most people, including most of those in the Occupy Movement, generally tend to confuse protest for revolution. The approach and tactics developed by Thoreau, Gandhi, and Dr. King were so incredibly effective in terms of creating social change that most modern day revolutionaries tend to regard their approach as the only effective and morally legitimate means of pursuing social justice. I’ve found that the notion of attempting to create a revolution from within the system, using the very same tools of the system, in order to transform the system will often generate fairly engaging ethical discussion among Occupiers, not a few of whom are reluctant to pursue this approach, presumably out of concerns over hypocritically behaving exactly like those whom we oppose. Are those concerns legitimate? Yes. However are those concerns a legitimate reason for the Occupy Movement to focus exclusively on pursuing its admittedly radical agenda solely along the non-participatory lines our revolutionary forefathers established during the last two centuries? No.

The issue of demands fell squarely within a discussion of the ethics of revolutionary participation within the system. This was the big story of the movement besides all the riot pornography of police brutality of course. We were deliberate in not developing any demands, largely it seems because we had a lot of different reasons for joining the movement and there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of all of us coming to a consensus on any pragmatic demands. The other reason, best explained by Judith Butler in an issue of Tidal (our social theory publication http://www.facebook.com/TidalOccupyTheory), was that the very act of making demands presupposes that there is someone in charge with the power and willingness to address them. The act of making demands imparts legitimacy to whoever answers them.

So we focused on making demands of ourselves instead. We tried to embody the changes we wanted to see just as Gandhi told us we should all those years ago. Our media center spread the news of our movement all over the globe using solar power from Greenpeace, bio-diesel fuel, and bike generators well before the mass media began paying any attention to us. We created our own political procedures in our General Assemblies. Free food was served from our own kitchen and there were and are people working on alternative currency systems. The early weeks of the occupation were a utopia for many of us. We had temporarily created a small post-revolutionary society within a large corrupt society. All of us wanted the former to engulf the latter.

This approach was objectively effective for a time. I would go to LibertyPlaza every morning before going to work with hand clicker counters. I observed and recorded that the number of people who woke up at ‘Liberty Plaza’ every morning kept increasing in spite of the fact that everyone in the mainstream media kept telling us that we would fail precisely because we had no demands. We had created that same curiosity and ‘blank check’ which Obama had created in 08, where anyone – radicals, liberals and even conservative Tea Partiers – could all find whatever they were looking for within the movement. The fact that we had no single demand was actually a blessing in disguise. Our refusal to negotiate with the system according to its terms was a critical part of our success. It’s the reason why Occupy Wall Street has turned into a stable community of dedicated activists, which is what it is now, which isn’t the same thing as a growing dynamic social movement.

Occupying the streets is an incredibly empowering, energizing and shamelessly fun experience. True democracy and equality can only exist when you have lots of people in a public place like in the agoras of Ancient Greece. Democracy and equality die the moment those people leave the square to return to their homes and work and democracy and equality are reborn the instant that the masses return to the square. My acid test for an oppressive regime is the extent to which they allow their citizens to publicly assemble (and this country just barely passes as far as I’m concerned). Occupy must and always shall be prepared to reclaim our streets from anti-social commercial interests, police and even car traffic.

That said however, it’s painfully clear to me that the majority of the people in this country are not interested in participating in a radical non-participatory social movement even though those same people may want, need, and crave better lives within a better society every bit as much as the radical minority of this country wants the same. For every one person seen protesting on the streets, there are countless more who help us from home through financial and social media support and more yet still who at least now recognize and talk about the issues that forced us to rally in the streets last fall. There won’t be a Tahir Square-moment in this country because North Americans are not oppressed by guns, tanks, bombs, or even the poverty, famine and austerity that we see in the post-colonial world as much as they are oppressed by duties to family, school and presumably fulfilling work. It is selfish, egotistical, hypocritically authoritarian and counter-productively self-defeating for anyone within Occupy to demand that those people, especially those who support us, sacrifice jobs, careers, homes, or familial obligations in order to adopt a radical lifestyle…(even if the masses don’t know what they’re missing out on).

Even though politicians now have to pay lip-service to the topics of corporate greed and wealth disparity thanks to Occupy, the movement has thus far in my opinion been a symptom and a reaction to social transformations more so than a catalyst of social transformations. This will surely change with time as the collective consciousness of the movement continues to gradually think outside of the boxes it creates for itself.

There’s nothing terribly historically original about many of our most effective strategies, approaches and tactics. General Assemblies and even Human Microphone Checks are tried and true time-tested radical tactics. Arab Spring, the Indignados, and plenty of others beat us to the punch in terms of our social media efforts. We learned directly from them in many instances. We’re still paying homage to our ideological parents for the indispensable tools they bequeathed us as opposed to giving birth to our own unique, novel, revolutionary innovations.

I’m not the only one in the movement who wouldn’t be opposed to occupying electoral politics exactly the same way that the Tea Party has. The time has come furthermore for the movement to occupy, own, and manage our businesses, companies and corporations for ourselves in order to generate the capital we would need to finance the solutions to the seemingly endless list of disastrous social problems facing our global society.

The integrity of my core radical values is in no way contradicted by my advocacy of directly participating within and occupying the capitalist system. The participative approach strengthens my values if anything since this is the essence of appropriating the means of production, which of course isn’t a novel idea at all, we just have a lot of new ground to occupy since Marx suggested the approach. Perhaps we should at least reconsider the advice of all the assholes who tell us to go out and get a job instead of protesting.