October 30th, 2011

Occupiers and 99-percenters

I'm sitting at Laura's desktop machine at 6:30am Sunday morning. I've got half a dozen emails in my inbox from members of the Survey Committee back at the occupation, mostly objecting to my "characterization" of them as white and upper-middle-class. Sorry, ladies and Steve; show up at a scruffy protest in a down vest and pressed pinstripe slacks and people are going to notice. And if you've grown up as a street kid and know what it's like to be poor, that still doesn't mean you're poor *now* or that anyone is going to assume you are.

Now to figure out how to say this so it doesn't come out sounding like "You assholes..." They *are* part of the 99%, and I'm not trying to insult them or deny their worth or participation. But appearance *is* part of who we are, and how we behave *is* part of our appearance, and I *don't* want us looking or acting like a bunch of self-indulgent ignorami.

Restating my Occupiers issue

All who wrote in are exactly correct that people are allowed to be white without being criticized for it, and to dress nicely if they want to, and it's even to our advantage to get 'em on camera while doing so.

My problem is when these people charge out amidst what they proudly proclaim as *their* proletariat to tell them what, and how, to think.

Doing so is not what they *intend*; indeed, a major part of my point is that they are not behaving with intention. They *know* what is right, and aren't questioning *themselves*. If some street kid thinks what he really wants is a cigarette and a beer, he *must* be wrong. What he *really* needs is a multiple-choice survey. White Rich Liberal Ass-Hat-Dom says so, and can never, ever be wrong.

I've taken some time to actually *talk* with these people, and they *know* cigarettes cause cancer. But whether they'll have cancer twenty or thirty years from now isn't as important to them as having some solace *right now*, and is far less important than maintaining the personal integrity of doing what *they* want to do rather than what any random stranger feels like *telling* them to do.

The point *I'm* trying to keep people focused on is that, if we want to call ourselves "the 99%", *and* we want to behave with some sort of intellectual integrity, we have to make a good-faith effort to *include* at least 99% of everybody, and this means extending *them* the same sort of respect we'd like to see for ourselves.

And the very first, and most important, step in this is to allow them the dignity of self-determination. If Joe Juggalo says he wants a cigarette, even though I personally despise smoking it is a kindness for me to go get one for him. If *I* want to take a survey, I get to do so -- but it's not only polite but a necessary part of clear communications for me to make clear that I'm taking the survey because *I* want it. My opinion of whether it's best for Joe is not merely irrelevant but actively counterproductive, because *Joe* is in charge of deciding what's best for Joe, not me.

So this is what I'm looking for: That the people who want to take surveys take ownership of the fact that they're taking a survey because *they* want to. And that any justifications of that, regardless of whose opinions about whose opinions are being served, wait for an invitation.

Am I being clear yet?