We are The 99% and So Are You

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At five in the morning on October 14, my Montreal based roommate Kamee Abrahamian (producer of the Blood Ballet Cabaret) and my native New York self crawled out of bed to head to Wall Street. We heard that chaos was going to go down before the sun even came up. We thought we would witness some arrests and be part of the fight for whatever these protests are about.

Everyone says it: it is unclear what the actual mission is at Occupy Wall Street. What is meant to come of it? To some, the protesters are seen as a bunch of unemployed young hippies. To others, these kids represent a growing, world-wide revolution.

 

As I walked alongside the protesters, I got handed a mushy apple from a smiling middle aged Indian man in a food line and slapped some high fives along the way. When I got into the heart of the park, I noticed the diversity of age and racial background. The one thing they all had in common? Backpacks. There were people beating on tin drums and couples cuddling under sleeping bags on the concrete. Photographers and press were relentless.

The so-called people express their disapproval in how things work — vague, but there seems to have been momentum. Since a New York Times article two weeks ago wrote about the protests being useless without a precise cause, now there are specific requests written for improving the fields of education, food, economy and unemployment (still vague but getting somewhere!).

An ‘issue’ with our generation is that there are so many causes worth fighting for. It feels like a heavy commitment to just choose one. After my experience today, I believe the protests are an excellent starting place; a gathering place to cultivate direction and purpose out of this flustered passion, one that is triggered from the chaos of the world. There is a looming responsibility to be a part of the solution and this morning I witnessed the gusto and commitment our generation has to offer.

The communication strategy used in initiating the march was highly effective. There is no leader and no microphones or megaphones allowed, however this doesn’t stop mass messages from spreading. One person screams, and everyone in the vicinity scream the message back to those in the distance. Word echo waves sweep across thousands—a speech becomes more experiential when we have no technology to facilitate. The glowing aftermath of rippling words is truly felt in Zuccoti Park; I felt chills of a revolution as a young lady in a hijab and torn jeans shouts with a confident smile “we will march!” There was a cultural cauldron of people. Old hippies in leather jackets; young, scruffy hipsters; adolescent boys with oily hair wearing grungy sweatshirts; even some of my friends from liberal arts college were there- sporadically placed, suit and tie or t-shirt clad excitement.

I joined the march and made it to the front of the line where a girl yelled, “can we have someone who isn’t a white male up here?” She looks at me and says, “lock arms! Join us! Come on!” A young lady with a buzz cut and a backpack larger than her torso was walking in front of us, encouraging the front line to walk slowly so the thousand or so behind us could keep up. Her entitlement to command the group was impressive, she reminded me of a police officer. I asked if she was responsible for organizing this march or is she just a natural leader. In a quick and aggressive tone she replied, “there are no leaders here.” I said, “I mean you, are a leader, a leader at heart.” She did not smile, nor acknowledge my existence.

A sixty-something year old lady in a baggy t-shirt and cargo pants stood on a bench holding a hand written sign towards the passing protesters: WE ALL KNOW WHERE THE REAL DIRT IS. People seemed to be cheering her on, so I asked Kamee, who was snapping away with two cameras, what dirt she was referring to. “Go ask her”, she said, so I did. She responded eagerly in a southern accent, “those corporate heads say we are dirty but we cleaned the street with natural green cleaner. I’ve never seen sidewalks so shiny in my life!” The protesters managed to boot Bloomberg’s attempt to evict them due to complaints of dirty behavior in Zucotti Park.

The general public perception is that these people don’t even know what they are protesting, but it cannot be denied that some kind of change is needed. Clearly something isn’t working. Society looks nothing like the one I read out of Plato in my freshman year philosophy class.

We cannot toss aside the ability of all these people to gather and camp out on the streets (jobless or not), to march in the wee hours of the morning, to lock arms and scream with a collective heart, ” Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” Like the mission statement of an imagined business plan, clarity and specificity will become more clear to those who are not ready or not willing to recognize it just yet (just google it!).

The slow pace of Friday morning’s march personifies the development of a simmering, multifaceted revolution of our generation. Just as it takes time for laws to be passed in any political environment, the process of change will materialize with more of these protests and conscious gatherings. The ‘people’ will fuse imagination with their skill sets and resources to optimize the manifestation of positive change. The occupation is already spreading throughout the world, including Montreal. If you sense the need for change, then you’re a part of the occupation too. The details will emerge with time.

* photos by Kamee Abrahamian, you can see all the images on Facebook

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