I Am The 99% And I Am Offended

I Am The 99% And I Am Offended

I reserve the right to use my day’s muse exer­cise to rant from time to time. Sometimes.

I couldn’t believe what I was read­ing when I found the notice in my door­way in July of 2010. The  land­lord of the com­plex I lived in was fil­ing for bank­ruptcy, and as ten­ants there were cer­tain things we needed to know, the infor­ma­tion arriv­ing on laven­der pur­ple paper, Times Roman bul­lets in bold to empha­size the importance.

The name of the man­age­ment com­pany was NAI Vaugh, its owner was Dou­glas Vaughn, Albuquerque’s most recent addi­tion to the rob­ber barons’ hall of infamy and shame. I watched on the news as they dis­cussed how much money he swin­dled from his “investors,” and read in the news­pa­per about the lav­ish Las Vegas vaca­tions and the exact size of his pala­tial home next to pic­tures of the elder cit­i­zens whose money he invested  stole. As a result of the inevitably short-sighted, unsus­tain­able nature of the Ponzi scheme, Vaughn was arrested and indicted, his prop­erty seized. Every­thing he owned was being liq­ui­dated in the bank­ruptcy, to return as rec­om­pense to their right­ful own­ers. Because some­one got swin­dled by my greedy land­lord, I stood to be kicked out of my home with 60 days of notice (not that I would have any recourse if they failed to give me that much notice), and I was left with­out the option of renew­ing my 1-yr. lease on my unit, or any lease for that mat­ter. They would honor the cur­rent con­tract (to the best of their abil­ity), and after that, it was every ten­ant for him or her­self. For­tu­nately, their sales strat­egy was ill-timed in such a depressed mar­ket, that even though I saw my neigh­bors’ and for­mer neigh­bors’ units go up for sale, not one sold before the end of the year.

As a  mat­ter of prin­ci­ple, I am not a fan of month-to-month rent­ing. If I had only myself to con­sider,  the idea is only slightly more palat­able. How­ever, since my son lives with me, I refuse to worry about my hous­ing sit­u­a­tion if I can instead sign a lease with a rea­son­able land­lord and adhere to the terms. Pretty basic, hap­pens all the time. Except that after mov­ing three times in four years, I was ready to set­tle down and get com­fort­able. I found a good spot in the part of town I liked, and it was near my son’s school. The price was per­fect and it was ide­ally sized. I planned on stay­ing there long-term and set­tled in quite nicely. Ulti­mately, my deci­sion regard­ing my hous­ing was not my own. It was defined by banks and the crim­i­nal and civil jus­tice systems.

I think about this par­tic­u­lar time in my life because I feel that the Occupy move­ment is older than this year, than this month. It’s been com­ing for the last four years, build­ing up as I watched Doug Vaughn’s hall of infamy coun­ter­parts dis­man­tle and destroy the sys­tems of gov­ern­ment. that was serv­ing too many, not reward­ing the few enough. I remem­ber dri­ving to my $25k/yr job in ’08, lis­ten­ing to morn­ing talk radio, and grip­ping the steer­ing wheel with white knuck­les as I lis­tened to the Bush admin­is­tra­tion and their inter­na­tional friends make their final run on the tax­pay­ers’ funds, know­ing that the money-grab might soon get choked off in a wave of actual gov­er­nance and eth­i­cal actions by pub­lic servants.

It’s been build­ing since peo­ple first real­ized that their home loan was extended to them as a direct com­men­tary on their dis­en­fran­chise­ment. The move­ment has been build­ing up since the college-graduated classes of ’04, ’05, ’06 and for­ward found them­selves skim­ming by on jobs that don’t nearly reflect their abil­i­ties, and with wages that don’t nearly reflect the scale of respon­si­bil­ity these new pro­fes­sion­als have. It’s been build­ing since peo­ple have been forced into liv­ing arrange­ments based on finan­cial con­ve­nience rather than long-term goals. It’s been com­ing, with me, my friends and even those I dis­agree with, all watch­ing the ren­der­ing of the Amer­i­can Dream, the goals of our friends and neigh­bors derailed by debt, unem­ploy­ment, and a social mis­sion to dis­en­fran­chise and alien­ate even fur­ther. All the while I encour­age peo­ple my age and younger to go to col­lege, to get their edu­ca­tion.

As a com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sional, I’m fas­ci­nated by the cri­tique of the Occupy move­ments as lack­ing  focus, or not being clear enough. As a left-wing cynic, what I hear is the faces melt­ing off the pub­lic rela­tions and mar­ket­ing depart­ments for orga­ni­za­tions such as Free­dom­Works and Amer­i­cans For Pros­per­ity, as well as oth­ers who sali­vate at the idea of co-opting pop­ulist move­ments to achieve right-wing polit­i­cal goals. Call­ing them unfo­cused min­i­mizes their impor­tance and brings their ulti­mate goals under ques­tion. It forces the move­ment to answer for itself, which will then give the oppo­si­tion a bead on how to “han­dle” them. The Tea Party needed com­fort­able buses and name-brand snacks to make it through the protest­ing day. What do the dis­en­fran­chised youth need?

They need jobs. We need them to be employed. I say we as a soci­ety. We need jobs, we need finan­cial secu­rity, and we need to be able to trust insti­tu­tions that up until now have engi­neered their prod­ucts and ser­vices specif­i­cally to make us depen­dent on a sys­tem of credit that sub­ju­gates the indi­vid­ual to a life of finan­cial slav­ery. No credit no money, no money no credit, more money no problems.

And maybe the thing that gives this move­ment more heft, less bull­shit is that I’m offended. I think we are all offended. We’ve been treated, com­ing up as chil­dren of this sys­tem, believ­ing that what it took was hard work, and if the time was right, some courage to fight for your coun­try, and that with those two things, regard­less of any other cir­cum­stances in one’s life, would be enough to make it. Not just for some, but for most.

I’m offended that jobs and money have crossed our bor­ders and dis­ap­peared with no account­abil­ity, and with the bless­ing of the pub­lic ser­vants that used to speak for us. Most recently, we (*snort*) approved the Colom­bia Free Trade Agree­ment. Colom­bia has one of the worst records regard­ing vio­lence against orga­nized labor. The only cold com­fort I have is that our domes­tic pol­icy is now also lin­ing up with our for­eign policy.

I’m offended that the good-for-nothing Repub­li­can minor­ity in Con­gress has fought directly against the inter­est of the Amer­i­can pub­lic, and I am offended that their xeno­pho­bia is so trans­par­ent in their actions and on their faces. I’m offended that while the past few gen­er­a­tions have worked to make the U.S. a strong first-world super­power, they would rather die clutch­ing their advances in their cold dead fin­gers instead of expand­ing the rights and priv­i­leges for which they have set a stan­dard to the rest of soci­ety, to expand equal­ity and the chance to be suc­cess­ful, as the generic Amer­i­can script always told us we would be. Is that nuanced enough?

We got bait and switched, the ride was over before we got on, they lied to us and took our money, and I am offended. You should be too. Regard­less of what I do for a liv­ing, where I work or what I do when I get off work, it does not mat­ter, because the peo­ple who baked the pie (even against our will as vot­ers and cit­i­zens) took the biggest slices first, leav­ing a dec­i­mated, imbal­anced sys­tem. And they hon­estly think I or you wouldn’t notice, or remem­ber. That’s offen­sive. I am the 99%, and I am offended.

UPDATE: (un)Occupy Albuquerque’s UNM per­mit will not be renewed, they must leave Yale Park by 10PM on Tues­day, Oct. 25th.

  1. geneticanomaly |

    I am the 50 some%! I make a descent salary and by all accounts have one of the best jobs while oth­ers strug­gle to keep from being evicted from their houses and hav­ing to live on the streets. I cur­rently suf­fer no such real­i­ties. But I sym­pa­thize. I too have high stu­dent debt and both my wife and I are not immune to the reces­sion. If the two polit­i­cal par­ties can not come to a con­sen­sus on how to fix the econ­omy than I am not far from being an Occupy Wall Street Protester.

    I am just not sure which drum cir­cle of the protest move­ment I would join. I do not see the need for com­plete over­haul as prac­ti­cal. By get­ting involved in such epic bat­tles insti­tu­tions get ele­vated to points of car­i­ca­ture and our polit­i­cal bat­tles get mired in ide­o­log­i­cal strug­gle. I would rather mod­ify the sys­tem by insti­tut­ing new leg­is­la­tion and laws.

    I see the peo­ple of the Occupy Wall Street move­ment as those angry at injus­tice, inequal­ity, pol­i­tics and our ongo­ing wars. Those are lofty top­ics. I want to see Lehman Broth­ers, Gold­man Sachs, Bank of Amer­ica and all those alike brought to jus­tice. I want Bil­lions of Amer­i­can dol­lars to stop pour­ing into for­eign economies while peo­ple here can’t eat, get a solid edu­ca­tion or pay for health care. These are things worth tack­ling or at least bring­ing atten­tion to and forc­ing our politi­cians to demand mean­ing­ful solutions.

    Being marked as a wall street pro­tester might philo­soph­i­cally label me as some­one who rejects cap­i­tal­ism. The idea that at least in the­ory one uses their tal­ents to the fullest and by doing can accom­plish the “Amer­i­can Dream.” Though cap­i­tal­ism has its flaws I am not ready to fully reject it.

    Being in the 50th per­centile makes it hard to jump in head first for com­plete over­haul but does not mean not fight­ing from the periph­ery for mod­er­ate ideals. I think most peo­ples group lies in sub­set of Amer­ica who still believes in cap­i­tal­ism and is not the 99%. Those on the fringe of los­ing health care and their jobs if the econ­omy turns down­ward but find their solace in their pri­vate quar­ters on the inter­net for now.

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