Thursday, October 13, 2011

Conversation With First Tier Toilet About Occupy Wall Street

The creator of First Tier Toilet was kind enough to request a brief interview about my thoughts on the occupy movement. Here's what we discussed:

FFT: Why are you getting involved with the "Occupy" movement?

CCJ: There is an overwhelming number of young people who are driving this movement. Of course, there are people of all ages who are taking a role in the protests, and that's because it is resonating with so many Americans. The saying, "We are the 99%," makes sense. It's a powerful way to identify with other Americans. Many supporters have jobs, are doing well, etc. But they recognize, just like the protesters who have been hit hard financially and so forth, that our system, particularly our financial system, is out of whack. 

I have a good friend, Dustin Slaughter, who has been involved with Occupy since it kicked off in lower Manhattan on the 17th of September. Dustin and I have known one another for quite some time, and we are both big supporters of each other's work. (Dustin, incidentally, launched a site called the David & Goliath Project, and is a documentary filmmaker). He's been documenting the protests, and I have used his work on my blog and also in publications for The Dustin has taken amazing photos of signs about student loan debt and joblessness. The connection between the protests and my work as an advocate for student loan debtors is clear. 

I have also been aware of this planned protest since AdBusters made the announcement this past summer. At the same time, October 2011 - a group in D.C. - also made a similar announcement and at the same time. That was not a coincidence. Plus, All Education Matters is listed as an organization that supports the October 2011 crew. 

On another note, I literally spoke with hundreds of different types of people - activists like Dustin, authors like Barbara Ehrenreich, professors, debtors, etc. - this past summer about the dismal state of affairs in this country. Dustin, to his credit, in late February was hinting at the need for non-violent, civil disobedience. We had several conversations about it, but at that point I just couldn't seem to figure out HOW we could do it. AdBusters obviously GOT that part! These protests have made me realize that I was not the only person have these conversations. Something was happening at the collective level, and now we're seeing results - we're seeing action ON THE GROUND. 

It is clear that people are fed up, and they are mobilizing to show the top 1% that they aren't gonna take it anymore. This movement is absolutely astonishing to me - as for my generation, we haven't seen anything like this before, and I think these young people need our full support. Sure. They might make errors - that's being human - but they are highly engaged, and want to play legitimate role in the political process. They, like most Americans, are tired of feeling shut out. 

I think we, as Americans, are coming together for the first time, and we're learning to share our struggles with one another. In addition, I think there is a strong relationship between the 10th anniversary of 9-11 and occupy. And, mind you, I am not referring to the way it is and was exploited by politicians and - even more disgusting - corporations. I think revisiting that day was important. For instance, I spent a lot of time looking at old images and reading about folks who survived or perished that day. I was struck by one thing: how willing Americans were to help one another on that horrific day. The pictures of the firemen, as well as Fr. Mychal Judge (who was listed as the first victim on the ground), were haunting and painful to look at again. I spent a lot of time looking at the firemen walking UP the stairwells in the towers. As they walked up, people walked down. The first responders sacrificed their lives for other people. That's powerful stuff. I think a lot of Americans were reminded of how we can be kind towards one another, that we do still believe in community, and so forth.

I realize that the claim that there is a relationship between the 10th anniversary of 9-11 and occupy can't be "proven" from some social scientific way, but I think there is a definite connection. 

So, as you can see, the movement resonates with me for a lot of reasons. I think, most importantly, we need to support the young folks who are out there protesting. As many of us know, they are the ones who are burdened with the most debt and are facing a job market that many economists have compared to the Great Depression. They do not deserve to be ridiculed or dismissed - that has happened for far too long. Like the rest of us, they just want to think they have a future. They want it back. Not only that, they have the guts to hit the streets, risk being injured to make a point. That makes me damned proud. These folks are true patriots, and we need to listen to them. It's time to start listening to one another. I think people who aren't a part of this are still filled with fury. That's because they, like you and me, have felt ignored for too long. It is clear that these events entail a lot of conversation, and I think that's great. When I was observing the mood at Occupy Austin, I was struck by how cheerful it was - people were smiling, there were families there . . . people even brought their dogs (some of which wore signs against corporate greed). It's clear that people are frustrated, but that these gatherings are giving them a sense of hope. Collective hope is a powerful thing - very powerful thing. 

I see [these protests] as these radically democratic spaces within a brutal, oligarchic state. That is why, as Naomi Klein recently stated, this is the most important thing happening right now. 

Read the full interview here


"Wall Street Journal Snoozes, But Apparently Wakes Up To See The Connection Between #OWS and Student Loan Debt," AEM (Oct. 13, 2011)

"Powerful Image: College Professor Denouncing Student Loan Debt," AEM (Oct. 12, 2011)

"Barbara Ehrenreich: 'The Guys in the 1% Brought This On,'" AEM (Oct. 12, 2011)

"Youth Across the World Denouncing Neoliberalism, the Politics of Hate, and Casino Capitalism," AEM (Oct. 11, 2011)

"We are the 99 Percent Tumblr: 17-year-old Indentured Educated Girl," AEM (Oct. 11, 2011)

"Fox News: Poll About Wall Street (#OWS)," AEM (Oct. 10, 2011)

"Data and Ideology of the We are the 99% Tumblr," AEM (Oct. 9, 2011)

"Most Amazing Image Today: World War II Veteran Supports Occupy Wall Street," AEM (Oct. 9, 2011)

"Another Platform for the Indentured Educated Class: Seriously Subversive," AEM (Oct. 6. 2011)

"Heading to Austin and Raising More Funds," AEM (Oct. 6, 2011)

"[UPDATED] Latest: Cops Beating Protesters at Occupy Wall Street Protest," AEM (Oct. 5, 2011)

"Please Donate - Let Me Represent You," AEM (Oct. 4, 2011)

"Occupy Wall Street, the Obama Campaign, and Everybody Else on the Hill," AEM (Oct. 3, 2011)

"Gregory Warner at NPR's Marketplace Discusses Occupy Wall Street And Student Loan Debt,"  AEM (Oct. 3, 2011)

"The Simpsons: Capturing the Zeigeist (Plus some notes about Occupy America and AEM's Fall Itinerary)," AEM (Oct 2, 2011)

"Occupy Sallie Mae," AEM (Oct. 1, 2011)

"Occupy Wall Street Movement Gets Support of Cornel West, Russell Simmons, Lupe Fiasco," The (September 30, 2011)

"'Occupy Wall Street' Becomes Nationwide Movement," The (Sept. 27, 2011)

"Occupy Wall Street - Tweet About Student Loan Debt And Medical Debt," AEM (Sept. 25, 2011)

"Dustin Slaughter's Picture: 'In Debt? You're Not Alone,'" AEM (Sept. 19, 2011)

"Occupy Wall Street - Begins Tomorrow, Sept. 17th," AEM (Sept. 16, 2011)

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