You Are What You Are, Not Do

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Trade Your Job for an Occupation
by Mickey Z.
As part of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Summer Disobedience School, I was marching with my fellow occupiers through Times Square on June 2. While skirting the edge of the demo to take photos, I passed a group of young men in business attire. On the surface, they appeared "mainstream"—right out of Central Casting, in fact.

One man was clearly confused by the boisterous march—the signs, the drummers, the costumes, and so much more. "What are they doing?" he pondered aloud. The largest man in the group—his face pinched into an expression of scorn—bellowed: "I'll tell you what they should be doing. They should be looking for a fuckin' job."

He looked so self-satisfied with his parroting of the corporate media line that I couldn't help taking him down a notch. I stopped walking, positioned myself about three feet away—directly in his line of sight—and glared into his eyes.

When he looked at me and saw my "99%" button and the Red Square affixed to my t-shirt, Alpha Male was suddenly confronted with the uncomfortable reality that those he was mocking weren't the skinny hippie pacifists he'd read all about on the interwebs.
"You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fuckin' khakis ... I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let's evolve. Let the chips fall where they may."

- Tyler Durden                                   


His eyes met mine and I held my squinty stare. In a matter of seconds, his self-confidence waned and he diverted his gaze downwards. (#winning) With a smirk, I turned and moved off to catch up with my OWS tribe.

When we reached Bryant Park, I told my friend Lou about the stare-down. He chuckled and replied: "Yeah, what if I don't want a fuckin' job?"

In case you're wondering, I've shared this anecdote not merely to own up to a bit of macho posturing on my part but more importantly, to suggest some questions for the "get a job" crowd.

Firstly, the most obvious: How do you know which occupier does or doesn't have a job? Many people in the movement balance a wide range of responsibilities in order to be present at such actions. This assumption that we're all jobless is based almost solely on corporate media propaganda and the intense social conditioning that "productive" people simply "don't have the time" to engage in nonsense like, say, helping to launch a global revolution.

Lou's response to my experience provokes the next question: What does it say about our culture that having a job is one of the primary barometers of "success"? Of course, by "job" most people mean any paid position that is respected by society's current standards and affords said employee enough money to engage in conspicuous consumption, thus further raising his/her status within a culture hypnotized by materialism.

Related question #1: Are you aware that part of what inspires OWS is a rejection of the work-consume-obey model of human culture?

Related question #2: Can you recognize the paradox of mocking an unemployed occupier as s/he protests the inequitable economic conditions in this country?

In choosing the "get a job" tack, skeptics ironically ignore the economic and social issues that spawned OWS in the first place while tacitly offering support for maintaining a rigged system based on rampant inequality and misinformation.

Going bigger picture here: Exactly what job would you suggest for a socially aware and compassionate human? Capitalism is an economic system based on perpetual growth and the relentless exploitation of what we've come to call "natural resources." By definition, such an approach is unsustainable and cannot be reformed. Thus, almost all jobs within such a lethal system directly or indirectly contribute to the looming ecocide.

Staying with the holistic perspective: Why do you choose to aim your anger and fear at a random protestor you believe may not have a job rather than at the global criminals responsible for consuming, poisoning, and killing our shared landbase?

And finally: Even if every occupier was jobless and even if every occupier immediately found fulfilling paid work in a non-exploitative position, do you realize it wouldn't do a damn thing to rescue our dying ecosystem?

Mic Check: Occupying is a job…and not one for the lazy and selfish.

The lazy and selfish may allow the professional propagandists of the corporate media to do their thinking for them but here are a few things the lazy and selfish would never do:

  • Volunteer their time and energy (under constant threat of arrest) to cook organic, locally grown food to feed the homeless
  • Give up a tenured academic position in another state to come live in a tent in a NYC park and work tirelessly for social justice
  • Spend hours putting together websites, newspapers, working groups, libraries, bands, performances, and events—for free
  • Face up to the myriad crises facing all life on the planet and recognizing the urgency of these crises
  • Stand up to relentless police repression and brutality without even a hint of retreat or surrender
  • Imagine an alternative form of human culture and begin the process of making it happen

Several man-made hierarchies, constructs, and barriers have already been challenged and partially smashed. What OWS is modeling is a far more cooperative, creative, participatory, tolerant, and downsized way of living—a way of life without the spirit-crushing hierarchies and all those "good jobs" we're trained to covet and worship.

So, instead of asking us if we have jobs, ask yourself: What unique gifts do I possess that I can share—as soon as possible—with the growing OWS movement?

Mic Check: You don't need a job. You need an occupation.
photo Mickey Z. (Liberty Square, Oct. 2011)

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