It is time again for the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Many people in the United States are looking forward to filling out their brackets and watching the marathon of hoops action in the coming weeks. According to consulting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, in 2010 the private sector lost $1.8 billion dollars during the March Madness tournament. Most of the losses occurred within the first two days of the tournament. Online viewership increased by 36% in 2011, and is expected to spike again this year. So far, an estimated 26.4 million dollars has been spent to repress the Occupy movement and “repair” the parks. $26.4 million over the first five months of the entire movement. If these figures are accurate, it would mean that March Madness does about 68.1 times more damage to capital in about two days (most of the lost hours take place over the first Thursday and Friday of games) than the first five months of the entire Occupy movement. While the cost of the Occupy movement largely rests with municipal governments, March Madness strikes at the very core of capital: the private-sector workplace.
I’m tired of fighting with people, especially liberals, over impossibilities. Impossibility is merely defined by the limits of human perception. When people stopped believing the Sun revolved around the Earth, it wasn’t because the planets and stars were suddenly different, it was our ability to perceive them that shifted. In fact, life itself is a series of impossibilities. The probability of existing as you are is about 1 in 10^2,685,000.
So if reality is a string of impossibilities, then the old social movement saying “Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible” is an incredible truth. Engaging the impossible is not about restructuring external forces and structures, it is about altering our understandings and relationships. Impossibility is transformed to reality through human imagination. The question is no longer how to adapt institutions, how to get power, or how to vote; rather, the only question that matters is HOW DO WE WANT TO LIVE TOGETHER! Although, answering this question and fundamentally altering the nature of human relationships is not an easy task.
Our culture is obsessed with apocalyptic depictions of the planet’s demise. Stories ranging from the rapture to asteroids/aliens to climate change all show the amount of energy we invest into thinking about extinction level catastrophe (no matter how unlikely). People build shelters for nuclear holocaust, read scripture for divine judgment, and make any number of efforts in anticipation of human distinction. In my experience, I find that it is easier for people to envision the rapture, than it is for them to imagine capitalism’s demise. Most people I know believe that a world without capitalism is not only improbable, but that any attempt to explore alternatives is futile. The often-repeated motif is “Capitalism has it’s problems, but it is the best we have and there is no alternative.”
First, I want to begin by offering working definitions of capitalism. Drawing from the Free Association, capitalism is
1) the endless search for profit
In the two days since I got back from New York, I realized that I needed to take a step back and really explain my experience and state of mind at the time of my civil disobedience during Occupy Wall Street.
Banks bought & sold each individual mortgage in the United States an average of 7 times before the sub-prime mortgage crisis. These financial institutions made so many bets on the mortgages that they did not have enough assets to cover their potential losses. They would not be able to pay the people that they owed money, which destabilized the entire economy and led to many people losing their jobs and their homes.
These mortgage bets became known as “toxic assets”. Instead of allowing the collapse of these institutions that bought and sold mortgages like Pokémon cards in 1998, the government relieved these corporations of their toxic assets and prevented them from losing their money.
The people who captured this footage were beaten, and one, Marissa, spent 30 hours in custody. I spent 27 hours in custody and was charged with disorderly conduct.
Here is the subsequent right-wing smear campaign:
They called my mother, pretended to be a friend from Facebook, and ambushed her with questions. It is true, my parents are doing a short-sale in an attempt to prevent the forcible repossession of their house by the bank. If the house doesn’t sell, the house will be foreclosed on. My dad has cancer and is disabled, my mother lost her job. They have been under tremendous financial pressure for years now as they try to keep afloat, these recent events of disability and loss of employment were the final straw. Their mortgage became a “toxic asset”, just like the financial industries that traded mortgages that became “toxic assets”. Unfortunately, the financial industry got their toxic assets relieved, while millions of families got homelessness with no relief.
I revised this post for clarity. The point of this post is to say that foreclosure and sub-prime mortgages are not the end of this financial crisis. There are millions of Americans, with millions of different stories, who have been caught up in this financial tragedy.
I told my story, and I stand by it. I have talked about my own family, and our situation in an effort to explain my civil disobedience because I thought that by being forthcoming, people might understand. I now realize that there is no amount of honesty about my life that I can tell that will help people understand just how bad it is for many families in United States.
This is a new world that we are creating. At the time of my arrest, I threw down my backpack and my vest into the middle of the street. I was removed and taken to 1st Precinct, and subsequently Central Booking, where I would not be released until 27 hours later. Upon my return to our camp at Liberty Plaza, both my vest and backpack (which had my phone, keys, books, and other valuables) were back at the camp waiting for me.
This story is a testament to the power of our movement. WE ARE THE 99%. We are changing the very manner in which we treat one another. We reject capitalism’s mandate of competition and we replace it with cooperation and compassion as we look to build a new social existence. We are the 99%
One of my favorite stories about my father is when he was protesting Apartheid by laying down and blocking the entrance to a Frank Sinatra concert. My Dad is a pretty big guy, and the way the story is told, it took at least five officers to lift him up and take him to jail. Now, I watch my father lay in pain from cancer; and it instead of police, I and my little brother help him to his feet. I’m there to listen to him discuss how he is going to pay for his own death; nothing hurts me more. At the end of the day, my father did well for a Black man from rural North Carolina. Between my father and mother, a Black woman from urban Pittsburgh, they have six degrees. Despite these and other “successes”, even they can potentially be casualties of the ravages of government austerity measures and unemployment. So how can I believe in an American dream after seeing the endgame?
The debt-ceiling deal had me depressed. I was so upset that I wrote that I was done with Barack Obama. This deal was,in my lifetime, the single-most spineless sacrifice of the citizens’ interests in the name of political compromise. Seriously, I think this deal was on-par with the Hayes Compromise of 1876. While the Hayes Compromise ended Reconstructing, this debt-ceiling deal (and its surrounding narrative) is a major step towards collapsing the welfare system in this country.
The “deal” calls for 917 billion in cuts, with 570 billion coming from “nondefense discretionary spending”, which is money that goes to education, job training, health research, border security, infrastructure, environmental and consumer protection, childcare, law enforcement, etc. Basically, these are the cuts to the services that affect our daily lives, and represent a marginal improvement over Rep. Paul Ryan’s austerity plan.
The Revolution Will Not Be Actualized is a series about austerity policy and the anti-cuts movement it spawned. After beginning to write a few articles, I realized that I needed to disclose why I was writing about austerity and what it means to me. The elimination of public services is not some abstract government policy; it is a lived experience. It is an experience that I am living right now.
My parents work for a small adoption agency that specializes in finding homes for Black children in the child-welfare system. This is arduous work, but I have seen the reward that comes with giving a child a chance to know love. There was a child with severe autism that rendered him unable to speak and made it difficult for him to remain in one place or follow instructions. My father made it his mission to find this boy a home that could cater to his specific needs, and he eventually succeeded in finding a Black two-parent family for this child. After being in the home for three months, the boy could now communicate, follow instructions, and have self-control. Because of the work my father did, this boy now had a chance to experience a loving home, and it has completely altered the course of his life.