(“Why I’m here” is a series of essays, written by different members of Occupy Binghamton, to explain two simple things: Why they are a part of the movement, and what end results they wish to see. This is done in the hope of greater understanding of one another, and so we may find what common ground we have, being such a diverse group, and moving forward with that.)
By: Member X
Why am I here?
I grew up with the notion that if you worked hard you could get somewhere — or at least feed your family. My father worked as manufacturer at a local company. He started as a young adult in the 70’s. He wasn’t ambitious, he just wanted to provide for his family and keep and maintain social relationships through church and sport activities. He worked hard, eagerly gulping up any overtime and when none was available he often found part time work to supplement his income. Though he was able to avoid many of the perilous layoffs of the nineties his pay stopped rising with the cost of living and our family went into significant debt. He eventually fell victim to a layoff several years after his function had been sold. It didn’t matter how many decades he put into the business, the timing was just off when the function had transitioned. He has no pension. My parents are in debt, the house that they built their dreams on they could no longer maintain and is going through foreclosure. They believe in hard work so much that they blame themselves. They are humiliated.
I myself took a job through a temp agency when I was 19 and was “contracted” out to a company who, only a few years prior, had told their temps that going from “temp” status as a direct employee to working through a temp agency as a contracted employee was a good move for their employment. I stayed with it for many years until I found work at a local manufacturing plant. Starting from the bottom I had no choice but to go in on 3rd shift. My body just couldn’t take it. I left after 6 months, the headaches had become unbearable. This was a good thing in the long run, as this company ended up closing. I was eagerly picked up by my old employer, without losing anything but that 2nd week of vacation that I could never recover due to policy changes. Getting loans is difficult when you work for a temp agency, even when you have open-ended contracts. The health coverage that was extended was a joke. The maximum benefit allowance wasn’t much more than what you had to pay into it to begin with. After 10 years (cumulative) with this company, I was hired by our client. There are two of us that have been hired out of the hundreds (thousands?) that have come through here, some having been here nearly 15 years. People would sometimes ask why I stayed. Most people that I knew that had left for greener pastures ended up layed off mere months after leaving.
Now I make decent enough pay. I have a 401(k) (have you ever looked to see what companies are bundled into your mutual funds? Ask yourself, “do i really want a stake in THIS company thriving?”) and I have benefits. And everyday I see people walk through these doors that make barely more than minimum wage, no benefits to speak of and a variety of 4 yr. degrees. When it floods and they can’t make it into work – they don’t get paid and I do. Have I worked hard? I’d like to think so, but I can acknowledge that the difference between me and them is due to a variety of factors, many of which I have no control over.
I’m here because my avgeragish income shouldn’t be a “success story” among my peers. I’m here because I have relatively low debt that I can barely keep up with, I can’t imagine the folks who stayed in school thinking it was the right thing and now cannot find employment. I’m here for all those who utter “I just want to feed my family” or “I just want to know what it feels like to have a future.” I’m here because I see a chance to demonstrate the effectiveness of direct democracy. I’m here because I want my daughter to grow up in a society that values equity. I’m here because I’m sick of the Wall St. Casino determining when we thrive and when we starve. I’m here because the corporate/government empire has no clothes and regardless of whether or not it “changes” anything we need to at least stand up and say it.
I’m here because though I’m pegged as a progressive liberal and identify myself as an anarchist, I have more in common with the right wing libertarian than either of us has with our counterparts on the hill/in the white house and those whose money comes from hard speculation, not hard work.
The motto appeals to the 99%, but I do not begrudge many of those in that 1% who have worked hard to get there (though I do find it difficult to comprehend how one person’s time can be valued at several times more than another person’s).
We have all heard that power corrupts. For too long we have allowed corruption to empower. We keep playing the same game hoping for a different outcome. We have left our rage to the devices of the voting booth and allowed the pulling of a lever to release our steam. Our anger can be put to better use. I hope to see more people deciding to get involved in their own destinies rather awaiting the marching orders of the latest corporate propaganda. My desire is that Americans become comfortable in being a part of the solution instead of hoping that government will stop servicing the larger corp. interests over the interests of the people. I hope that we learn that we do not need to fear the collapse of the mighty because we can take care of each other. That’s what is going on right now on Wall st. A group of people democratically deciding how to take care of one another in direct defiance to those who normally use that street to play their power games.
What is my one demand? I only demand things from those whose power I acknowledge. Therefore I demand one thing – I ask of myself to root out the ways my dollar supports the tyranny of corporate interests. It’s a hard demand. I hope I’m up for the challenge.
What do I desire? I desire that the federal government and large corporations choose to clean up their acts and put employees before stock holders, that wall street stops playing games, that our gov. stop warring against the world in the name of “democracy” — while folks are still content on showing their anger in mostly legal, peaceful ways. I’m not holding my breath.
What do I hope? That more and more of us decide to work together in networks of solidarity, choosing to acknowledge our common needs over the claims of those who have so effortlessly divided us.