Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

More late night fragments

I really wish I was sleeping.  Instead I am looking at the 1% stand with the 99% tumblr and reflecting on my own brief history with Occupy and privilege.  When Occupy first broke out I was actually taken aback by the 99% slogan.  It encompassed me but didn’t include me.  I am somewhere in the 20%; technically the 99, practically quite different from an under-employed 20 year old throwing things at police.  I am also a first generation immigrant with no family wealth and a deep history (cultural and personal) of relying on community support. Over the years I was put off by the way Obama seemed to make wealth, not criminal so much as, well…hooligan?  I believed, and still believe, that opposition to bonuses on Wall Street and elsewhere is more about keeping up appearance than actual concern over where the money is going.  Furthermore, what I saw coming out of Occupy was deeply reactionary and lacking an informed dialog about resource allocation, tax policy, or education.

I’m not really sure how the change happened.  I still point to the shooting of Scott Olsen as the thing that broke through my defenses.  Whatever else I may believe, I also believe that at no point and in no circumstances is it permissible for the police to shoot war veterans in the head with projectiles of any sort.  Scott Olsen didn’t make me stand with the 99%, but he created the circumstances that made me listen.  And once I tuned in I heard, beneath the reactionary and often conflicted messaging of Occupy, some very salient points.  I heard angry youth graduating into a bad economy with no way to pay off student loans, I heard union workers saying “I want to work” in the face of few remaining manual jobs, and I heard people who had woken up early and gone to work every day for 20 years find themselves laid off and uninsured.  It became possible, for the first time, to find my own place in the diversity of opinions and tactics.  And strangely through all this, I became more American, more patriotic, not less.  Or perhaps it’s not so strange; like hundreds of thousands of other people, my family came to America because it was better, safer, more peaceful, and more prosperous than where we came from.  Occupy to me is, among other things, a way of taking ownership for my country and its future.  A way to bring the prosperity I was welcomed to forward to the next generation of immigrants and fortune seekers.

It is also a refusal to be afraid of my government.

I do not feel guilty for my good fortune, rather I feel that my country, once one of the wealthiest in the world, can provide this to all her citizens.  It’s worth noting what I am grateful for because it is not the stuff I own or my salary.  It is that I was raised with good health insurance and a stable roof over my head.  I was raised without the knowledge of hunger or family violence.  I was given the opportunity to learn in ways that best suited me, and I was surrounded by adults who adjusted my environment, in small ways, to help me succeed.  I attended one of the top 50 universities in the world and graduated without debt, which allowed me the financial freedom to pursue a graduate degree and the emotional freedom to be choosy about my work.  These are the things of which privilege is made.  By the time you look at my salary it’s too late, you’ve missed the foundation of good fortune, and it’s that foundation we need to learn how to distribute.

Written by kinkinexile

January 30, 2012 at 3:45 am

Posted in personal

3 Responses

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  1. Re: wealth as hooliganism, Matt Taibbi says it beautifully: before we even get into the thornier issues of income inequality per se, let’s get rid of the pathway to wealth by *cheating*: see http://bit.ly/sFYEai. No one is getting upset about the wealth of the people who invented the AIDS retrovirals or built an ethical business or even just provide entertainment to millions of people. It’s the bank officers, the sweatshop/Walmart owners, the student loan profiteers who arouse anger: people whose wealth is directly derived from other people being systematically fucked over.

    You’re right that the anger over Wall Street bonuses is emotional rather than part of a fully thought-out economic plan, but that emotion is not about appearances, it’s about morality: we don’t like to see the directors of businesses that have acknowledged engaging in criminal activity receive bonuses out of our tax money. It’s not about the dollar amount: those people should be in jail (and the 20-year-old black kid from East Oakland caught dealing weed should not be) but instead they’re getting bonuses due to their position in the plutocracy. Obama may talk a good game about financial hooligans (two years late, after public outrage finally reached boiling point) but the lack of DoJ prosecutions of bank officers tells a different story.

    & finally, I think you are identifying a bit too much with the 1%. I get the sense you’re framing it as a linear scale, a difference in degree. “I can afford to buy nicer clothes/dinners/housing than my friends and go to good universities, so the very wealthy can afford to buy even nicer stuff and have even more opportunities.” It’s not a difference in degree, though, it’s a difference in kind. The ultra-wealthy play by entirely different rules, enjoy immunities and access to power that the merely rich can never dream of, get to borrow money for free and have their mistakes paid back by working folk, and have (almost) entirely captured representative democracy at the state and federal levels. See: http://bit.ly/vy5TnR. Unless you have recently purchased some legislation that favors your interests or can afford not to care about the fate of the US economy because your income is independent of it, you are very much the 99%. Don’t succumb to divide and conquer.

    Erica

    January 30, 2012 at 8:36 am

  2. I enjoy your brain.

    I am the 1% and stand with the 99%.

    I am trying to think more deeply about how we arrived at our current state. If we aren’t both accurate and honest about the causes, the solutions will evade us.

    One thought: When we all studied the foundations of international trade (comparative advantage and all that stuff), do you ever remember time or rate of change being part of the model? So while I can see the abuses of our current age, there have always been abuses. What is new is that we accelerated the globalized the world’s economy that began with the spice trade without consideration of two critical dimensions:
    1) If the rate of change is too fast, resources can not be redeployed efficiently. Much of the “you grow apples, I’ll grow oranges” benefit is outweighed by the pure loss of real humans, living in a real place, lacking the skills, personality, and mindset to provide the labor and services that are in demand in their locale. This under-utilization is never unrecoverable, and it’s impact is clearly not distributed evenly across society.
    2) Our notion of equity, fairness, and economic justice is tied to nation-states. No one would disagree that our bottom 10% is doing quite well by the standards of Sudan or even India. But we say “this is America”, and indeed it is, because we are the ones joined in some type of social contract that supports our agreement about the form of our government. The issue is that in a globalized economy, our distribution of everything (wealth, opportunity, etc.) gets blended with nation-states all over the world. The increase in average income levels that quit happening in the US in the late 90’s began happening on the other side of the globe. Our bell curve starts merging with the world’s bell curve, yet our expectations, customs, and even needs are nation-state based.

    The solution is hard. More of our 99% need the ability and resources to claw their way back up the global heap. Educational attainment is a (somewhat) measurable foundation. Underneath education is family stability and societal attitudes… stuff we have a heard time talking about honestly. Physical infrastructure still matters… so do efficient capital markets and ways to enable workers to relocate in spite of negative household equity. The list is long.

    Alan

    February 1, 2012 at 7:58 am

    • Never recoverable I meant to say.

      Alan

      February 1, 2012 at 8:00 am


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