What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A day in the life.

So yesterday was a mesmerizing day.  I woke to sunshine and hope.  It was followed by a bit of love, a little annoyance and domestic despair, even a touch of hopelessness.  Then I rushed off to work.  But this wasn't a day of ordinary work.  I was paid to be at a protest rally.  I was paid to hand out political theater on the sidewalk.  I was paid to keep people within the confines of a march, to marshal a protest (i.e. to keep it within the legal parameters of public protest while yet protesting against the illegality of so much of our society).  I must admit that I struggled the night before with the idea of being paid to exercise my freedom of political expression.  But I seemed to easily get past it once we got to Trump Tower and were getting set up.  I was excited. 

I was going to be handing out envelopes with "more money than GE, Verizon, Bank of America, etc. had paid in taxes in the last three years", (one penny inside) and then engaging in conversation about it all with passers-by.  It was great.  But I tell you what, midtown (and 5th ave of course) was a nightmare for sympahty.  Tourists, rich people, businessy types, and an occasional blue collar delivery or tech service type guy.  We did this for a while and then went to down to near Rockefeller center and eventually Bryant park.  Actually it was across the street from the park and Bank of America, right in front of the NFL store!  Which I didn't know existed!  But I'll get back to that in a sec.  So we just waited and waited and waited for things to get organized.  But I just stayed on the corner and handed out my envelopes.  It was so much more fun than just milling about.  I love this kind of stuff.  Flyering is great.  Engaging with real people, about real issues.  Most want to have nothing to do with you, some take it or keep walking while you get your qhick last second hook in.  The business types seem to be the worst, so arrogant.  They don't need your "money" and they certainly don't have anything to "learn" from you is the vibe thy give off.  Hell, why don't they at least stop and teach me something??  No time, no interest, more important things. 

There were some amazing moments though, people who just look at you in amazement at what they've just learned.  People that have no clue of any of this stuff.  It was also interesting in thinking about the people that I approached as well.  The only methodological selection I tried to do was to weed out foreigners.  Otherwise, it was as random as people that weren't on the phone, or obviously rushing.  Suits, sweats, jeans, men, woman, whatever.  But you could see some people when you offer them "money" stop and look like they could desperately use it.  I felt bad sometimes knowing that there really was only a penny in there.  But I think that was the point.  They needed money, they were paying their taxes, and these big businesses had a net tax burden below zero.  They were getting money back.  That's a tough pill for many to swallow.

Anyway, it was an interesting day of that.  But at one point kind of surreal.  Anyone that knows me, knows that I come from a place and history so completely mired by a passion for football and all things related.  One person walking on the sidewalk - unbeknownst to me of course - worked in the NFL retail store there.  I of course tried to give him an envelope and finish the story as he ducked into the store.  I didn't follow him, but tried to finish it from the entrance until he turned around and stood next to the security guard and told me to stop.  He was so rude.  To him I'm sure all I was was just another dirty protestor messing up his day, little does he know how much of my heart has been poured into football and the NFL.  I worked for years with the NFL in Europe with player development, junior national teams, marketing and business development.  Coaching and developing young prospects and sending players to their elite camps, developing the game, playing there.  I played Division I football, and even pushed the game a bit in China and Sierra Leone of all places.  So much of my soul has been spilled on football.  I stood there in silent disbelief, I froze speachless.  He obviously took my hesitation and blank stare as an affront as I looked down at my feet in a daze and saw my one big toe lightly touching the door frame.  I wasn't allowed in the store.  Obviously, they don't want our political theater there, but it was so surreal to me as the two passions I've followed in life came so resoundingly crashing into each other.  I am an activist now.  And the NFL is just another giant corporate entity - granted, one that runs its league along egalitarian socialist terms!  It was tough for some reason to feel that though, to be hurt by it, and to wake up this morning with it in my head.  Odd, yet kind of painful all the same. 

Fact is the whole day ended with a lot of oddities.  Marching for money and organizing for money with an organization is so different.  I go back to the whole horizontalism versus hierarchical structures for getting things done discussion.  The organization of the march was actually kind of poor during it.  They had three groups of marshals, one in the front, one in the middle, and one in the back.  Nothing in between keeping everyone together or on the right path, just clumps.  I took initiative at one point and stopped at a spot where there was construction dividing people and tried to keep them together.  I later approached my "leader" about it and he resoundingly shut down any thought of such preemptive initiative.  We were to stay together and do as he said, which put probably 15 marshals just walking together and occasionally providing a human shield for speakers (which could have been done by half of us).  It was amazing to see this concept of oversight and a lack of faith in individual personal capacity.  At occupy, people just step in and make things happen they see need to be done.  Who needs designated people to keep crowds off speakers when you can just ask people from the audience to do it on the spot?  Free will, personal agency, all hierarchyed out of they equation.  I so much prefer the occupy method, and for the first time REALLY saw what people mean when they say Occupy is a "leaderfull" movement rather than a "leaderless" movement.  Given agency and purpose I believe people will step up, feel empowered to act, and act in an intuitive communal way.   I believe Occupy shows this.

As it was, there was not a big Occupy presence there at this rally though.  I was under the impression they would be meeting up with us today.  But it didn't happen.  Not that their weren't occupier's there, but it was not a huge presence.  Maybe they were all still down on Wall St getting mistreated...

Anyway, the rest of the day went as it does.  Some good comradery and catching up with occupiers and others as the "work" and the march wound down.  But then of course there was more domestic uncertainty and dismay as the evening went on.  Life is a struggle right now.  As was yesterday.  I felt at home - to my core - acting within my own personal agency, activating other people, reaching out to them, engaging, and then just stepping in and filling unforeseen gaps in the event.  But sadly, as much as I felt at home and felt like I TRULY made a difference yesterday, I stand a very good chance of losing my job today.  It doesn't matter what I can do on a street corner with the issues, or step up at an event and make things happen, it is only about how much money I can make for them.  And yeah, it probably doesn't help that in filing in holes in the event, I was not following "orders" appropriately.  Who knows how much that will matter.  Some seemed to see the value of that, others seemed more concerned with their own power maintanence - a product of their adherence to and belief in hierarchy perhaps.  But so be it.  I felt good about things, even if I don't feel good about my prospects in this type of life per say.  Wholly capable, yet wholly in capable it seems.  


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