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...

Saturday, March 3, 2012


So I feel like it is time for this blog to actually get used again.  But the Africa stuff has been going so slowly that I think it is time to just jump in and do some writing about life, its peculiarities, and revolution.  During the last five months I have been Occupying.  Frankly, this post is not where I really want to get into the whole of the last five months.  Rather I'm thinking I'll pick up as life is today, and fill in the holes as it all goes.

I'll pick up where I sit right now.  I am in Brooklyn, Bedford-Stuyvesant.  I just had an incredibly interesting evening chatting with a slightly staggered African American gentleman I met at the liquor store.  He was talking to the shop keeper about love, how it existed and why he had it for all people.  This is of course a conversation I had no trouble running headlong into!!  Got my cheap bottle of rum and took the conversation outside - stop and frisk, race relations, whatever.  I love the neighborhood.  I'm not really living there per say.  My girlfriend does.  I'm still wholly about occupation it seems, and I occupy three different places at any given day of the week.  Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, Glenwood Queens, or the West Village in Manhattan.  The park is gone, no more sleeping there for me.  Now its about surviving in whatever way we can on our own.

I've just started a job.  This is where I've decided I really needed to start writing here again.  I am working for a relatively obscure political party that focuses on progressive issues and campaigns topush legislation through on these issues (raising the minimum wage, campaign finance reform, over turning corporate personhood, anti-fracking, etc).  The shock and awe of life back in the "real world" has been amazing.  But not how you'd think it would be.  One of the beauties of Occupy has been its horizontal structure.  Everyone has an equal voice.  Conversation is dignified and egalitarian (for the most part).  People wait their turn, use non verbal communication to engage in the conversation while still not being intrusive.  On the whole, everyone is equal.

Now though, I work in the "real world", where corporate structures and hierarchical forms of doing things reign.  It is truly eye opening.  To think that this was the way that things seemed normal to me 6 months ago.   To have a boss, a chain of command, a pecking order, egos fixated on seniority, and a staff of "arms lengths" type.  I feel like I'm in a reverse culture shock like when I came back to the US for the first time after living in Prague for two years.  It's like everything that seemed so innately normal has suddenly been flipped upside down.  That world seems so ridiculous now.  To think that we have these structures in society that completely and purposely segregate us.  Completely make some voices so much more important than others.  We sit there and act as if this is about merit, about hard work; but there are so many factors - history, education, socio-economics, etc - that dictate these relationships in a way that occupy has completely flipped on its head.  I mean, why is it that everyone does not have an equal voice in a corporate structure?  Why is it that I - even as a white male - feel even more emboldened to speak i this setting?  I don't so much at Occupy, where I feel less emboldened to speak as I try to "step back" at times, in an effort for every gender, ethnicity, race, creed, socio-economic and education level to have more of a voice.  In the context of this conversation though, and having more voices involved and heard, I feel like more people should be speaking, more voices heard.   

At Occupy, everyone in theory (and even in attempt I feel), is on the same footing: the millionaire and the homeless, the black and the white, the male and the female, the employer and the employee.  Now granted, it does not always work smoothly.  People still feel innately ostracized at times, but at least at Occupy it is more about history and the effects of growing up in our current society, rather than the current day's fixed institutionalized structures and social patterns that reinforce those same old power dynamics so daily.

This is the work world we live in, fully hierarchical, wholly marginalizing, completely disheartening.  I miss Occupy already.  Not that I am gone, but at even the first taste of that "real world", I am still yearning for that other life.  A new occupation.  What an amazing culture shock.  I wish everyone could feel the empowerment of actually having a voice, only to have it suppressed again.