What follows is a journalistic piece by Neferiu’s own Jonathan Stoddart AKA Ricca Razor Sharp on his recent/current trip to New York to learn more about the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Fear and Loathing on Wall Street
by Jonathan Stoddart
Episode 1: Packing and Pondering
3:30 PM Mountain Time, Friday October 14, 2011.
My home, in Calgary, AB, Canada.
My name is Jonathan Stoddart, and I am an independent journalist, based out of Calgary, AB, Canada. This is the first in a series of pieces I will submit over the coming days documenting my upcoming trip to New York City to cover the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ (OWS) demonstrations.
What is Occupy Wall Street?
For those of you not completely familiar with OWS, it is an ongoing series of demonstrations taking place, centered around Zuccotti Park, in the financial district of Manhattan, New York City. Although the movement has no official spokesperson, or list of demands, it is largely seen as a response to perceived corporate greed, corporate influence over government, and the shrinking of the middle class. The demonstrators claim to ‘represent the 99%’, a reference to the largely disproportionate amount of wealth held by the richest 1% of society. It began modestly on September 17, and has seen steady growth ever since. On Saturday, Oct 15, demonstrations of a similar nature will be held in cities across the US, Canada, and indeed, much of the world. Critics of the movement have categorized the protestors as unrealistic, suggesting that they are looking for handouts, and unable to grasp the inner-workings of the capitalist system. Others, however, are sympathetic to their cause, and are angered over the lack of prosecution or accountability for those seen to be responsible for the 2008 financial crisis. Although I do not wish to pigeon-hole this movement, or burden it with the weight of a controversial title, it is generally seen to be somewhat left-wing in nature, and has attracted proponents of various other environmental and social causes. For those who wish to learn more about OWS, might I suggest reading the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Wall_Street
Why Am I Going?
I will be flying to New York City on Saturday, October 15, and returning to Calgary on Tuesday, October 18. The reasons I am attending Occupy Wall Street are numerous, and range from philosophical to practical. Firstly, I have long been a passionate follower of politics and social causes, and see the launch of this movement as a potentially pivotal moment in the timeline of public and political discourse. Secondly, I am also a journalist, and have decided to cover this event from a (mostly) neutral point of view. Although I am not being commissioned to do this piece by any publication, I think that writing is a ‘use it or lose it’ type of talent, and so I am going as an independent journalist. (The technical term for what I am is ‘blogger’, although ‘independent journalist’ just sounds so much fancier). I will attempt to use this blog to answer questions about the demonstration, questions that, as of today, I too am left searching for answers to. Thirdly, the trip was made affordable by the donation of two ‘buddy passes’ for cheap airfare (Thanks a million!), the availability of affordable lodging at a hostel, and the $671 I retrieved from my change jar. Finally, I am making this trip for the simple reason that I love New York City. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to eat some good food, buy a couple t-shirts, and do some people-watching.
A Bit About Me
Although I will be attempting to cover these events as a journalist, and not a demonstrator, it is probably fair to disclose my political leanings. While I am not COMPLETELY sold on all of the details of this movement, I am GENERALLY in favor of it, as far as my current understanding of it goes. Although I support the free-market system, I believe that the financial sector is currently wielding excessive power over the political establishment, and I see this as damaging to democracy. Although I suppose I am ‘moderately left-wing’, I am not a hardcore fiscal lefty. If I were a Playgirl centerfold*, my turn-offs would include ‘people who expect something for nothing’ and ‘people who raise their voices to excessive levels, only to reveal that they don’t know what they’re talking about.’ (Are these the type of people I will find at OWS?) Having said this, I believe in compassion for those in need, both on a national, and community level.
Socially, I suppose, I am further left (Weed in Wal-Mart! Gay Marriage! Unionize the Prostitutes!) Basically, if it’s not hurting me, or any other unwitting members of society, then give er heck. If you are wondering whether I consider those values to be at odds with my Christian upbringing, I do not. My loving parents did what they could to instill a certain code of behaviour and beliefs in me, but never taught me that it was my job to instill them on society as a whole. ‘Mind your business’ was an oft-repeated mantra.
As far as me personally, the economic downturn that triggered this movement is really just a newspaper story thus far. I run my own small business. Well I am by no means wealthy, neither do I go without. I would love a fancy car and a house in Mount Royal, but I am also quite at peace with the lifestyle I lead, and the choices I must make to sustain it.
In general, I am just a dude who tries to stay socially aware, and therefore I am going to New York City to see what I can find out about this movement, which still remains somewhat of an enigma to me.
*Playgirl has not called of yet. Perhaps some more sit-ups are in order.
Mentally Pumping Up
In recent days, I have had several enlightening discussions on the subject of ‘OWS’, and politics in general. My brother Joel opined that this movement is “the natural next step in what has been a 3-year-long frustration with corporate greed, high unemployment, and the continued hollowing out of the middle class,” but added, “How I feel about this OWS depends on the day. Some days, I feel like it’s just a bunch of whiners who should go try to get a job, but on the other days I totally support them and want them to bring down the man.”
Carter Nickerson, a friend since junior high, has a considerably more skeptical view of the situation. As a Nova Scotia lobster fisherman, he is accustomed to getting his money through sweat and hard work, “They (the demonstrators) represent everyone in life who hasn’t had everything go their way, people who are not willing to accept personal responsibility. They want change, but cant explain what they want to change to.”
What is going on with this movement? What will I find in New York City? Will I be able to interpret things in a way that will make sense to people of such disparate points of view? Are the gaps bridge-able? One may suppose that I would prepare for a trip to a Wall Street demonstration by listening to some Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, or even Public Enemy. Great bands to be sure, but not today. I am listening to the playlist on my ITunes labeled ‘Mellow Mix’, featuring such songs as ‘Beautiful’ by Christina Aguilera and ‘Baby, I Love Your Way’ by Peter Frampton. With members of society on all sides of the debate shouting so loudly, and arguing so vehemently, it is my possibly naïve, yet ultimately lofty goal to remain in a Zen state of mind, so that I may be better prepared to recognize potentially unifying factors, even as I step into the belly of discontent.
Stay tuned for Episode 2. I hope to have it uploaded Saturday night, although due to the unpredictability of my schedule, it may turn out to be Sunday morning.
Jonathan Stoddart is a freelance journalist slash market research analyst currently based out of Calgary, AB. He also performs hip-hop music under the name ‘Ricca Razor Sharp’. People wishing to repost this blog are encouraged to do so. Publications interested in potentially using this material can contact the author via Facebook or at email@example.com
Those wishing to express their opinions in the comments section are encouraged to do so. For maximum impact of your statements, please consider avoiding the use of name calling, and focus instead on a respectful interpretation of the logic of your argument. Thank you.
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