What’s my part?

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is growing rapidly. People across USA are joining together for this issue. As shown the video above, some of my friends are involved with this for Occupy Oakland.

To be frank, we have been talking a lot about OWS in class and I never really understood what was going on and why people were reacting to this. I decided to watch several videos and ask people around. I finally get the concept, but I am still uncertain what I should do. I have this mixed feelings about this protest. A part of me agrees that this needs to happen. The government needs to wake up and listen to us. We should not let only 1% control our economy when this is our world too. What’s more is that I completely can relate to the issue about cops/other authorities becoming more violent over simple peaceful protests. We say we have the rights to express ourselves, so if we protest in a peaceful way, we still get trampled over/beaten up by cops. I can relate to this because Gallaudet University had two protests: 1988 and 2006. Both of them were about our university’s presidents.

In 1988, we protested to have a Deaf president after a hearing president being elected. We won. The protest was non violent.

In 2006, we protested to have another president after one president being elected. Again, we won. This also was a peaceful protest.

I participated with the 2006 protest. It was an unbelievable experience. However, since we were protesting in a peaceful way, we still got mauled over by cops. I personally have experienced being thrown down by a cop just because I was standing n front of the gate, not letting the cops in with the new president. My friends and I were not violent. We just clutched our arms together and stood attached together peacefully. Yet, the cop took out his baton and started to shove us out of the way. He got to me, twisted my arm, and pinned me to the ground. I did not even fight back. But, that experience has taught me to realize- where were my rights? Freedom of expression? That’s a contradiction.

The OWS makes me feel like my university’s protest all over again. I do feel that I should support it. But the other part of me is resistant to supporting this idea because I don’t see how our protests will actually CHANGE the government system. The government might hear us out, recognize our problem, and try to soothe our anger. But, will it actually change? I am not sure. Are we really wasting our time? We cannot just tell the rich people to pay more taxes. We cannot tell those 1% to stop controlling our economy and shut down their businesses. Our governance is already deeply rooted in the system. It is almost impossible to change. Is it even possible to “de-institutionalize” our government system to satisfy everyone? I don’t think it can be done. I am proud that we are protesting to wake the government, but I am also ashamed to say I do not even know what my part in this should be because I am uncertain if our energy should be wasted on something that will not change.


4 Comments to “What’s my part?”

  1. Hi Renca,
    Thank you for your post. I read your article and really identified with you when you say that while you are in favor of the OWS protests, you are unsure of your own role in participating in the protests as a means to change the system. I, too, have spent many a night, listening to my activist friends from all over the US inform and update me about the OWS movement in several US cities. Hearing their perspectives, the movement makes sense and I feel proud that the American public has finally moved from apathy to activism. Given that I have student debt it will probably take me years to pay off and I have health insurance for one more year before I may be in big trouble, I should join in the protests, right?

    Last week, the phone conversations among my activists friends finally got to me–I took a stroll through OWS DC. What did I find? Tents covering almost every square inch of Franklin Square; one of the tents set up a free food and beverage stand so that all of the protesters and home-less people remained fed while on grounds; another woman advertising “free haircuts” was snipping away at the long, straggled hair of a man who may or may not have been a participant in the movement; and of course, you had the crazy looking people–those using the spotlight to gain a little attention of their own with wacky costumes, hair styles and ludicrous signs ranging from religious topics to abortion rights. As I wandered through the myriad of characters occupying this small park of DC, I thought to myself, where do I fit in?

    Is identification with the cause of a movement all it takes to begin protesting? Or does it take a belief that protests are a legitimate form of social change. If I identify and believe in the power of protests (which I do), what is holding me back? Time! I’m too busy STRUGGLING to make it in this economy and in graduate school so that I am NOT left in the streets, that I’m too afraid to waste my time complaining about a system that may never change. I know this is a poor and quite jaded excuse (I’m embarrassed to say), but it’s my reality as of now.


  2. My dear Lauren aka ‘my partner in the struggle’! Thanks for replying to Renca’s post. My dear Renca, thanks for this wonderful post. Like you and Lauren, I believe in protests and have been involved in a couple myself. Like you Renca, the recent OWS movements and protests honestly made me think about times in the past when I was involved in protests about matters that I care about. I remember when we decided during my undergrad years to protest against some things that were going on in the campus, a lot of people felt it was a waste of time because it was a problem that would never change plus nobody had time to be marching in the snow! (It was winter time when we started our marches). So Lauren don’t feel embarrassed for being honest. The reality is true- we are struggling graduate students- period! But as I hide my head under all the excuses, I am reminded of people like MLK who fought and died to stop racism in America. Did he succeed? Well some people feel that answer is relative. But yes he did, at least I am sitting in classroom with people who are not the same skin color as I am. But the point is I am sure there were struggling graduate students at that time who couldn’t make the movement their daily motivation, that is where the role of a leader comes in. I really think the validation and progress of this movement will require a leader. Someone who can work round the clock until something happens. Because I know for a fact between papers, exams, trying to pay my rent, I’m not trying to champion the OWS movement. It’s not my calling as of the moment.

  3. Dear Ladies, let me join your conversation 😉

    I wonder how many people (including me) ask the same question as you did in your blog post. Really, “What’s my part?” What is the role of an individual in the making of the social world as we know it? This is an interesting question which people have been trying to answer for a long time.

    My attitude to it has gradually evolved. My cynical side wants to say: Do you really think powerful people will let a bunch of leftist youngsters change the comfortable system that works the best for them? When that much money is at stake? Are you kidding?
    On the other hand, I understand that this is exactly the kind of attitude any authority would want its subjects to have, and by thinking so I am becoming “a perfect subject” in a way, which also makes me feel uneasy. I begin thinking of all the people whom I respect immensely—intellectuals, writers, historians, both contemporary and those who lived in other times—and I realize that their attitude to authority was never neutral. They never took a “whatever” approach, and that was partially what singled them out from the silent crowds. For example, in the tsarist Russian empire, count Leo Tolstoy achieved such tremendous authority through his writings that the almighty tsar’s intelligence office would not dare arrest him out of fear of the social unrest that could ensue. These same writings have greatly influenced the prominent Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, and led to his development of the concept of non-violent resistance. In turn, due to Gandhi’s political activities and moral leadership, India became a free and more democratic country than it ever was before.

    Of course these are all examples of outstanding people whose talent and charisma allowed them to do what they have done. But the point that, I guess, I would like to make here is that human agency does matter, and the world is what we make of it. The other question is that this “making” is usually a pretty long and violent process, while the results of it are usually enjoyed by future generations.
    Nonetheless, getting back to the Occupy DC protests, I think it is important, if not to actually go there, then at least to follow the events online and try to form your own opinion about them. That’s what I am currently trying to do. I think that being aware of the unfairness and unsustainability of the current world system will inform my future decisions about how I am going to contribute in my own professional life.

    Given that I am a foreigner, I am also interested in how these protests are spilling across borders now, because I hope it will help people in Russia to be less indifferent to their own situation.

  4. Commenting a little late, but this is something I have often grappled with. It’s hard to be involved, and I truly admire the people that have the time and energy to devote to something they care about. I am all for change in this country, I think we’re a bit overdue for some. However I too get frustrated trying to figure out how to be involved. I went to the talk with two guys from the Egypt movement. I really enjoyed hearing what they had to say, but when asked how they were able to be so involved and how they financed everything. Their only answer was the money doesn’t matter.

    This just frustrated me only even more with my own hopes of getting involved in something a care about. It’s easy to say that, perhaps they had family support or whatever. But when you’re literal survival depends on going to work everyday, so you don’t lose your job, so you can feed yourself. It’s a little difficult to just say what they hell, and go do what you want. Especially with the economy the way it is, you get fired for not going to work, you’re going to have a hard time picking up another decent job in DC.

    So how do people do it? So many people do risk these things for the causes they care about. I agree with previous comments that sometimes the best thing you can do is be informed. It never seems like enough, but it’s better than nothing. That’s one of the ironies I’ve found in that it’s usually students who protest (at least in the U.S.) They’re the ones with more time because they’re being supported often by gov loans so that they can just focus on school. At least in this respect the current system does support our freedom of speech. They give us the “freedom” of time to actually care.

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