We’ve all heard statistics about this, like the fact that 1% of Americans own 40% of the country’s wealth. But to really grasp the grotesquely unequal extent of the situation, take 6 minutes to watch this interpretation:
All of our grievances are connected.
There are individual heroes doing great things in this country, and they don’t make it to the news every night. A doctor who storms a panel on healthcare to demand that her colleagues join her in the streets. A woman who stands up in a Congressional hearing on deficit reduction to admonish her legislators: we all know how to end the deficit! End the wars! Tax the rich! A woman who bravely speaks to a crowd about her father, who had literally shot himself to death to avoid burdening his daughter with insurmountable hospital bills. This is the country we have made, and it is up to us to re-make it.
[UPDATE 2012-11-03: This movie is no longer available on Vimeo. Here is a trailer below.]
I had kind of an extended Labor Day holiday, even without traveling or really taking off much work. Jarrett and Candice were in town and we used that as our reason to be out and about nearly every night for a week, exploring, celebrating, and having adventures.
The real purpose of their trip was Amy and John’s wedding, and as we have become friendly with the betrothed (we even live on the same street now!) we scored an invite as well. The ceremony and reception were held at the Jersey City Hyatt and featured the colorful dress and melodic chanting that mark an Indian wedding.
We went out for lots of meals together, including Roberta’s for lunch, and some snooty place that Jarrett wanted to check out, which ended up being quite good. Zack’s parents took us all out to dinner on my actual birthday, so that was a really generous treat. The chosen restaurant was Lincoln (under the grass field/art installation at Lincoln Center), which has glass walls. As Jarrett and I approached the entrance, I noticed Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon sitting together, drinking wine, I shit you not. I tweeted that out to #OWS, but alas, the masses did not descend. 🙂
The following Saturday, my wife threw a dinner party at the apartment with Piers, Rachel and my mother. That was really nice of her. I’m a lucky guy.
I heard about this from an Occupy email asking people to show solidarity by coming to a 6pm daily “vigil”. It sounded like a great reason to hop on the bike and ride down 5th Avenue about 30 blocks to Sunset Park.
I arrived to find a half-dozen Latino tenants, nearly all of advanced middle age, standing out on the sidewalk. It was a bit awkward as I asked, “Is this the rent strike?” I looked well out of place, rolling up in a mint-green lady beach cruiser, a gleaming white, brand new helmet atop my head. But I persisted, and a young lady who I learned later was not a tenant, but a fellow supporter, confirmed that I had found the right place. She was kind enough to fill me in on some of the back story while the other ladies conversed in Spanish. A man resembling a steam locomotive stood nearby, wielding a large plumber’s wrench with unknown intent.
The building loses electricity all the time, according to the tenants. They might have outages 30 times a day. They have a fuse box in the basement that is overheated and exposed. Apparently the super’s solution to this crackling, sparking fuse box was to point a fan at it. The landlord, Orazio Petito, is on the public advocate’s Worst Landlords list. In response, many of the tenants have stopped paying rent – some for a few months, some for over a year.
CBS Local reported on the story:
Notice the last line of the report: “The tenants say they’re going to save up their withheld rent money, and make the repairs themselves if they have to.”
That reminded me of a line Chomsky often repeats about sit-down strikes really putting fear into the owning class: “That’s just one step away from workers running the factory themselves.” As in, why do these people need a slumlord like Petito when they can just band together and administer the building themselves?
The best story I’ve found on it is by Laura Gottesdiener in the Indypendent. Read the whole thing to hear the story of these amazing women, but here’s a choice bit about the value of these actions:
The campaign’s bold words and actions have inspired community members not only to stand up for their rights as tenants, but also to reconsider social and political marginalization itself. About 80 percent of the neighborhood’s residents live below the poverty line, and the majority speak either Spanish or Mandarin as a first language. But in a society where immigrant women who speak little English are often bullied, intimidated or ignored, these women are loud, assertive and highly public about their right to live with dignity. And they are teaching others to push back as well.