I’ve been looking at this video from Occupy Wall Street protest that’s going on in Manhattan right now. Warning: It’s disturbing to watch this police officer pepper spray a group of young women who don’t seem to pose any threat to his safety. On YouTube, the comments are mostly people making fun of the girls for screaming. It’s easy to laugh, if you’re not the one getting pepper sprayed in the face.
A recent New York Times article decried the protests taking place at Wall Street as disorganized to a fault. Reporter Gina Bellafante describes a woman dancing in her underwear, rich kids with fancy computers, a bunch of hippies meandering through a delusion of the 1960’s. The carnival, Bellafante argues, will not solve America’s financial crisis; street theater will not eliminate the growing disparity between the rich and the poor.
I haven’t been to Occupy Wall Street yet, so I don’t know exactly what is going on there, but I was troubled by the New York Times’ dismissal of people’s—particularly young people’s—attempts at activism. Of course, protests inevitably draw out a bunch of the craziest people in New York City—but that doesn’t make them (the protests) invalid forms of self-expression. Indeed, it seems to many young people these days that the conventional forms of change—change that happens through political avenues—is no longer taking place. Young people want change. That’s why we voted for Obama, for godsakes. But we feel powerless.
This past week, I was stunned to watch the execution of Troy Davis—in real time—as I sat in front of the computer, reading about it. The execution of this man, this innocent man, suddenly seemed Kafka-esque. After all, in Harlem, in Atlanta, and even in Paris, thousands of protestors turned out to declare Troy innocent. Millions signed petitions, published articles, or fired off tweets in Troy Davis’ defense. And after his death, Facebook overwhelmed me with notices of friends sick to their stomachs or crying. I thought of that Kafka parable I had never quite understood before—the one where a man from the country dreams of being granted entrance to a special castle, but the guard at the entrance tells him he must wait. He waits for his entire life, and then he dies, still waiting. The castle is called “the law.”
So when Troy Davis died, I felt a profound sense of failure. I suspect many people did, for it was not only a sense of my own inability to save a single human being from death, but also a sense that the justice system had failed to fulfill its only real purpose, to protect the innocent from mistreatment. Sitting at the computer, I suddenly felt as if I were living in a dystopian panopticon, wherein I had the ability to see everything, and yet, no ability to touch anyone. My computer screen, my lens into the world of others, became a figure of my own disempowerment. I could no more help Troy Davis than anyone else could. In the end, the opinion of millions of people all over the globe was not enough to sway the judgment of a single government official, and that feeling of society’s detachment from reality is the Kafka-ian nightmare.
When the American government perpetuates racism, inequality, and disempowerment and to the extent that it does—through a broken education system, a broken economic system, a broken justice and prison system—it is difficult to look at the case of Troy Davis without regards to issues of race, class, and privilege. Troy Davis’ death is not only a symbol of why the death penalty is wrong. It is also represents the fact that some people gain access to the castle of the law, while others do not. Recently, we have seen, in the case of Dominique Strauss Kahn, another spectacular failure of the law to admit a working class black woman into its castle. My faith, and the faith of many young people, in the ability of our government to let all of us in, has been eroded. We live in a democracy, and yet it seems like a plutocracy. How can we feel that we are a part of the law when people like Troy Davis are not part of it too?
At a time when Congress’ approval rating has sunk to a mere 18%, it is clear that our faith in the ability of the legislature to solve the problem of economic inequality is quite low. So what, I am wondering, is wrong with young people going out on the street and airing their frustrations? At least it makes us feel that we are a part of something. And is this so wrong? Even if we are not organized and lack leaders, at least we are not sitting on the couch. And if protest in the streets looks embarrassing to the New York Times, I wonder what looks less embarrassing? Tweeting about it?
It is worth noting that the Occupy Wall Street protest is connected to the Troy Davis protest that took place in Union Square on the evening after his death. Protestors carrying RIP Troy Davis signs are visible in the photo series documenting the march from Union Square to Wall Street that led to over eighty arrests. This week, the mood of frustration among Americans, particularly young Americans, is widespread, and is connected to a desire to be included, a desire to be help, and a desire to be a part of the renewal of a broken democracy. You can call that embarrassing if you want, but I heard some interviews with the Wall Street protestors on WFMU the other day, and the reporter asked every protestor, “Do you love America?” and they all said, “Yes.”
Hathaway raps away her paparazzi angst.
In the rap, Hathaway made reference to Perez Hilton, paparazzi trying to get upskirt photos, and how some stars crave their attention.
After the performance Hathaway explained the reasons for creating the song.
“They treat you like less than human, so you just might as well make up dirty lyrics about them,” she said.
Oh Anne, you awesome.
Owen Pallett - Hard To Explain (The Strokes Cover)
STEPHEN COLBERT, on a conservative group’s findings that “99.8 percent” of the nation’s poor own a refrigerator and that the majority own a microwave — making them, we guess, not poor? — on The Colbert Report.
The federal definition of poverty is a family of four subsisting on less than $22,000 a year. If they have a 20-year-old refrigerator, a $60 microwave, a $20 coffee maker and some other basic necessities, I’m not going to whine about it like many conservatives seem to love doing.
Because the poor don’t deserve to have shit. And rich folks really deserve huge fucking tax breaks.
A must watch. This video by the Women’s Media Center, “Sexism Sells—But We’re Not Buying It,” shows several real-life examples of prominent figures in the news making disgusting, extreme sexist remarks, specifically about the presence of (in reality, the lack thereof) women in politics. Obsessive, dehumanizing analysis of women’s appearances? Equating women in politics to having “nagging voices” that remind men of their wives? Fears of castration? It’s all here!