Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy the Interwebs: Terminology

Someone came to this blog via a search for occupy augusta maine. Whoever it was was probably disappointed because I haven't said much about the occupy movement here.

Since I wrote my other post on the matter, Occupy Maine: Portland has been bombed. No one was hurt as the bombing took place early in the morning at a time when many were sleeping and none were cooking. The bomb landed in the area being used as their kitchen.

Also since I wrote my other post the Occupy movement as a whole has been much more in the news.

A big part of the reason that I haven't said much about the movement is that I'm not a part of it. I've been feeling under the weather since early September and have been doing very little besides attending school and sitting at the computer. Punching keys is a pretty easy thing to do when you're low on energy, though sometimes the thinking side of things can be more difficulty, especially when the headaches set in as one currently is.

Anyway even those who are actively participating can't really speak for the movement as a whole because it's big and diverse and, at this point in time, multinational. People drawn together by a common set of grievances are hard to stick in a pigeonhole beyond: they have a common set of grievances. As a non-participant (or, if I want to be charitable, a single meeting participant) I certainly am not qualified to speak for them. So I haven't.

Today something came up that I think I am qualified to respond to, provided it is with the disclaimer that this does not apply to every occupier, some restrictions may apply, void where ... and so on. So, now that I've made my disclaimer, on to the actual topic of this post:


I saw a mayor on TV talking about dealing with occupiers. Some of what he said about the process stood out to me, for example he seemed absurdly proud that he ordered that female protesters should be dragged away by female cops and male protestors be dragged away by male cops because Heaven forfend that a picture of a male cop dragging away a female protester should be captured. I admit that I don't know what it's like to be a mayor, but that his primary concern was about a hypothetical photograph seemed odd. He didn't seem to care what happened, only what was photographed.

So there were some things like that, but the big thing for me was when he talked about the need to strike a balance, on the one hand he argued it's important to recognize the frustration-

And that's where I want to stop. That word. Frustration.

See the disclaimer above about the difficulty of speaking for the diverse and multifaceted occupy movement, but then come back here and let me say this: It is not frustration.

Frustration is when you have to spend 15 minutes on the phone with someone who seems incapable of understanding basic English sentences* because the bank screwed up some paperwork.

It is emphatically not frustration when you lose your home because the bank screwed up some paperwork.

When you have to put in extra hours at work with no pay because the people at the top have no idea what it really takes to complete the tasks they assign, that's frustration.

When the CEO says, "I can't afford to pay all the workers and give myself a multimillion dollar raise, so I'm laying you off," that goes beyond frustration.

When you have to work three crap jobs just to keep your head above water and there's no hope of improvement in sight because of an economic collapse you had no part in, that is something more than frustration, especially when all the while you have to watch the ones responsible for the mess be rewarded for their incompetence.

When your credit was ruined because the student loan company screwed up it's internal communications on your loan three times in a row while you did everything right (and all the while their errors never inconvenience them) that's something more than mere frustration.

When you see your pension fund raided to pay for executive bonuses, that's not frustration.

And this could go on. For ages.

Their grievances, which are many, are not the kinds of things that result in frustration.

I'm sure there are all kinds of emotions on display at the various occupy protests, but if we're going to talk about that thing various politicians are calling frustration then I can say this: I'm pretty sure it's anger. Some people may very well merely be frustrated. Maybe it is the case that for some of these people what has driven them to this really is that feeling one gets when stuck in traffic while in a hurry. But I think it's safe to say that for most of them it's anger.

Try a simple thought experiment. Imagine someone stole your house. They took your house, they kicked you out, they kept you out, and they got away with it. How would you feel? I'm guessing that most people would be more likely to feel anger than frustration because that's the kind of thing that would get most reasonable people angry. If you merely feel frustration then that is a truly impressive level of emotional control.

And that's what happened. It is undeniably the case that illegal foreclosures occurred. Illegal foreclosure is house theft. It is taking someone's property via extralegal means, which is pretty much the definition of robbery.

People had their houses stolen. That is only one of the grievances of the people at Occupy [Whatever]. One amoung many. The people in the occupy movement aren't frustrated. They're angry. With good reason.

If you talk about needing to "recognize the frustration" then you've already failed to recognize what is in front of you.

I don't think that that's all they feel. I think there has to be a certain level of hope otherwise they'd fall into despair and simply stop. I think there must be a sense of belonging being united in common cause with so many. I think that there must be times of joy. I think that there must be fear, as when a bomb wakes you from your sleep. I think there must be all kinds of feelings. But I think those who speak of frustration are largely wrong.

The things that brought these people into the streets are not things that make people frustrated, they are things that make people angry.


* It is possible that one might misread this as a swipe at foreign customer support call centers. That's not what I'm talking about at all.

I'm not talking about people who can't understand basic English because English is not their first language. I'm talking about people, many of them native speakers, whose job description seems to include the inability to comprehend such simple things as:
I didn't sign up for that.
I did not do that.
I said NOT to do that. I said it in writing.
I never gave you permission to do that.
I said, "No."
I never did that.
And so on.

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