Saturday, November 26, 2011

In Their Own Words: Paula

While I am critical of the protests and the protestors, I want to clarify again that many of my good, decent, smart, reasonable friends support the OWS and I am trying to figure out why they do, why I don't, and how to improve the dialogue. I have conservative friends who don't support OWS and I don't agree with their reasons. I have progressive friends who do support OWS and I don't agree with the way they are protesting. Somewhere in the middle I want to join everyone together in a conversation. So let’s begin by listening to some individuals in their own words:

Interview with Paula

What is your background?
I am 55 y/o woman, brought up in a middle class home in Northern California.  I was brought up in a mix of liberal and moderate politics.  I have a B.A. degree in Accounting.  I indentify with left of center and am fiscally socialist.  I only vote democrat because I have no other choice.

When did you first become involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement? During the Move your Money day, 11/5/2011. 

What made you want to be involved in this movement?  
Two years ago, the banks, such as Chase, BofA, and Wells Fargo made decisions that benefited themselves and really hurt the middle to lower income population.  They unilaterally raised interest rates, lowered credit lines, forcing thousands of people into default. I was not so surprised at this move, because I wouldn't expect anything else from them.  However, I was shocked over people's reactions.  People started blaming the credit card holders.  Comments such as, "it's your fault, you should not have had debt if you couldn't pay it", I saw name calling such as "loser", "parasite", etc.  In a country, where debt is how the entire country is run, average to lower income people were blamed for not being able to pay the new minimum payments and new enormous interest rates.  This was not an isolated incident.   This started my involvement in moving away from big banks and credit cards. 

How have you become involved in this movement?
I moved all my money, savings, retirement, auto loan, credit card to a local credit union.  I paid off my credit card.  I knew I had to walk the talk, so I cut my spending way down.  I figure if I am going to complain about corruption between Bankers/Lobbyists and Politicians, I had better clean up my act.

What are the goals of this movement?  
The goal of Occupy is to make people aware of the power we have as a people to have impact on corruption between Bankers/Lobbyists and Politicians. That is the stage we are in now.  One of the goals is to stop the path we are on as a country in losing our middle class, to a two class I.e.  Rich/poor.  First a conversation has to take place, I.e. Occupy physical spaces and from there, a series of solid actions. 

How would you respond to criticisms of this movement and what do you think those main criticisms are?   
The main criticism is that Occupy is trying to Socialize America.  The second criticism is that the Occupy movement has no leader or agenda.  United States is already socialist.  Public schools, Medicare, social security, health care for government workers, are here to protect and care for our citizens.   As far as an agenda?  I think it's pretty clear right now that the agenda is basic.  Stop the destruction of the middle class.  Stop the accumulation of wealth by a few, stop corruption between Bankers/Lobbyists and Politicians.  The last criticism is that the Occupy movement is run by drug addicts, dirty hippies, and rift raft.  I don't see that a criticism so much as propaganda.  The Occupy movement opened themselves up to this problem by having the first action in Occupied tent dwellings.  So of course, homeless people and hanger on folks were attracted.  There is nothing much to be done about that.  After all, homeless people, addicts, and mentally ill people are citizens too.  

Where do you see the movement in 5 years? 
I hope that the middle class, working class, and poor can unit as an economic force.  I hope we can leave behind the division of Liberal vs.. Conservative.  I hope this united middle class can call the shots on our politicians.  I hope we can get rid of lobbyists. 

What specific, and practical things do you hope this movement brings? I hope we can have more economic fairness.  For example, raising of the minimum wage; universal health care, affordable education.  I hope we can end the practice of lobbyists. 

How does occupying physical spaces as you say open a conversation?
The original "demand" was by Adbusters and it was "one simple demand, a presidential commission to separate money from politics"   The internet group Anonymous encouraged its followers to take part in the protests, calling protesters to "flood lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street."  So, you can see, no one was trying to start a polite conversation in order to make everyone happy.  This was and is a genuine spontaneous expression of frustration and anger over what people see is a minority ruining our economy and government.   So, let me rephrase this; the people came out on the street, stomping their feet pissed off.  That was not a conversation; it was a protest which can lead to conversation.  The conversation involves millions of people all over the world blogging, emailing, occupying, fighting, pepper spraying, using weapons.  It's messy, frustrating, annoying, pisses people off; but nevertheless, it is a conversation.   I see it an ongoing conversation by the masses to fight back over something humans have always done historically.  Wealth has always been accumulated by a few and the masses have been enslaved.  The last century saw the growth of a middle class and now the West seems to be headed in the direction of more of the classic split between Capitalists and workers.

How do you feel about connotations of the term "occupy" linked with imperialist dogma which seems counter to your goals?
I don't know what to say about your last question.  I didn't link the term Occupy to Imperialism!  Civil disobedience is usually against the law.

What can you personally do to follow the goals and ideals of the movement and implement change in your own life?  
I moved all my money, savings, retirement, auto loan, credit card to a local credit union. I paid off my credit card. I knew I had to walk the talk, so I cut my spending way down. I figure if I am going to complain about corruption between Bankers/Lobbyists and Politicians, I had better clean up my act.

If there is one thing you want people to know about OWS what is it?   
We are not trying to overthrow the government.  I see us as trying to rebuild a solid middle class.  That means bringing up people from the bottom, the millions in poverty, and controlling the 1% who are amassing wealth.


  1. Paula, I'd like to ask two follow up questions..

    1. You say you are fiscally socialist. Can you explain how you mean that?

    2. You say you vote Democrat because you have no other options. I belong to the Green Party and vote for Greens or Democrats. Is there no other party that you support? Would you rather see improvement in the Democratic Party, growing balls and being honest, for example, or would you like to see more parties?

    3. You say "First a conversation has to take place, I.e. Occupy physical spaces and from there, a series of solid actions." -- Do you feel a conversation is taking place? Why not solid actions first? Why, and this is what I'm really trying to figure out, why on earth do you think people feel they should occupy physical spaces - at all, or in order for a conversation to take place?

  2. Also do you still not make a rhetorical link with Imperialism in the term "occupy"? Does it matter? Should they change the name or is it important? Does it run counter to or reflect the philosophy behind the movement?

  3. I also want to say, what is your definition of "conversation"? If I throw a pie at your window and then you leave garden gnomes on my lawn, and then I send a clown to your house, and then you scream at me, are we having a conversation?

    Is refusing to leave a physical space, holding up protest signs, and screaming at each other a conversation?

    Or were you referring to blogging and emailing? Because the "conversation" seems to be usually with like-minded people, or "trolling" which ends up being pretty vicious.

    What actual conversations are happening and would you want to talk about your experiences with the "conversation" aspects of the protests?

  4. Also, do you think OWS supporters oughtta get off facebook if they don't want to support massive wealth, corporate domination, and the 1%?