I had to go to a protest today. A teacher in one of my classes decided we should skip class and head down to Occupy Oakland and photograph/film something for our next project. I didn't wanna go, but this teacher is one of the most interesting professors I've had at CCA and he had some good insight as to why it could be meaningful, even though we both agreed that its impact on the country would likely be minimal.
After emailing him about it, sharing my thoughts about why I didn't want to go and receiving really thoughtful responses, I was actually excited about going to see what I might come away with and attending something that could turn out to be historically significant.
I considered what gear I would use and got it all prepped, then got another idea and prepped different gear. I scanned maps to plan my entry and exit and got all stoked and ready to dig into this assignment. Pretty cool feeling, after initially thinking Effing Please.
This morning I gathered up my stuff and drove to West Oakland and quickly found a parking place a few blocks from the "action." Had a nice, quiet walk down 14th Street where I passed a few OPD officers who had closed off one intersection with their cruisers as they munched on Subway sandwiches.
As I approached Frank Ogawa Plaza (no, it is not named after the dude that was shot by Bart police, who was not a civil rights leader), what immediately struck me was how disorganized the whole affair is. It was like a street faire without the artsy craftsy booths, fun food and wine. And with a lot more stink.
Apparently, to be a successful protester, it helps to eschew bathing as well as a focused political agenda. And it helps if you love smoking pot. And standing around. And sitting around. And watching reporters do live feeds of people aimlessly milling about.
There were a few small groups actually moving in unison with little, illegible signs, shouting unintelligible slogans as they walked randomly down one street and then another. There was another small group singing a protest song outside the Citybank building as others in their ranks posed underneath their protest banners for pictures.
Oh yes - the pictures. For every one person at 14th and Broadway there were approximately 7.3 Canon Digital Rebels, 2.8 Canon EOS-1D Mark IVs with humongous lenses, 4.2 5Ds and 12 bajillion pocket cameras and camera phones. I alone had to have photo bombed six thousand photos and I was only there for about 45 minutes.
I had my cameras too - a Nikon F3HP and a Canon G9. I wasn't sure what I was going to find and what I might want, so I shot film and a few digital stills and several movie clips. I think I got some fun stuff and I look forward to making an entertaining video.
But my professor asked me to ask myself why I didn't want to go and now I think I have an answer. It all seemed like so much wasted time. So many people just standing around - one guy in particular with a sign that said "Off With Their Heads!" that he used like a cane to rest his hands on while he stood, casually smoking a cigarette. And so many small shops closed down, either to join the strike or avoid trouble from the crowd. Some small business owners have lost so much business because of the entire movement that they've had to lay off employees. Ironic, no?
In my salad days after college (the first time), when I was coming up short on rent more months than I was making it, I didn't go stand around a public space and blame someone else. I made a plan for how to fix that problem and I went and fixed it. I taught myself how to do all sorts of shit on a computer that I didn't have the first clue about, then I went out and actively looked for work that would pay me the best wage for what I was qualified to do.
After fun jobs in retail and waitressing, I knew I needed to find something with better money and opportunities. I went straight to the office where the money was far better, as well as paths to advancement. I typed my ass off as a receptionist / secretary / assistant / clerk / minion / peon, which led to gigs doing desktop publishing and eventually, online design & content development (waaaay down the road).
I wore panty hose (the horror!), skirt suits, blouses, pumps (gack), and I fetched coffee, ran errands, alphabetized business cards, made copies (millions) and did whatever shit I had to do to keep going. Is it any wonder why I love the movie "Working Girl?" (The movie "Working Girls" is also one of my favorites, and a viable option if you're into that - definitely pays well. Or so I've been told.)
There was no time for loitering out in front of city hall to ask someone to cover my bills. I had to get my ass to work in a good job and keep growing into better jobs. I registered at multiple agencies and kept learning new skills. There's always a way if you keep looking and working for it.
Now don't get me wrong - I know our country is extremely broken. I wish I had a lobbyist to buy me some tax breaks and loopholes so I could keep more of the money I earn. But until we outlaw lobbyists and forever remove the influence of corporations on our government and re-regulate Wall Street (which Clinton effed up), nothing is going to change.
The only way to affect those bastards is to put your money where your slogan-spouting mouth is. Put whatever money you have in local credit unions. Don't shop anywhere that supports the big-business agenda and VOTE.
I wanted to ask people today if they're active voters, but I was thinking too much about my project. Though I did help a lovely couple studying a transit map of Oaktown find their way to Jack London Square. That felt productive.
When I review everything I shot from today, maybe I'll have different impressions than I have now, but I doubt it. I can say I was there and it was a terrific bore and maybe I got a few pictures I might like, but mostly I'm just glad I did what I needed to do for my project so I can move on.
There's no time to sit around and navel gaze about what it might mean to sleep in a tent outside a city hall that has nothing to do with what's wrong with our country (although Jean Quan *is* a total doofus). If all those campers actually organized their cause and mobilized in the areas that truly affect the 1% (Hint: it's not downtown by the Goodwill Store and Oaksterdam), they'd start to see some real impact. Until then, they're just wasting time (and hurting the people they claim to support, which is all kinds of wide open gaping ass).