What’s in a line?

November 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s ten minutes to midnight in downtown Brooklyn. It’s warm for November, which is good, because people are out, in force. Hundreds are gathering. Police barricades corral the crowd and groups of officers pace around making sure people stay in order. This has become a familiar site over the last two months, as thousands around the country have stood up and shown their dissatisfaction with the status quo, with growing income disparities, and corporate negligence, and…

But this mirror image of Occupy Wall Street is something different. This crowd is quiet, and smiling, and excited, and seemingly not angry about anything. They carry BIG duffel bags, not tents and cardboard signs. In ten minutes they will rush into Best Buy and purchase a retail 500 dollar HD TV set for 200 dollars. Or a stereo, an X Box, a DVD player, all discounted for this once in a lifetime opportunity according to the store fliers being passed around.

Banks selling out their friends and relatives couldn’t get them out at midnight, but discounted televisions can. These are the middle/lower middle class Americans, at least they look like it from their clothes and smart phones. Because of hard times they now need a deal to get the same consumer extras that they have become used to, that they demand to have as their RIGHT as Americans. Its the same demographic that are taking BULLETS and tear gas in Tahrir square right now. People with education, who aren’t too destitute to have an opinion, and who have the time to voice it. The people who are REALLY fucked are too busy trying to find jobs and housing to protest. You have to go one more rung up the ladder to get the catalysts of change.

I sat with a man in Tahrir Square last March who had come to that iconic spot from his rural village not to throw molotov cocktails, but to see if the revolution had created anyone who would look at his resume, who would give him a job. He couldn’t get married, or move out of his parents house without a job he said. He asked me to help him. At the end of the day the global 99% want jobs and money I think…and HD TVs. If revolution is the way to get those things…then maybe it will come to the US too.

I wonder if there was a Best Buy in Tahrir Square if Egyptians would be less likely to try and overthrow their military government. Would they be more happy to just sit at home and watch a discounted HD TV? Maybe watch Al Jazeera’s coverage of Occupy Wall Street, in between other news? It’s possible. But I guess, to put it mildly, they have been pushed to a limit that Americans have not yet reached, or are incapable of really understanding. We’ve never known a Mubarak, or Qaddafi, or Ben Ali, or… As demonstrated in this amorphous Occupy universe, some of us KNOW things are messed up, but we can’t quite put our finger on what to do about it. But if things were so bad, say the military ruled our country, and our civil liberties were locked up by plain clothes police officers who could swoop in at any moment and take our breathe away, literally, then maybe this would feel more focused. That’s not an outcome to wish for, but maybe one to acknowledge is much much worse than anything Americans have seen in the last 40 years.

It’s hard to know what would be a better sign of progress. An Egyptian walking through a peaceful Tahrir Square to buy a HD TV at an affordable price at Best Buy. Because he has a job, because he has upward mobility, because he has freedom. Or an American throwing a molotov cocktail through a Best Buy window, because he’s had enough, because he’s realized that HD TVs aren’t going to solve his problems, and because his house was foreclosed, and he has nowhere to put that TV.

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