On the Occupying of the World’s Wall Streets: Reflections from The Bay Area

By H.S. Gill

Despair has come over me in the last few years.  Normally this manifests itself as exhaustion and frustration.  To understand it this time, though, you’d have to understand that the last few years haven’t been so good to my family.

My dad lost his job a few years ago, and from there, we lost our house on Christmas of 2009. We had an emotional conversation about what it means to lose a home, the place where we played soccer in the hallways, and the windows, the ones we snuck into after staying out too late before mom could catch us. This loss of home and income, class, and most importantly to some, status, all led to some pretty serious depressive symptoms that have lasting impacts on a family. Some would de-politicize the moment and say ‘life is about more than politics,’ or some vague sentence about how this is ‘real life not politics.’ But that can’t be further from the truth. These moments are the key reminder that capitalism exists in our daily lives and isn’t just beyond the walls of our homes or in our theory texts. It’s in our workplaces, our schools, and unfortunately, our social relationships. That is to say, capitalism has a way of not just stealing your labor as Marx taught us, but also stealing your spirit and meaning, and teaching us to treat each other in these ways as well; as my good friend and fellow anarchist Cindy Milstein reminds me.

This may seem a bit too personal for some,  but context is necessary to explain why the #occupywallstreet movement is so important, or, as Naomi Klein said from Liberty Plaza last night,“it’s the most important thing in the world right now.” You see, for a family of 6 with me as the only working member, we live in hopes of increased social spending. We live in fear of cuts to medicare and Medicaid, which our family utilizes. We are terrified of cuts to disability entitlements, to the rising cost of “public” colleges my siblings attend, and the never-ending nickel and diming of working class people. And personally, I’m terrified of the look of despair on my own mother’s face and the tears that accompany her prayers as I continue to wish I could do more to help.

And it’s harder when you can’t speak of it, when you have to stay silent about class-related struggle, about poverty and suffering. To the South Asian community, so full of secrets and shame, I say we need to step up to the plate this time. Come join the left and stand in solidarity with the working class. Be allies in the struggle for economic justice, now, not later. As Sonny Singh reminds us in this piece, (for those who follow it) Gurbani calls us to action in unity with the poor and working people. So please, I implore you, come out in the streets. A walk will do you good, and it will certainly feed your soul.

To be honest, I was not all that excited at the onset of this movement, these actions with no identity. I was skeptical, non-believing, because it was easier than be let down again by the inability of the left to create lasting organizations or cadres who remain dedicated to the struggle for economic justice. But as it continues, I’ve bought in. I can’t help it. It’s a moment of possibility, of real possibility, and it’s infectious

My mom and I will be at occupying San Jose on Sunday (and my dad if we can get him up and moving). We talk about it everyday and watch the updates on Democracy Now! and MSNBC. She’s filled with hope that there’s a  response to the Tea Party on the left.. I spend my day at work looking  at #OWS wishing I could be doing more but proud of fellow IAS board members and other comrades updates from the street, filled with excitement. With a clear enunciation that what we want is more, not less. We demand a politics of justice and compassion.

H.S. Gill is a longtime anarchist and activist living in the Bay Area of California.

3 Comments to “On the Occupying of the World’s Wall Streets: Reflections from The Bay Area”

  1. I’m from Egypt and I really wish to be there side by side next to you for humanity. What is happening is really important to all of us. JUSTICE what a word deserves an expensive cost to have. May god be with all of you and as you said now is the time.

  2. Yeah Egypt stand up! Much love and respect from NYC!

  3. Thanks for sharing your family’s story, Harjit. I’m inspired by the fact that this movement gives your mom hope and that it is creating spaces where entire families can stand up together against all of those people and policies that are screwing up their lives.

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