STERN: Occupying our conversations

A Stern Perspective

The Occupy New Haven encampment has been having a hard time. Reports of infighting and crime on the Green coincide with city efforts to dismantle the site completely. On Monday, city workers took down the wooden barricades surrounding Occupy, calling them a fire hazard. Not to worry, though: Quinnipiac to the rescue!

Not the school, though. I’m talking about the Quinnipiac Native American tribe. Recently, a Quinnipiac chief imprisoned in Texas for charges of rape and kidnapping told the New Haven Independent that he supports the Occupy movement. Furthermore, this chief, Iron Thunderhorse, claimed that the city does not have the authority to evict Occupy from the New Haven Green, as the land truly belongs to the Quinnipiac tribe – and has for as many as 10,000 years.

This doesn’t sound like such a good argument. Occupy doesn’t need the help of QPac. It needs support from Yale! Yalies should fight to help the last remaining Occupy outpost in New England.

At this point, I expect vehement protests from many a reader. I would try to list all of their arguments here, but I would surely be lambasted for missing a great deal of them. Here’s my attempt at a summary: Occupy New Haven is an eyesore; it doesn’t stand for anything; it is rife with crime and bickering; it does not have unified goals; what is it accomplishing anyway? If Occupiers are so worried about economic inequality, why don’t they do something about it? Occupy Wall Street — that was so six months ago!

At first glance, these concerns appear to be valid. Yes, Occupy New Haven has been there for a while, its members — being human — don’t all agree on every point and there have been crimes committed at the site. (It is worth noting, however, that Occupy New Haven has its own security teams to prevent crime.) But no matter what they’re saying, the important point is that New Haven residents are still saying something about Occupy.

The same cannot be said for New York — or most of the rest of the country. A few months ago, the Occupy movement was all anyone could talk about. And in talking about Occupy, people began talking about the broader issue: economic inequality. Nowadays, Occupy has been displaced by Trayvon Martin — which in turn displaced “Kony 2012″ — as the issue du jour. That is, except in New Haven.

This country has just emerged from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with levels of income inequality we haven’t seen in decades. While the upper class has been exploiting tax loopholes and influencing elections in unprecedented ways, countless Americans are barely surviving without jobs and without ways to feed their families. This is a problem — one we should be talking about.

Which brings us back to Occupy New Haven. If it goes, we might talk about it for another week or two. But then it will be gone as a matter of public discourse, and so, I fear, will income inequality.

Even if you fundamentally disagree with Occupy, you might agree that everyone in this country should be able to make enough money to put food on his table. You might agree that wealth should not be so concentrated among the wealthiest few individuals. To say that Occupy does not have clearly defined goals or that it seems to lack direction obscures the national movement’s larger significance: They were expressing frustration, and, for the first time in a long time, we were listening.

Even Mitt Romney, the crown prince of the 1%, said, “I look at what’s happening on Wall Street and my view is, boy, I understand how those people feel.” Now that Occupy is no longer on Wall Street for Mitt Romney to look at, will he still sympathize? And, more important, will he still talk about this sympathy in public? Will economic inequality still be as much of an issue in New Haven?

I doubt it. In our culture, advocacy becomes a fad, and without a daily visual reminder, we forget issues as quickly as we embrace them.

This is why Yalies should support Occupy New Haven — we still need it there because there is still so much more to say about the frustration Occupy exemplifies. If the encampment is dismantled — as is looking increasingly likely — I hope that Yalies will continue to talk about what Occupy was trying to accomplish.

Scott Stern is a freshman in Branford College. Contact him at scott.stern@yale.edu.

Comments

  • The Anti-Yale

    Remember the 1970′s/80′s shanties erected in front of Woodbridge Hall for Divestment in companies which support So. African aparthaid?

    How about divestment in companies which send jobs overseas? (It would wreck Yale’s portfolio.)

  • tomago

    Scott-issue,

    Your statement, “there have been crimes committed at the site. (It is worth noting, however, that Occupy New Haven has its own security teams to prevent crime)”, needs an important addition…a woman was raped. Let me repeat, a woman was raped…in case you still didn’t get it, a woman was raped.

    You mentioned security…their security “person” [singular] tried to bury his roofing hammer into a homeless person’s skull for using a bench claimed as Occupy property.

    Another woman sells glass crack pipes as a “craft”…what say you?

    You think Yalies need a reminder of the inequities of society? Talk to your parents over dinner at the Union League, or take a job at Goldman or TPG, donate your salary, and steer financial institutions toward a more socially conscious agenda.
    My guess is you won’t after you get your first paycheck.

    Your suggestion to rally behind ONH is akin to asking Yale students to applaud the miles-per-gallon a parked car gets. I realize that as a freshman at an ivy, you have true experience and perspective on how the world works…I’m sure you even cried during Hunger Games…

    I would suggest students at Yale ignore your suggestion, and attain positions of influence in business, academics, politics, etc.,…and change them from within.
    Your advocacy of a failed, [or more accurately] never started, protest is indicative of one that has nothing in their wallet other than dad’s Visa card and a student ID.

    • penny_lane

      The rape argument is classic post hoc ergo propter hoc. It is very bad, and it is very sad, but you can’t cite Occupy as the cause just because its presence came first, any more than you can cite Yale as the cause for sexual misconduct and discrimination that occurs on its campus.

  • tomago

    “Post hoc ergo propter hoc”? Congrats on a parents’ money well-spent, although Sheldon used that phrase on The Big Bang Theory…what is latin for “tool”?

    Actually, you can cite Yale for sexual misconduct and discrimination…I hope you’re not in the law school…

    • Goldie08

      Um, you’re kind of a tool.

      How do you know Penny and Mr. Stern’s parents were wealthy? Dad’s Visa Card? Parent’s money well spent? Pointless mud-slinging about irrelevant topics discredits your argument. Hunger games? Simply saying a freshman lacks real world experience would have been enough.

      I agree with your position, just not the general d-baggery with which you make it.

      • River_Tam

        > How do you know Penny and Mr. Stern’s parents were wealthy?

        I assume he knows Mr. Stern personally.

      • tomago

        “Tool”-definition: One that uses an affected latin term to compensate for a lacuna in knowledge. My apologies for the d-baggery commentary…I get that way when rape is trivialized by someone younger than my shoes.

        • inycepoo

          Oh. So you’re way older than us. Yes, that must mean you’re correct then.

        • inycepoo
    • penny_lane

      Actually, I got it from The West Wing. Good episode!

    • penny_lane

      Also, you’re implying the following logic:

      “We built a university and then someone was raped. Therefore, someone was raped because we built a university.”

      That’s not a very good argument.

      • tomago

        I’m not implying anything. I am stating as fact that ONH has facilitated a violent act on a defenseless woman of the streets. The organizers of ONH are responsible for creating a dangerous environment, resulting in a brutal attack and the diversion of law enforcement from areas of NH that face more serious issues. To reduce the real-world impact on the citizens of NH is intellectual elitism by temporary visitors to this city for an ivy education.

        • penny_lane

          Homeless women, unfortunately, are raped all the time. They are raped on the streets, but even more often they are raped in shelters. I’ve spoken with women who don’t go to shelters because they are afraid.They are constantly propositioned and harassed, treated as if because they live on the street they must be prostitutes. As with anything in our society, income disparity takes the worst toll on women, exposing them not only to lack of jobs, resources, food, but also to increased risk of sexual and intimate partner violence. To put it crudely, shit gets really, really bad. Ever seen a woman cry because she was telling a story about how her boyfriend crashed a car in an effort to hurt her, while her two year old daughter was in the back seat? I have. This is stuff that happens with or without Occupy. As far as I can tell, the members have made every effort to prevent crime, even intervening in a beating that happened nearby that police did not respond to.

          I do not, however, get the sense that this is the kind of thing you really care about. I think you’d much rather take advantage of that woman’s misfortune to smear Occupy. It’s pretty despicable.

        • inycepoo

          As if “defenseless [women] of the streets” aren’t preyed on when ONH is not around? C’mon, this is New Haven we’re talking about, where 70+ rapes occurred in 2010, long before Occupy was even conceived.

  • eli1

    I just think its funny that the same people who turned a relatively harmless (although in very poor taste) rape joke into a national crisis last year are so willing to support a movement which has been consistently marred by rapes (many violent) at its encampments. That the same people that are publicly lynching George Zimmerman for his vigilantiism are now promoting the same type of untrained security crusaders to “stop” crime on their encampments. The hypocrisy amongst these people is honeslty mind boggling.

    • penny_lane

      What did Occupy do to the perp? I genuinely don’t know, but I do know that Occupy Providence evicted anyone who behaved violently, including one of their most dedicated organizers.

      What does Yale do to people who harass or assault women? Basically nothing.

      That’s the difference.

      • tomago

        The perp was a convicted sex-offender that was arrested by the NHPD within minutes…ONH did nothing, since the victim was a “shunned” homeless person. [they've "shunned" anyone that doesn't belong to the 1% of ONH, ironically] I was there when the woman was taken away by ambulance.

        The police have been handling the camp with extreme patience, understanding…even humor. I don’t often agree with city hall, but in regards to ONH, they have shown remarkable flexibility…but it is time to go…the smart money is on Monday afternoon, whether by court order or the fire marshal.

    • ohno

      Count me as a liberal who’s completely with you on this (yes, I thought the DKE chant deserved all the national shaming it got, and I’m not sorry).

      Occupy New Haven needs to go, the Green doesn’t need to be any more unsafe than it already is. In my opinion, the rape was a final nail in an already sealed coffin. I’ve watched people trying to walk through the Green – from mothers with strollers to high school students – have to deal with heckling and harassment from the Occupy encampment. Not to mention how nonsensical it is to find it necessary to “occupy” New Haven as a center of finance.