Dan

I live in Brooklyn, Brooklyn for 10 years, Utah before that. I actually started an Internet company back in Utah, and my wife, who’s a painter, would have shows here in New York occasionally. And so we sort of came back and forth over the years and decided New York was way better than Utah. And so, when things got to the point where my company could kind of run itself, we decided to just move, and one day we just up and packed everything and we moved to New York. I left the company back there. I just had really good people working for me, and I was kind of able to telecommute as much as I needed to, and run operations from here in New York.

…my favorite signs are the signs that just say things like ‘Treat People Better,’ or ‘Have Compassion,’ because, without those sorts of orientations and perspectives, I think the rest are just topological layers of ideology that can be manipulated and navigated around and exploited.

Ironically, that company was selling products to sub-prime lenders. It’s a software company. And it actually did great. We had a great 10 years. Then the sub-prime meltdown came. We lost all of our clients. So it continues on now in a little bit of a different form. I went from about 40 employees down to about five employees. But we survived and now I have a really good, loyal crew of guys that work for me. They’ve worked for me forever, from the very beginning. So, I can’t complain.

I have, kind of, this spin off company that came from that era: a small group of guys doing what we do. It’s good for us but it’s different. We’re not really selling a product to a lot of people like we used to. Instead, we have a product that we just partner with companies to deliver services on much more of a close, mesh with them in their business basis. It’s going well, and I can’t complain. It’s a rocky road, but we make it. We get by somehow.

I kind of fell in love with the movement, and at least the aspirational side of what I think it stands for. So that’s sort of how I became involved with the OWS movement. I think I was really fortunate to see it from the other perspective, to have a successful business, and to know what it’s like to have money, and also to see at the end of the day what still matters is the people that you work with. And I think that’s why I still have the same people working with me now, even though we went through a ruthless couple of years where we had to lay people off, and paychecks weren’t at all certain, and they stood by me. So, I think to answer your question the best I can, I may be a little bit unlike other people in the OWS movement. I do believe in capitalism, I think it’s a fine thing. I don’t believe in exploitation of people, and I don’t accept this false dichotomy that you have to pick one, camps of lefters and there’s people on the right. It’s just not true. I think that’s a myth voiced upon us to try and beguile us.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I can be in business and how I can support OWS. I find that really, just kind of, asinine. To a certain degree, I feel like it’s because I am in business that I support OWS. I’ve tried really hard to treat my people well, and as much as I was able when we had money, I took care of all their medical expenses. There were no deductibles. People got benefits right away and so on. I did my best and it was great, and I had really high retention. I didn’t lose my employees. I had, like, 98% retention rates. So I was really proud of that. I like the idea that sort of stitch by stitch, at the most personal level, people can reinvent all the institutions that we’re familiar with, including the work place. It doesn’t have to be that you’re the boss. You’re the 1%? Or you’re the 99%? You have this agenda, or you have this other agenda? I definitely identify with the 99%. I will always be the 99% no matter how much money I have. That’s kind of how I see it.

It’s an experiment at this stage. I don’t know that there’s any clear answer to that, but most importantly it’s initiated a dialogue. You see it in it’s earliest form of people just saying, ‘I don’t accept this ruthless, capitalist system. I don’t accept that there’s no safety net for my loved ones. That something can happen, and somebody who’s tried very hard to live a good life and contribute is just out of luck.’ I think that it’s enough, right now, to just identify the problem. And when they criticize these kids for not having the solutions, well, they didn’t create this set of problems, and it’s asking a bit much to say that our politicians would be exempt from having to create the solutions. I think it’s enough to just say that this isn’t working, and we’re coming together to recognize that this is really messed up, and we really need to rethink how we got here, and how we’re going to avoid that in the future.

We’ve come under a lot of fire, obviously, for not having a codified platform. I like that. I like it for a number of reasons. First one is, I think that the old orthodox’s of right versus left are probably going to disintegrate over time as the economic climate continues to deteriorate. And I think that the solutions that we’re going to probably find ourselves facing are much more of a human level, like how we treat each other, and how we reinvent society, and how we book communities to weather the difficulties that are in store for us. America is a dying empire and everybody knows it. And as much as we could wish that it could continue on, it wont. It can’t. And so, it’s not as simple as coming up with a list of demands that can be co-opted by the democrats and made useful to them. I think that the Occupy movement is resonating with so many people and so widely because they know that things are deeply wrong, and we don’t need little changes, we need fundamental changes.

I may be a little bit unlike other people in the OWS movement. I do believe in capitalism, I think it’s a fine thing. I don’t believe in exploitation of people, and I don’t accept this false dichotomy that you have to pick one, camps of lefters and there’s people on the right.

Being down here, I’ve noticed, you see the whole gamut of signs. You see signs that are very political and specific like ‘Reinstate Glass-Steagall’ for instance. Which would be a good idea. It makes a lot of sense. I don’t buy that free market nonsense. Of course you need regulations. How could you not think that you need regulations after the era that we’ve just lived through? It’s irrational to say that, I think. But my favorite signs are the signs that just say things like ‘Treat People Better,’ or ‘Have Compassion,’ because, without those sorts of orientations and perspectives, I think the rest are just topological layers of ideology that can be manipulated and navigated around and exploited. To me it doesn’t really matter anymore if Democrats are in power or Republicans are in power. It sort of doesn’t make any difference. We need really broad, sweeping changes, and I think OWS is at least a great experiment to kind of explore what maybe some of those options will be, and to let people come together and start a dialogue. What we’re seeing now is just a smaller piece of a much larger narrative that will go on for a long time, I think. And the way it looks today may not necessarily be the way it looks in 10 years. But I am very hopeful that it is the beginning of something big. And I think it is.

It’s thrilling. The first time I came down here was a couple weeks ago and there was a rally at Foley Square. A couple years ago, when the sub-prime meltdown happened, I started doing some reading. And before that, I think that a lot of people had kind of bought into this neo-liberal, economic policy that deregulation, at least to a degree, would allocate resources the most efficiently and ultimately produce the most good for the most people. But I started to think that that wasn’t the case a couple years ago, and I started reading like a lot of people and seeing a new light. And I felt really alienated because I didn’t really know a lot of people that felt the same way. I had drifted quite a bit, maybe to the left, but to just thinking  ‘No, it didn’t work. Capitalism, as we practiced it, was a failed experiment.’ And that seemed really clear to me. And when I came to that first rally in Foley Square, I expected it to be small. I didn’t feel like I could just stand out any longer. If this is what I believe, I had to take part. And I’m not really a joiner. I don’t like being in the public spot light. So this is a bit of a stretch for me, but I just went down by myself and there were so many people there expressing similar sentiments and signs and chants that I was just overwhelmed. I felt like crying, I was so happy to see that this had actually, after so many years, sprung up and was a real thing that was happening. It was indescribable, actually.

Looking back in 5 years, I would love to look back and see this as the beginning of a really major change in our culture, where we began to think that we have to really put our priorities in order. Corporations have to think about who are all the people downstream being affected by our actions. And it’s no longer acceptable, in fact it’s horrible, for us to think that a corporation can merely be deadly affective at extracting wealth and delivering it to people and be considered a success. I hope that, when we look back on it, whatever happens to the economy, that if nothing else, our sensibilities have changed and we no longer accept that there can be this grotesquery, the Donald Trump Show, where people applaud these sick shows of wealth. Well people just don’t simply have enough. One in four children in our country are on food stamps. Infant mortality is high. I don’t know how we can continue to let that go on, and I hope in 4 years, 5 years down the road we’re looking back at this as the beginning of a change that eliminated at least a lot of those problems.

My name is Dan.

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