Matt S.

I grew up in Minnesota; I’ve lived in New York for about six years now.

I do freelance web development. It can be very dry and it can be very awesome at times. It goes in waves. But It’s a bad economy; It’s hard to find work right now. There aren’t a lot of people starting new businesses, so there aren’t really that many new websites that need to be developed. You feel unemployed, even though you’re officially not. You’re in freelancers union but you kind of feel unemployed.

…what started to hit me was that you don’t need to hit them directly. You really don’t need to inconvenience that corrupt, political, capitalist nature in our country. What you need to do is influence the average American. And so, through the media, instead of dinner table talk being about Lindsay Lohan, it suddenly is about the enormous and increasing gap in wealth in this country.

I’ve done some activism before. I was demonstrating in favor of the ground zero mosque controversy last year, and I was really supportive of the fact that – in America we should have the ability to worship freely and do what we want and go where we want and build what we want. We shouldn’t have to answer to mob mentality. So, I supported that, even though it wasn’t a very popular thing to support.

This movement, [Occupy Wall Street,] I was very skeptical of at first, frankly, because of its vague nature, because it’s so broad in scope. I was kind of critical of it. I didn’t really feel like it had legs to be anything. I thought, “Well, what do you specifically want? Yeah, Wall Street is corrupt, but why would standing outside really make any difference? I mean do you think a guy in Wall Street is going to care? He’s going to helicopter over you and laugh and say ‘Oh noo! You’re at a park!’” But, what started to hit me was that you don’t need to hit them directly. You really don’t need to inconvenience that corrupt, political, capitalist nature in our country. What you need to do is influence the average American. And so, through the media, instead of dinner table talk being about Lindsay Lohan, it suddenly is about the enormous and increasing gap in wealth in this country. It’s about the fact that we can’t tax the rich fairly and that all the burden is being placed on middle class and lower class workers, and that it’s getting harder and harder for average Americans to live out that American dream.

I got inspired when I saw the size of the protest on the anniversary and came out for the first time; I really wanted to get involved because, to me, when the prospect of it ending became real, I didn’t really want to see that happen, so I decided “Okay, time to stop sitting on the sidelines, it’s time to come out and be a part of it.” It was almost like I was criticizing it up until I thought, “Wow, this might actually go away.” And when it finally seemed like it might go away, I didn’t want to see it go away, because I like the fact that people are being politically engaged. Even if this movement is not that specific in nature, I think it’s a breeding ground for a frustration that needs to be voiced. And if people are quiet and apathetic, like they were during the Bush years, that scares me. I think people need to be actively involved. So what we may see, maybe the “Occupy” brand will not be the final result. Maybe what will happen is several organizations will spawn from this dialogue that’s taking place. But that’s fine. I just don’t want to see that dynamic, street level enthusiasm go away. I think it’s very exciting.

I think shutting down Wall Street is a ridiculous notion. It’s not going to happen. You can block and inconvenience a worker, but I don’t see the reason for that. But what does make a difference is when you have a group of people who are relentless in maintaining that conversation, and they keep showing up again and again and again, the press is forced to cover this issue. Then you really do make a difference. Because, then suddenly it changes the political dynamic, it changes what citizens across the country are talking about, and ultimately, hopefully, it will change policy, because politicians will take notice and revise their policies accordingly. Right now there’s the Tea Party element, there are other lobbying groups, but there isn’t a group that says “Hey, let’s focus on the middle class and the lower class Americans and how they’re being unfairly given this huge burden right now in comparison to those that are doing so well in this country.” So, I think that’s an important voice that needs to be loud and readily heard.

A majority of the people out here, obviously, are not busy with their nine to five jobs right now. In a sense, it’s great that those of us who aren’t are able to come out here and speak on behalf of those that are working nine to five jobs and are struggling and still would love to come down here but they just can’t because they’re working. It’s not that they don’t support the movement but they’re just not able to. They’re trying to make ends meet.

…when we’ve given up, that to me is a sad thing. And that will affect everyone. It will affect me in my daily life, walking down the street, living in a country will less motivation, less enthusiasm. And so, what I’d like to see is for it to be easier for people to live out the life they want to live, easier to start a business if you’re an individual, easier to feel like to have some degree of a safety net if you lose your job, feel like you’re actually able to move up somewhat.

I think so much of the news right now is focused on sensationalism. And even with this movement a lot of the news coverage is focusing on people getting arrested or the demonstrator versus the police officer. And that’s not really the core issue. That’s kind of an unfortunate side effect of this whole thing. But the whole issue is this huge wealth disparity. The fact that so many people are having so much of a hard time making it in this country. That’s what matters. That’s why we’re out here, I think. And that’s why I think people across the country are responding well to this movement, why 70% support it still. They’re not supporting because they love the idea of people clashing with an officer. It’s because they’re feeling at home, that, “Hey, it’s harder for me to get health care for my kids. It’s harder for me to put my kids through college. Its harder for me to pay the basic bills, rent, utilities. It’s harder to find good work.” So, that’s the core. That’s why we need to have this conversation.

Granted, I’m not a wealthy guy. I have enough to make by right now, but I know that there are people that are in even worse shape, and I feel like all of us, really, need to come together and rethink how we structure this system. I think there are some major gaps, some major lax of regulation when it comes to the financial industry, and we need to fill those gaps. Right now, the republican party, not to pick on one party, they don’t even want to close corporate loop holes; the fact that loop holes are not even on the table is kind of a dramatic sign that there is something wrong. We should at least agree that if we’re all going to cut government right now, if we’re in major debt and we need to cut massive amounts of government jobs and infrastructure projects, then the wealthy should probably pay a little bit more in taxes, maybe even just 1% more, just to help this thing stay afloat. I don’t think that should all be put on the backs of those who are already suffering so much.

I want to see the entire country live up to its full potential. To me, when we are selling ourselves short, when we’re cutting infrastructure, and we’re cutting so many jobs, and when we’re saying that, “Well, China’s just going to be the world leader, end of story,” the U.S. is on its way down. And when we’ve given up, that to me is a sad thing. And that will affect everyone. It will affect me in my daily life, walking down the street, living in a country will less motivation, less enthusiasm. And so, what I’d like to see is for it to be easier for people to live out the life they want to live, easier to start a business if you’re an individual, easier to feel like to have some degree of a safety net if you lose your job, feel like you’re actually able to move up somewhat. I don’t think everyone is sitting around yearning to be a multi-millionaire. I think people just want to make by. They just want to be able to live their lives, and those simple, simple leads are getting harder and harder. This country is gradually turning into a Banana Republic. We’re seeing this massively wealthy group increasing in their power more and more, and we’re seeing everyone else taking the brunt of the bullets, so to speak. So it’s important for us to re-think how we structure everything. And I don’t think it’s going to require massive revolutions, I don’t think it’s going to require a massive effort. Really just minor tweaks to the tax codes would go a long ways.

I’ve been able to talk to so many people who share similar views. I think, for so long, especially during the Bush years, you felt kind of like people who were against this kind of corporate and political marriage that we saw so much during those years, were so quiet and afraid to have their voices heard. That, or they were so out there, they were so out there that you couldn’t even relate to them. I think what’s refreshing is to meet people from every walk of life, you’ll see people from all ages. A lot of people have criticized this movement as being a lot of hippies. There are no hippies; hippies do exist. These are people from many different walks of life, all concerned about the same primary economic issues. And those people are reflective of people at home and places across the world who are feeling this.

Optimistic, I’m optimistic. A little bit cold at times, on the colder days. A little concerned, because I want to make sure that the movement goes in the right direction. To me, those who are trying to attack the cops so much are making a mistake. Those that keep saying “Police state, Police state,” look, the police are not in the one percentile, they’re the 99. They’re going to be the first to get laid off as we move toward this direction that we’re going right now. So I sympathize with the officers to a certain degree. Obviously there are bad apples, but I sympathize with them.

[I feel] sympathy because, granted, I’ve been having some difficulty with getting some freelance jobs, but I see people who are really having difficulty getting food or finding a place to sleep. You have some people who are essentially homeless out here.

Finally, determination. I don’t feel anger, but I feel determined. Determined in the sense that I’m going to come out here and keep doing what I can. Whether it be occupying this physical location, or whether it be blogging about this issue, or writing about this issue. Obviously as it gets colder, the other two may take more precedence over physically standing. Or maybe I’ll be in Occupy L.A. or something. But the conversation is what matters.

My name is Matt.

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