Occupy the Rockaways

16 Nov

Tomorrow I head to New York City (or, Brooklyn, more specifically) to volunteer with the Occupy Wall Street Hurricane Sandy disaster relief efforts.

I’ve never been, so everything I just wrote is totally theoretical for me.

Last weekend, I got a Facebook message from an Anglo here in Québec City. We were in one class together before I convinced the department to let me fail at another level. We played dodgeball together a few times. Now we’re heading on a road trip.

We’re going to be working in peoples’ flooded basements.

I’ve been told to old wear clothes I’d be OK with throwing out….which I don’t own. Anything I’d throw out has been graciously given away in clothing swaps where I usually get 5-fold back for what I give. But anyway.

The situation in NYC post-Sandy is really terrible. I’ll be working in the Rockaways (which is an obviously badass name for a suburb…take that “Scarborough”). Parts of NYC, including Stanton Island, the Rockaways and Coney Island are still without power.

Yup. In the United States, it’s possible to be without power for two weeks after a storm has hit.

Outrageous.

OWS has filled in an incredible gap. Rather than remaining as a movement marked by the simple (or not-so-simple) occupation of a physical location, OWS has shifted into providing relief that the state has been unable (or unwilling) to provide. When disaster relief agency FEMA ceased operations due to a storm, OWS activists filled in the gaps.

It’s incredible.

The stories that are flowing from what’s been dubbed Occupy Sandy are inspiring. Rachel, my chauffeur, guide and soon-to-be best friend sent me this story, that links the theme of resistance to disaster relief. She’s friends with the author and I’m hoping to be able to give him a high five when we get down there.

Resistance and disaster relief. The necessary and appropriate antidote to disaster capitalism that Naomi Klein talks about, and of which of course has reared its head in post-Sandy NYC.

My great grandfather arrived on Ellis Island around 1913 from Italy. He’d soon make his way to Timmins, Ontario (where I’m sure he though…what…the…hell…..was I thinking?). My grandparents, in their early twenties, honeymooned in New York City; the trip of a lifetime for two Northern Ontarian Italians. This will be my first time there, and I couldn’t be more happy to be able to go and try to help at least a few people, maybe even 15 people. Who knows?

Another friend of my guide, Shlomo Adam Roth, has taken these photos of the devastation. I’ll do my best to photograph what I see too, though i wont be there to take photos, so they’ll likely be limited.

If the most powerful nation in the world can undertake targeted killings of their enemies through flying robots, or amass the world’s largest army, or bailout the most notorious set of crooks on the planet, how can it not look after its own citizens? The global imperial United States will continue to grow while it sucks the lives from the people inside, who will slowly and more brutally be ignored.

This trend will only be stopped by the people.

And the people are rising up.

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