Solidarity: 99 Percent Elusive

As a lifelong member of the group now known as the 99 percent, and also as someone who hasn’t a prayer of ever breaking into the 1 percent, I know that I should feel a bond with every 99 percenter out there. I know the troubles created by that 1 percent. I’ve been to Zuccotti Park. I get it: 99 = good, 1 = bad.

The Day

Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

But may I just say that in the course of an average day, all too many of my fellow 99 percenters are not keeping faith with their own kind.

Take Starbucks, for some a symbol of corporate predation if ever there was one.

I don’t often go to Starbucks, and when I do I order plain old coffee, nothing that’s been lattéd, macchiatoed, frappucinoed, americanoed, mochaed, mistoed or chaied. Just a small coffee, please. Sorry, make that a tall coffee, in Starbucks talk.

The only special request I ever make of the people behind the counter, a k a the baristas, is to leave room for me to add milk.

They never do that. Never. They always fill the cup to the brim, forcing me to pour some of the coffee into the trash, where it makes a mess. I know that I should be directing all my anger at the company’s high muck-a-mucks. But what’s with the Starbucks 99 percenters? Why can’t they give a fellow traveler a break?

A relatively early supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement was the Transport Workers Union. But if you’re a regular subway rider, you have surely had a conductor close the doors of his express train at the very moment that the local you’re on pulls in across the platform. When it’s not rush hour, and there is a bit of schedule flexibility, couldn’t transit workers cut some slack for 99 percenters wanting to switch trains? Are we not all in this together?

To the best of my knowledge, not a single 1 percenter lives in my neighborhood. Why, then, do some dog-owning 99 percenters there insist on making life unpleasant for their brothers and sisters by refusing to pick up the mess their pets leave on the sidewalk?

For that matter, why does any 99 percenter throw trash into the street or onto the subway tracks when it’s someone at the lower end of the pay range in the 99 percent who will have to sweep up after them?

The ways in which 99 percenters needlessly drive one another crazy are too many to list here. But if you check out Complaint Box, a City Room feature that appears on Mondays, you will see how difficult it can be to achieve the cohesiveness we need in the fight against the 1 percent.

Complaint Box contributors have complained about diners who talk too loudly in restaurants, about people who cut the line at the supermarket, about the generic street fairs selling the same tube socks and funnel cakes, about men who spit on the sidewalk (great expectorations), about loud swearing in public, about people sprawling across two or three seats in the subway, and so on and so forth. Take a look. You’ll see.

If this is how some in the 99 percent routinely behave toward their own, how are they ever going to unite against the 1 percent?

I know, I know, these are not cosmic issues, certainly not compared with what folks are talking about in Zuccotti Park. But even down there, solidarity can be an elusive goal for an old-time 99 percenter.

It was easy to sympathize the other day with the young woman carrying a sign that said, “I don’t want money. I want change.” The heart went out to a middle-aged man engaged in a “Book of Mormon” version of texting: He was tapping away on a Remington manual typewriter. “Just writing,” he said when asked what he was setting to paper.

But it was more difficult to decide if one really wanted to lock arms with the proprietor of a cardboard diorama dotted with tiny figures under the banner “Occupy Legoland.” Or with the young man holding this sign: “Wall St. drank your milk shake.” Huh?

Frankly, even if I knew what he meant, I’m not sure we could get a solid majority of 99 percenters to agree (1) that, yeah, Wall Street did drink our milk shakes, and (2) hey, what are we going to do about it?


For more local news, including disciplinary charges against a police commander who pepper-sprayed Occupy Wall Street protesters, questions about the city’s goal of planting one million trees, a lawsuit to learn the schedule of Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and the latest in the debates on teacher cuts, see the N.Y./Region section.

Here’s what City Room is reading in other papers and blogs:

Rejecting the arguments of a policy group, an appellate court ruled that the names of retired police officers and the amounts of their pensions would remain private. [Wall Street Journal]

The feminist author Naomi Wolf was arrested during a protest with Occupy Wall Street members outside an award ceremony honoring Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. [Huffington Post]

Two men suspected of killing the teenage basketball star Tayshana Murphy pleaded not guilty. [Daily News]

Thefts are on the rise in the city’s commuter trains. [Crain’s New York]

A book chronicling the High Line’s back story is out in stores. [DNA Info]

A couple in Queens await the return of their son, a prisoner in Egypt. [Daily News]

A forum on the Dream Act’s provisions for illegal immigrant youths took place at the New School. [Feet in 2 Worlds]

A local cafe, Grey Dog, is having a “funeral” to mourn the closing of its Greenwich Village location. [DNA Info]

About 100 Staten Island nurses protested their hospital administration’s proposed contract. [SI Live]

Arguing that they are eyesores, a woman is campaigning to get newspaper boxes off the streets. [The Local, East Village]

The fight for the St. Mark’s Bookshop in the East Village continues. [Village Voice]

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